Eating culture of Scotland

Moving into a foreign country means you have to immerse yourself into another culture with different manners and traditions. It is surprising how much you learn about your own culture and values when you are faced with another culture and different values. This essay tells about one specific cultural practise, I experience during the first month in Glasgow and outlines my strategies to familiarise with the unfamiliar. In addition, I analyse my reaction to draw a conclusion about my own merits.

 eating culture of Scotland

The eating habit that people from Glasgow and I also guess from Scotland practice were striking to me at first. Most of the Glaswegians seem to rely on ready-to-eat food containers, provided in the supermarket or take-away food from a fast-food restaurant of their choice. The supermarkets I went to in my neighbourhood in Glasgow mainly offer pre-cooked meals and processed food. Fruits, for example, are no longer in their original state. Most of the time, they are already peeled and chopped. The customer has almost no chance to get certain fruits and vegetables in their natural state. Nearly the same applies to meat. Most meat here is already cut in small pieces, marinated or processed into meatballs. Filets are seldom found. Again, everything packed in plastic. There is also no meat counter in the supermarket to get the meat portion of your choice and Butchers are too far away from the city centre. All in all, it is quite difficult to find basic ingredients and often impossible to detect food, which is not processed and wrapped in plastic.

Another interesting and somehow odd eating habit to me is about Scotland’s national soft drink: “Irn Bru”. Scottish people seem to adore their drink, and most of them consume “Irn-Bru” as if it is water. It does not matter what time of day; people drink their bright-orange liquid for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

 my reaction

Even though it seems to be normal in the city to eat prepared dishes and availability of those is enormous in the supermarkets, I still keep trying to cook my own meals and therefore reduce waste. I do not want to say that I completely renounce all prepared meals and processed fruits. Sometimes it is unavoidable. Rather, I have now found a good balance between ready-made and home-made, which I consider compatible. Above all, one must admit at this point that the packaged fruits taste much better than the regular ones. Which is strange, because of that the customer is encouraged to choose the product with more carbon emissions.

The new habit I could not keep up with was to buy mineral water. In the first three weeks, I tried carrying home bottled water, because I disliked the chlorine flavour of the tap water. However, it has proved that it was too time-consuming, unnecessary and created way too much waste. Now I drink the spring water from the tap, even though, still, I would not say I like it.


what it tells about my own culture

The observation I made and my reaction to it shows that I am not entirely familiar with the busy city

lifestyle of Glasgow, due to the fact that I grew up and lived most of my life in the countryside. I

have not thought that the surroundings at home had such an impact on my comprehension of food and

waste management. At home, it seems, people/shops attempt to reduce packaging waste, which doesn’t appear to be the case here. Maybe I haven’t found the right shops yet. Furthermore, I am used to people investing time in cooking and even growing their own fruits and vegetables. This of course is not possible in the city, due to the lack of available time and space. At this point, I realize that I cannot compare my country life in Vorarlberg with the city life of Glasgow. It is simply different. Maybe at home, we might also order

more take-away food if we had the options.



reflection on language (second blog)

coping with the foreign language

After being in Scotland for almost three months, I can say, I am doing pretty well in terms of language. Of course, the Scottish accent is still hard to understand, but it depends on where the person is from. For example, the accent of people from the southern part of Scotland is easier for me to understand than the accent of the people from northern Scotland. I do get used to it. Other than that, I am able to follow the classes; I can hold conversations, subject related once and informal once. With a bit of preparation, I can hold short presentations in front of the tutor-group and I do understand almost everything from the tutors’ feedback. There, I have to confess that the lectures with the Scottish accent are not always that easy to understand.

difficult vs. easy

As I already mentioned in the previous paragraph, coping with the Scottish accent is not always that easy. Additionally, at the beginning of my exchange, it was surprisingly difficult for me to have an instant small-talk. With that I mean, getting asked unexpected questions and people who wanted to have a small-talk with me out of nowhere. It took some time for me to “improvise”. In school, one learns these standard phrases, but in reality, they are not that applicable. However, the more conversations you hold, the more fluent it gets. One automatically learns situation-specific phrases which can be used; one would never learn this in class; at least, I did not. Furthermore, I struggled with mixing up similar-sounding words. Sometimes, I still do it. For example, represented with replaced and it is sort of annoying because I do not always realize it. Therefore, the other person gets confused when I do not correct myself. Another issue I had at the beginning was that the readings the tutors handed out for history, and theory class were quite tricky for me to read. Luckily, I developed my reading skills, and now it is not as tough as it used to be.

The one thing, which was astonishingly easy for me, was giving a presentation in English. Therefore, one has to know that I even struggle to hold a presentation in my mother tongue. However, speeches in English here seem to be no problem when I do some preparation in advance. Writing essays in English is not as hard as I expected it to be. It is doable in an appropriate time, but still, they are a challenge.  

helpful strategies

One strategy I am using when I don’t understand something which has been said is not be be afraid of asking the other person if she could repeat it or explain it differently. Secondly and most crucial, I keep working on my language skills. Whether it is trough reading, actively speaking or writing. My English teacher said once “Nothing comes from doing nothing” and that is very much true. To overcome difficulties in conversations, I feel I have to push myself. Besides using these “old school” vocabulary cards, I find including English into my everyday life helpful. For example, writing my grocery-list and the notes during the day at university in English. I am just trying to avoid German and integrating the foreign language whenever possible. In addition, as an architecture student I am using self-explaining sketches and diagrams which makes it way much easier to describe certain things when I am not that familiar with the specific terms and phrases.

what will remain

What I want to hold on to is the integration of the foreign language in everyday life even if it is just writing the grocery-list in English. I do find it quite effective because it creates a connection between the term and the actual thing, which helps while having conversations. The other strategy I try to keep up is reading English books to keep the vocabulary present and up to date and producing self-explaining sketches and diagrams.

Katharina Bitschnau