Foreign Correspondents

Today we finally wind up Anniversary Week, which somehow ended up morphing into six weeks. In the interests of balanced reporting, I decided to speak to some Edinburgh expats to gauge their views on being a stranger in this strange town. You poor readers have been subjected to three years of my personal rants and raves, but what do other foreigners think of the place? Am I the only one who goes on about the food? Am I the only one with a pathological fascination with River City? Let's meet our panel… Rhiannon – My sister is blogless but has consulted on many WNP entries. She now resides in London after putting in a good stint in Jockland. Pille – Estonian foodblogger extraordinaire. I stumbled across her blog when she'd written about a restaurant I'd been to in the Estonian countryside, and then discovered she lived in Edinburgh… the world is too small! Rory – A fellow Canberra escapee, Rory is a blogging veteran and if not for meeting him I'd never have met Dr G, which is just one more reason why he's a top bloke. Anna – A lovely Canadian and seasoned traveller, now doing a stint in Scotland before moving on to Australia. Now on to the questions! 1. What brought you to Edinburgh and how long have you lived here? RHI:  Working holiday with the Shaunster. I lived there about two years. PILLE:  I came here in 1998 to do my MSc at Edinburgh University. Went back to Estonia for one year after the degree, but then returned one year later to continue studying and working. Will be seven years this Autumn! Scary! RORY:  A delayed BMI flight from Heathrow, where they lost our luggage after our Chicago-London leg… but actually, it was a job, and a general desire to get out and live in the world for a bit. We’ve lived here four years going on five. ANNA:  A train brought me to Edinburgh, from Glasgow. First English-speaking train I’d been on in… a *very* long time. Seriously, though, I was bored, and wanted to move. I had met a guy from New Zealand when I was in China, and he had spent a year living in the UK. He made it sound like the best place to live ever, and thus when I got back to Canada and was climbing the walls from boredom, I thought “Eh, why not.” I threw a dart at a map of the UK, and Edinburgh was close enough to where it landed. And there I am. I got here in June, 2005.
2. What is your favourite Scottish word? (Mine is crabbit, incidentally!) Have you incorporated any Scots phrases into your everyday speech? RHI: Wee pussy (poo-sy). [I had to clarify this one! She said she picked this one up from her Scottish fella. It’s used when someone’s being a cry baby. Imagine watching football and a player takes a dive – “Get up ya wee pussy!” – S.] PILLE:  I like ‘blether’. I probably only use ‘wee’ and ‘aye’ regularly though. My accent is weird enough without trying to incorporate Scottish words as well! RORY:  Stoater! (As in what a stoater, what a beauty.) But I don’t use it myself really. I probably say “wee” now and then. “Outwith” is always amusing, too… and “neeps”. Neep, neep, neep. ANNA:  Knackered and Hevering. I use them both a lot. Knackered just *totally* hits the nail on the head, and I am *so* bad for hevering, especially when tired. Scottish has *excellent* words. Everyone should speak Scottish.
3. Have you ever made any embarrassing faux-pas or mispronunciations of the Scots language? (eg. pronouncing the “ck” in “Cockburn Street” very loudly to a room full of locals?) RHI: Kilbarchan [a town in Renfrewshire] It’s pronounced kill-bark-an, not kill-bar-chan. Doh! PILLE:  I’ve done the Cockburn thing as well 🙂 Also, see my answer to the previous question. RORY:  Not too many embarrassing mispronunciations (okay, there have been mispronunciations, but it’s their fault for talkin’ funny, not mine!), but I did once imply that Edinburgh must have some kind of importance, being the capital and all, in a room full of Glaswegians… *that* got embarrassing. ANNA:  You mean, besides the GUM clinic story? [That was a classic. I didn’t know what a GUM Clinic was either! – S.]
4. What’s your favourite thing to do or place to go in Edinburgh? What’s your favourite place in Scotland overall? RHI:  Edinburgh – Walking through The Meadows past the castle… when it’s sunny. Trip to Peckhams to buy Cream of Galloway Caramel Shortbread ice cream. Scotland – Driving around anywhere in the highlands (except when the Mothership is freaking out in the back seat) PILLE:  I go salsa-dancing at Cuba Norte, movies at Cameo & Filmhouse. Weather permitting, I go to read a book at the Botanic Gardens or the Meadows. Sadly weather hardly ever permits… RORY:  The Fringe, no question. See my archives for August 2001, August 2002, August 2003, August 2004, August 2005… Scotland overall – Tough choice, but I’d have to say Timsgarry on the Isle of Lewis, where they found the Lewis chessmen. ANNA:  Right at this moment, it’s hanging out in Princes Street Gardens, just below the castle, eating ice cream and relishing the beautiful weather. It’s so nice to watch the little kids run around like crazy little kids, and just people watch in general. Sadly, my favourite place in the UK is across the border: Lindisfarne. But Linlithgow is very nice, and I loved the Highlands…
5. What are your favourite places to eat in Edinburgh? RHI:  Monster Mash – love the quality snags and champ mash. Still wish the gravy was thicker though. Wannaburger – finally, real burgers, and delicious milkshakes. And chips fried only once, and in clean oil – woohoo! PILLE:  My local restaurant Coyaba for a meal with friends; Double Dutch for a brunch with friends or Native State for a post-party-hangover brunch. Negotiants for late night chicken nachos or spicy curly fries. All either at or near Bristo Square 🙂 Currently saving up for a meal at Restaurant Martin Wishart. BeanScene and Peckhams on Nicholson Street and Clark Street are good for a coffee, though I do miss the cafe culture back home. RORY:  Oh, you know these, we’ve been to all of them together! I can’t divulge my favourite because it’s already getting too hard to find a table there so it’s a secret. [The secret is safe, comrade! – S.] ANNA:  Suruchi Too. I love that place. We go there so often they know us and start the chai the second I sit down, because I am a heathen and like my chai before dinner. [Excellent choice, Anna! And they have haggis pakoras. That’s fusion cookin’ at its finest! – S.]
6. What things do you NOT like about living in Scotland? What annoys you? RHI:  The girls with tiger stripe hair and radioactive orange faces – it’s such a bad look! PILLE:  The weather. Loud drunk people. The wind. The weather. The fact that it hardly ever properly snows. I cannot understand how women can wear so skimpy clothes and kitten heels during the winter here!??! I get cold shivers just from looking at them. Ditto for small kids in buggies… RORY:  “We queue in this country!” ANNA:  Oh dear god, the *traffic*. Would you people all learn how to drive? Holy freakin’…. fuckity! There’s a Youth Center directly across the street from my flat. Don’t get me started on Neds, we’ll be here all night. And it’s only 10 a.m. right now. And the customer service in this country SUCKS. Holy man, no wonder people don’t tip. And the fact that I live in the land where no one cooks. I can’t buy a good bag of flour, I can’t find half the stuff I want to cook and bake with, because NO ONE HERE COOKS!! GUH! RAWR!!!
7. What do you miss most about your home country? RHI:  Food, obviously. PILLE:  Friends, family, cold and snowy winters, warm and sunny summers and some of the food. RORY:  The boringly obvious but true answer is family and friends. ANNA:  Poutine. It’s french fries (*sigh* chips) covered in cheese curd and gravy. So bad for you. Yum! And Funky Pickle Pizza.
8. Finally, any sage advice or tips for visitors or would-be Edinburgh expats? RHI:  Do a big trip on the way to Edinburgh before settling into jobs, finding somewhere to live etc. And bring a chart of the 5 REAL food groups so you don’t forget! Hint: Mayonnaise isn’t one of them!! PILLE:  No point to bring an umbrella – it’s upside down within minutes from opening. RORY:  Visitors, come in August, but book your rooms well in advance. Would-be expats, don’t base your estimates of the prices of property in Edinburgh on the central and surprisingly cheap area of Dumbiedykes. ANNA:  Well… the Festivals are great and all, but being here in the summer is a special sort of hell. And there are no cookies in it. Hmmm…. I found it a real struggle to get a bank account, like jumping through a million hoops, and that was with a flat and a job. They’re very anal. Try and get that sorted out as soon as you have a bill in your name and a flat you can call your home address. [I second this one. HSBC are backpacker friendly, but Royal Bank of Scotland are pricks! – S.] Despite rumours to the contrary, there really are lots of free and cheap things to do here that are lovely. And there’s a CASTLE! There’s a CASTLE!!!
BONUS QUESTION – Have you ever watched an episode of River City and can you understand a word they’re saying? Not one bloody panellist had watched this show. Well you are missing out, people. It’s like Neighbours with sunbed-roasted Glaswegians with impenetrable accents. Roisin rules! Thanks very much for playing, guys!

About Shauna Reid

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8 thoughts on “Foreign Correspondents

  1. I like WNP, it always gives you something that you SO get but had never thought of.

    Also Rhi “Mayonaise is not a food group.”

    I see that smarts with the language runs in the family.

  2. Hey, great, I was wondering what had happened to those!

    Greetings from bewdiful Melbourne. I’d stock up on mint slices, but don’t think they’d survive the second leg of the trip without turning into mint crumbules.

  3. Ah, Cockburn street. My last name is the same as that – to hear it pronounced properly was a dream! I love EDI for that reason. We also took our picture beneath the street sign.

    Dorky tourists.

  4. Alas, your expats haven’t learned everything yet. What’s this word “hevering”? It’s “havering”. And it’s certainly not “Kill-bark-an”. It’s “Kill-bar-chan” – but the “ch” is as in “loch”, not as in “church”.

    Ok, I’m pedantic – but come on, you might as well get it right.

    The comments are interesting, though, and funny, if not entirely fair. (People do cook, for instance… . Possibly not the people you meet.)

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