Saturday, 13 December 2003

Kilt wearing in Scotland

Well, it was a bit weird. People ask you if "you are a true Scot". That is, if you are not wearing any underwear. I have to say that I was wearing a kilt in a true Scottish fashion: no underwear.

It is not as cold as I thought it would be and it is a cool experiece: girls lift the kilt to check if you are wearing anything and there is a lot of banter. As a chatting up tool is extremely effective, more so when you are a foreigner!

It was the first time for me, but I am positive it will not be the last ;-)

Friday, 5 December 2003

Kilt hire

Despite being from Catalonia (and not from Caledonia), I have decided to hire a kilt (Black Watch tartan, I hope there are not many Sout Africans, Australians, Irakis, etc in the party...) for my employer's Christmas party dinner & dance. I am looking forward to meet my colleagues tomorrow -they don't know anything about it!

A full report of the "kilt wearing" experience on Sunday....

Thursday, 4 December 2003

No time

As well as working full-time, I started a part-time MBA last October. That explains why there are no new messages since then.... if that wasn't enough, overtime at work has become routine...what a nightmare.

Saturday, 20 September 2003

- Scotland in Barcelona

Scotland features prominently in Barcelona's festival "La Mercè".

There will be a Scotland Square in Barcelona's harbour front and over 400 pipers from Scotland, led by the Lothian&Borders Police Pipe Band, will march down the Rambla. This will be a unique opportunity, I wish I could be there in my home city to witness it!!

More info:
- (in Catalan)

- (select English, Catalan or Spanish)

- Nae bad

A local pub, anywhere in Scotland:

- ...aye...
- ....Och aye.

"Aye". Scots use aye instead of yes in more familiar situations. It has become standard and its use is accepted nowadays.

Scots will rarely express delight or give praise as easy and often as Americans or English. Thus, the expression "nae bad" ("not bad") is used constantly to express that something is OK, good or good enough not to complain about it. (More about complaining later...)

Another pub:
- How's it goin'?
- Nae bad... and yerself?
- Nae bad, nae bad...
- aye?
- Och aye aye...

The expressions "aye" or "nae bad", despite its shortness, can hide multiple -sometimes contradictory- meanings, many more than are apparent to the outsider.

Finally is very important to "get on". For example, your friend asks about your new job:
- How are ye gettin' on?
- Nae bad, nae bad...
- Enjoying it so far?
- Och aye.

It is very important "to get on", which means to gel with the rest of the population, to mix in without trouble. Thus, complaining in public about something is often seen as "attention-seeking" behaviour and therefore such people are labeled as egocentric and self-important. This leads to the wonderful expression of "making a stooshie", sometimes referred to someone who makes an issue of something to the annoyment of members of the public.

Restraint in giving praise to someone is better summarised with the phrase "Ah kent his faither", which means "I knew his father". This is the ultimate put-down, meaning that no-matter how well a person has done in life that he/she will always be his/her dad's son/daughter. This expression is widely used for Scots who have gained recognition and wealth outside Scotland as a way to keep them with their feet on the ground.

Tuesday, 16 September 2003

- Mad about fitba

Scotland has never won the World Cup -and, let's be honest: most likely never will. In the last 15 years, their club teams -until Celtic played the UEFA Final Cup last May- always failed miserably in Europe, being kicked out in the early stages, before the psychological Christmas deadline. The best players would move to the English Premiership, and the Scottish game is, even now, ridiculed by BBC London-based sports commentators.

But they love it. Their passion for football is undeniable. If their players were as good as their supporters, Scotland then would win World Cups with the same frequency as Brazil.

And what a game tonight. Glasgow Rangers came from behind, scoring two goals in the last 15 minutes when they were pretty much being outclassed by the talented but younger Stuttgart team. What a comeback. Well done Rangers! And let's hope Celtic can make it against Bayer Munich tomorrow -admittedly, a better team.

But make no mistake: despite sincerely wishing all success to Scottish clubs in Europe, including Celtic and Rangers, I find the Celtic-Rangers so-called rivalry disgusting, sick and pathetic.

Rivalry is what happens between Inter and AC Milan. Or between the London clubs, or Man Utd and Man City, Lazio and Roma, Juventus and Torino, etc. Even the deep dislike, tense relationship and historical enmity between Barcelona and Real Madrid cannot be compared with the profound, deep and violent hate that exist between the set supporters of these two Glasgow clubs. None of the tension and superficial hate that I have witnessed as a regular season ticket at Barcelona for over 11 years is comparable to what happens in Glasgow when these to rivals play each other. It is scary, take my word for it.

In case you didn't know, Glasgow Rangers is the club whose supporters are traditionally Protestants loyal to the Union (between Scotland and England). Glasgow Celtic is the club whose support traditionally comes from the Irish Catholic community and their descendants. In the West Coast of Scotland, the rivalry, the hate, is taken to levels that make the whole thing a complete put-off for any outsider with a bit of common sense. My advice if you ever come to Glasgow: never take sides between the two. Most often than not, it will ruin your night.

Of course, sectarianism is the secret shame of Scotland, and I am so sorry that this has been the subject of my second post. It is an active minority, on both sides, but the cancer permeates to the wider society. And that is why politicians are so cowardly afraid of tackling the issue. They fear that one side of the divide, whether actively sectarian or just a passive individual with football/family links, will perceive any legal moves as being biased. The mistrust, the fear and plain discrimination is still a current issue in the country. It is as it worst in Glasgow and surrounding areas. It is social paranoia: they feel under threat from the other side, and thus the most paranoid of both sides hold Orange or Hibernian marches. They claim to be good Catholics/Scottish/Irish or loyal Christians/Protestants/Scottish/British. Wrong. They are ignorant, narrow-minded and bigoted; none of them Christian. A liability to this country. Nutters all of them.

But this little secret should not put you off of visiting this most vibrant and friendly European cities. I have been for over 3 years in Glasgow now, and never had a problem. And I go to football games every now and then and I go partying quite a lot. Despite all its social problems (sectarianism, unemployment, poverty, etc. ), Glasgow is a great place to live.

Glaswegians are very, very friendly. Whether you are in the city as a tourist, as a student, or in business, or just arrived to live and work -as I did- people will help you or they will get you in touch with someone who will. But they, the majority, don't know how to get rid of this bigoted minority of people. Which is a shame.

And the problem is that it may never go away. As proof, read this news report from the BBC. Is it not discouraging when two University students get involved in sectarian behaviour? A medical student and a law student: two of the most respected professions in our society. Describing it as discouraging is quite an understatement.

Sunday, 14 September 2003

- "What are you doing over here?"

This is the question I've asked a trillion times since living in Scotland. I am originally from St Boi de Llobregat, a town in the outskirts of Barcelona. The natives of this part of the world (Glasgow, Scotland, UK, Europe?) are shocked when I explain that I live here by choice and that, oh Dear!, I am also enjoying it. Oh Almighty God! Is there anything wrong with me?

I hope not. If anything is wrong, is the lack of self-belief Scots have in themselves. Not only do they put themselves down at every opportunity but will treat you with suspicion if you even suggest that, actually, this is not a bad place to live.

- "Are you a student?"

No, and yes. I am not a student in the sense of a full-time student living in a crowded flat in the West End, going to The Garage every week, and drinking myself to death. Besides, "natural highlights" is fast becoming a feature of my hair style. I am a mature student at the Open University if that means being a student. Distance learning they call it. It means, hardly any social life, bad temper, sudden changes of humour, computer rage, etc.

- "Don't you miss the weather?"

This is the scripted, unavoidable, next question. The weather. Why should I miss the tropical heat that sets fire to vast amounts of forest land in Catalonia and all the south of Europe every summer is unclear to me. No, I don't miss the weather -actually, I couldn't care less.

However, I miss the food. In Scotland, there are no tapas. There are overpriced fake tapas bars sprouting out everywhere now, including the infamous La Tasca. But there are also good ones, like Tapas Bar in Glasgow's West End, near the University swimming pool. An exception rather than the rule in culinary terms. A tapa in Scotland often means a take-away pizza, kebab, fish&chips or the dreadful chips&cheese. Awful and disgusting. The unhealthy diet is behind the appalling records of heart, liver disease and obesity in Scotland.

More to come soon.