I’m an English student.
A statement I tend to follow with “sorry” or “yep, another soft Southerner” in a bid to try and make native students know that I get it. I’m a bit annoying. I say GlaRsgow. I thought Tennents rented a flat. And I have crumpets in the freezer, ready to be toasted and eaten with my afternoon cup of tea. (Tesco: 30p for 6, you can’t beat them).
But from the occasional kilt in the Three Sisters and not being able to buy alcohol all hours of the day, you wouldn’t know that you’re not in a city south of the border. Half the student population is from London (a slight exaggeration), and the other half is American (fact).
Yet last Saturday I had the “moment”. The “Toto, we’re not in Kansas (Sussex) anymore” realisation, that yes – don’t let the Northface-Rah-brigade fool you – this actually is Scotland. And I’m embarrassed I didn’t realise it sooner.
It wasn’t when I was walking past Edinburgh castle. Nor was it when I was handed an unusually aesthetic note in change (seriously, the Bank of England could never). But rather, when I was sitting in my flat kitchen, with an accordion blaring and a group of surprisingly sober people… ceilidh-ing?
Now don’t get me wrong, this was not my first Ceilidh. But I used to them in a more ‘official’ setting – a soc event in freshers, or at a wedding. Not in a cramped flat kitchen. In the middle of the night. With next to no warning.
But if the fact that we could fit a raucous, slightly clumsy attempt at the “Dashing White Sergeant” into a Salisbury Court kitchen wasn’t surprising enough, I was even more bewildered at the enthusiasm with which my Scottish friends were suggesting the names of their favourite dances, and then teaching the rest of us the steps. I’ve tried to envisage such a spontaneous outburst of culture happening in England, but the closest thing we have is Morris dancing or rowdy renditions of Sweet Caroline. It’s not quite the same.
Yet, this culture gap is perhaps indicative of something more than the fact that Scots know how to have a better time than the uptight English. Scottish people take pride in their culture: from learning ceilidhs at school, to the passionate tartan-army and celebrating Burns night. Whilst we English just seem to trample on it all. The reason Edinburgh feels so English is that we come in our troves to get a degree but then head back to London. It’s why I feel I have to offer an apology when I introduce myself to Scottish students.
With talk of another Scottish referendum dominating Holyrood, my ceilidh experience has genuinely made me more sympathetic to why Scotland should have independence. Perhaps this country is not done justice by the English. But I also think we have a lot to learn from each other – the English: how to lighten up, the Scottish: that Irn Bru is not fit for consumption.
This wasn’t meant to be political, so I’ll stop there. In all seriousness, English students need to be less ignorant about the country we’ve academically invaded. Because much like our banknotes, English culture (as far as dancing is concerned) has nothing on the Scottish.
Image Credit: Edinburgh Live