Welcome to another Through The Eyes Of A Local interview, where we speak to locals about their hometowns, why we should visit and what we should see whilst there.
This week, we have James from Portugalist telling us all about his hometown of Edinburgh in mighty Scotland…
1. Could you tell us a little about yourself and where you come from?
My name is James, and I grew up in a small town in the South of Ireland. I moved over to England when I was 19 and then to Edinburgh 2 years later.
2. How long have you lived in Edinburgh? And what brought you here?
I’ve lived in Edinburgh full-time for more than seven years. Although I travel a lot, and spend most of my time in Portugal, I’m still back in Edinburgh for quite a bit of the year.
I moved to Edinburgh for work, as there just seemed to be a lot of jobs here. I worked in an online kilt store for a while before getting a job at a marketing agency. After a couple of years of that, I decided to go freelance. Since then, I’ve been a digital nomad and have spent time living in France, Germany, Spain, South Africa, and Portugal.
3. What do you love most about Edinburgh?
I love the fact that you can get around Edinburgh so easily on foot. I rarely ever take a bus or a taxi and try to walk everywhere as much as I can. Sometimes the weather tries to put a stop to that, but usually the rain doesn’t last for very long.
4. Is there anything that frustrates or annoys you when tourists visit your hometown?
The tourists that visit Edinburgh are generally alright, and I’ve never associated them with anything negative.
Because Edinburgh is such an international city, they tend to blend in fairly easily. Some are easy to spot, sure, but nobody really pays them that much attention because they’re just such a common sight.
5. In your opinion, which places should be at the top of any visitor’s wishlist in Edinburgh?
Although there’s plenty to see and do in Edinburgh, it’s definitely worth taking a trip up to the Highlands and islands. Cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow are great, but the best of Scotland is definitely more rural.
In Edinburgh itself, I love climbing Arthur’s Seat and heading down to the Sheep’s Heid in Duddingston – a 600-year-old pub that’s possibly the oldest pub in Scotland. I also recommend visiting the museums and art galleries. These are all free, and a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.
6. What foods must visitors eat whilst in Scotland?
Everybody knows about haggis, Scotland’s national dish, which is an absolute must-try. If you want to do as the locals do, skip the Scottish restaurants in the centre of town and either have your haggis at a chippie or in a pub.
Although haggis is the most famous Scottish food, I would say Scottish people tend to be more proud of Irn Bru than haggis. You’ll probably find it incredibly sweet the first time you try it. It’s fantastic for hangovers, though, so perhaps it’s better to wait until you’ve had a rough night to really appreciate it.
Other typically Scottish foods to try include tablet, square sausage, Scotch pies, and anything beige and deep fried (even pizza is deep-fried here). You’ll find classier things like Arbroath Smokies, Cranachan, Cullen Skink, and Skirlie in more touristy places and in gastropubs, but I don’t know if they’re consumed anywhere near as much.
Unlike many other European countries, most people in Scotland and the UK tend to eat a lot of international food. A meal out would almost never be to a restaurant that serves Scottish or British food, unless it was a pub. Indian, Chinese, and Italian are all favourites, but in a city like Edinburgh you can find anything from Portuguese to Korean.
7. What’s your favourite word in your local language? Why? What does it mean?
Scotland speaks English, obviously, but it speaks its own version of English as well, which includes Scots words. Sentences are ended with “ken” and English words are replaced with their Scots equivalent. Baby becomes bairn, window becomes windae, and brilliant becomes braw. It’s all very confusing initially, but you slowly begin to understand it.
Scotland has plenty of great words, but wee is probably the word I use the most. It’s just a much better word than small.
8. What advice would you give to somebody moving to Edinburgh from another country?
I think Edinburgh is a very easy city to move to because there’s such a good international scene here. This can be a problem too: it’s quite a transient city, so be prepared for a few of those friendships to only be medium-term.
9. If you could describe Edinburgh in just one sentence, what would you say?
Edinburgh is a wonderfully cultural and vibrant city in its own right, and a gateway to the rest of Scotland.
10. If tourists were to know one thing about Scotland’s culture, what should that be?
I think most people know this, and the recent independence referendum has definitely raised awareness of it, but Scotland has its own culture. Although it’s part of the United Kingdom, and has plenty in common with the other countries in the UK, it also has its own very unique culture. One of the easiest ways to offend a Scottish person is to call them British, and I often hear tourists innocently making this mistake.
Thanks for the info James! We’ve loved getting to know you and Edinburgh better!
James actually writes about Portugal on travel blog: Portugalist, which is great news if you’d like to know about life in Portugal. You can also follow him on Facebook. James mentioned that he hopes to write a blog about Scotland one day as well, so keep your eyes peeled for that!
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