7 Biggest Culture Shocks For International Travellers In Scotland

If you’re travelling to Scotland from abroad for the first time, then you’re in for a shock.

If you got an artist to illustrate a fantasy novel, they would probably use Scotland as a reference point. This is a beautiful country filled with fantastical scenery including snowy mountains, misty lochs, green vistas, and over 1,500 castles – no, seriously! 

For those of you going on a motorhome hire holiday with us, you’re going to have a great time exploring all of this. But there is another shock you should be prepared for: the culture shock.

As with any other country, Scotland has its own unique culture and traditions, and some of the things you’ll come across are going to be a little different to what you’re used to back home. 

To lessen that culture shock, however, we’ve compiled this list of the most significant – and perhaps most bizarre – customs that only us Scottish folk understand. Starting with the most obvious.

Kilts. And a Lot of Them

Say goodbye to your trousers – or pants, if you’re coming from the US – because in Scotland, it’s the law to wear kilts. Okay, well, maybe not the law, but you wouldn’t be silly for thinking it was, given the amount of people you’ll see wearing them. For the most part, kilts are worn to formal events, but it’s not uncommon to see shop owners or tour guides rocking their own personal tartan kilt.

The Rain… and the Sun… and the Snow

When you’re travelling Scotland in one of our vehicles, you better be prepared for the rain, and then for the sun, and then for the snow — sometimes within the space of a few hours. This country is known for its bizarre weather. Sometimes it wants to be sunny and sometimes it wants to be a winter wonderland. You just have to roll with it!

Roundabouts – And Roads in General

One of the things that a few US travellers struggle with is roundabouts. Across the country, there are single-lane roundabouts to four-lane roundabouts, and there are specific rules for entering and exiting them. To learn more about these rules – and other tidbits for driving in the UK – check out our road tips for UK newbies.

The Adoration of Haggis

At one point in time, haggis was a savoury pudding made from sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs. Today it’s a little different. Haggis is a staple item on every Scottish menu, and it’s now made from lamb, beef, oats, onions, and spices. But for some reason, it still makes tourists a little unnerved when they try it! We think this is a little unfair, as haggis is one of the most delicious Scottish dishes out there. Try to keep an open mind when you’re out dining and give it a taste!

The Pub Culture

You might have an image of what Scotland will be like in your head. This probably involves a quintessential old pub, complete with cheery locals, a roaring fire, and some steaming cups of mead. Well, the mead part isn’t that common. But everything else is. Visiting some of these pubs is a great way to meet the Scottish locals and learn a little more about what makes them tick.

Deep-Fried Mars Bars – Yes, Really

One thing you have to try while you’re here is fish and chips – and for our US friends, we mean chips as in fries. This is a traditional British meal, and we’re pretty sure that Scotland does it best. The menus can be a little difficult to work out, however. On the same menu, you might find anything from pies, to fish, to mushy peas, to kebabs, to deep-fried Mars bars. Normal for Scottish locals, abnormal for everyone else! We wouldn’t recommend that last one, though. 

Living in a Fantasy Novel

Lastly, the biggest culture shock you might experience is the sheer majesty of Scotland as a country. As we mentioned before, driving through Scotland in a motorhome can be a little bit like driving through a fantasy novel, where the only things missing are mediaeval knights and maybe a few dragons. There’s a reason so many people say that Scotland is one of the world’s most beautiful countries – it’s a hotpot full of magical sights and fascinating history. No matter where you go, there’ll be something amazing to grab your attention. So be prepared to be in a constant state of shock throughout the trip!