Differences between Scotland and the United States

Originally written for my study abroad class.

Even though Scotland and the United States share a language, the two countries are separated by more than just the Atlantic Ocean.

The climate, attitudes, phrases and basic living arrangements in Scotland are very different than the Midwest United States.

Jackets, jeans and good walking shoes are a must.
Jackets, jeans and good walking shoes are a must.


The heart of Scotland during the summer is vastly different from the heartland of the United States.

The lush, green landscapes and mid-50 degree temperatures can be a bit of a shock for someone who is born and raised with scorching summers that can reach 110 degrees. I’ve worn shorts twice, and that’s just because I’m a stubborn Nebraskan who is in denial that it won’t get over 65 degrees the entire time I’m here.


The Scottish are, on average, more reserved than Americans. They are especially friendly if asked questions, but if you don’t ask, they are more than likely to keep to themselves.

Settle Inn is older than the United States.
Settle Inn (the oldest pub in Stirling) is 43 years older than the United States.

For example, a group of us Americans meandered into the oldest pub in Stirling, but we were under the impression that it served food as well. The owner politely told us that it didn’t, but he made a call to one of the local restaurants and told them that a group of ten of us were on the way up. On our way out, one of the women sitting at the pub walked outside with us and told us exactly where to go. We ended up going back later for drinks and ended up closing the pub. (I may or may not have sang at open mic night.)


It’s a wee bit baltic today, eh? It’s a little cold today, yes?

Even though the language is similar, it can sometimes be nearly impossible to understand someone who is using Scottish phrases.

Pizzas are delivered in “munchie boxes.” An overtly angry person is a “banger” and deserves to be “ragdolled” (grabbing someone by their collar and shaking them). And the ever so handy crosswalks are called “zebra crossings.”

Aside from different phrases, the accents are very different as well. Someone may be saying something completely “normal” to an American, but because of the accent, it can seem to get lost in translation.

“Ah wiz like” is “I was like.” “Ah’m gan ta Embra” is “I’m going to Edinburgh.”

Welcome to Embra... I mean Edinburgh.
Welcome to Embra… I mean Edinburgh.


The flats (the Scottish word for apartments) at Stirling contain anywhere from five to seven bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen area and living room space. On the surface, things look similar, but there are many, many differences.

In the bathrooms and kitchen, the sinks have two spigots, one for hot water and the other for cold water. That makes things very difficult to get warm water. It makes things very difficult when I’m trying to wash my face.

Also in the bathroom, the shower has a push button for the water. The water stays on for 30 seconds then shuts off, so pushing the button multiple times per shower is mandatory. Remember the Bop It? It’s sort of like that.

In the kitchen, there is no dishwasher and there is a mini-fridge and a freezer the same size. However, most of the food in the UK doesn’t need refrigerating or freezing.

Recycling centers, such as this one, are all over Scotland. This one was at the Stirling ScotRail stop.
Recycling centers, such as this one, are all over Scotland. This one was at the Stirling ScotRail stop.

All appliances and things that need to be plugged in require a different plug than is used in America. Plugs in the UK are 220 volts, while plugs in the United States are 110 volts. That means don’t try using your American straightener while in the UK. It will smoke, possibly pop, and most likely be worthless after a few seconds. There are voltage converters available at some places, but even then, it’s still not wise to try.

In the United States, at some grocery stores, like HyVee, customers get a few cents off their purchase if they bring reusable bags. In Scotland, you get charged 5 pence if they don’t bring reusable bags. The entire country of Scotland is very eco-friendly. It’s very easy to recycle here, as there are various recycling bins on almost every street.

But if you have to know only one thing that separates Scotland from the United States, know that they drive on the left-hand side. You may not be driving, but you’ll sure be crossing the street, and you definitely need to know where to look.

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