Home > Random > Japanese people visiting Scotland: this information could save your life!

Japanese people visiting Scotland: this information could save your life!

I read this article in The Guardian last week about this, a Japanese guidebook to Scotland. Now obviously, I can’t read Japanese, but if The Guardian article is anything to go by, I’m kind of glad I can’t, because I think I’d probably end up a) laughing too much or b) get too annoyed, both of which would result in me not finishing it. For those of you who might have missed the story, it’s basically a guidebook for Japanese visitors heading to Scotland, what to expect, what to call things, how to interact with the locals and so on.

What I can’t figure out is just how much of it is tongue-in-cheek and how much of it is ‘serious advice for the world traveller’. Taking just the first sentence of The Guardian article, Japanese tourists are advised to ‘Avoid football supporters and “flat sausage”, and never, ever, refer to a Scottish person as English’. As a Scottish person, I feel qualified to talk about this advice.

1) Avoid football supporters

Ok, I can perhaps understand this, but where tourists will be visiting (major sites, tourist hotspots etc) will likely not include the major football areas of either Glasgow or Edinburgh. Even further afield (Dundee, Aberdeen etc), as far as I’m aware, the football grounds and associated supporters’ bars are nowhere the tourist trail, so the likelihood of a tourist meeting a football fan is already pretty low. And anyway, unless said tourist was to go up to said football fan and say something like ‘your football team’s rubbish by the way’ (cause they’ve already acquired some Scottish English discourse markers), then football fans are likely to take no notice of tourists. So this piece of advice is close to scaremongering in my view.

2) Avoid ‘flat’ sausage

Those of you who live south of the border might wonder what on earth this might be, but no-one in Scotland actually calls it this. Instead, it’s known as lorne sausage or more usually square sausage and it’s probably one of the best inventions to come out of Scotland, particularly since it fits so well in a roll (or bun, bap, hob, barm or whatever your vernacular word of choice is). Square sausage means your meal is more stable (no sausages rolling out), and your sauce is more easily distributed across the sausage. All in all, it’s one of those foods that all tourists to Scotland should try, along with black pudding, whiskey and clootie dumpling.

3) Don’t call a Scottish person English

This is set out as though the mistake will cost the tourist their life, but seriously, people who are unfamiliar with Scotland and the Scottish accent think we’re from all over the place, including Ireland, Australia, Canada and England (I’ve been asked at one time or another if I’m from each of these countries), so  it’s often really not a big deal. Moreover, Scottish people would probably be quite forgiving of someone who has never been to Scotland before and would likely try and explain politely that they’re not English (I expect, without any violence).

I also took exception to the following piece of advice: ‘Please do not expect to have the same quick, polite and accurate service here to compare with Japanese service at shops, restaurants and hotels. Be patient anywhere in Scotland, it is not Japan’.

Actually, people who work in the service sector in Scotland are incredibly polite, quick and accurate, more so if they work in a tourist spot, so I really don’t know what this advice is based on. I worked in the Glasgow Science Centre for years when I was a student and I was always proud of the high standards of service we gave to our visitors (gosh, I feel like I’m recounting our trainee handbook!), and most places I’ve visited in Glasgow, Edinburgh or further afield have never made me think that customer service in Scotland is found wanting.

Maybe there’s nuggets of wisdom in the book that haven’t been included in the review, so perhaps I’m being a little unfair, but even if these few pieces of advice I’ve discussed above are taken as representative of Japanese worries about Scottish culture, then I’m a bit surprised Luath decided to publish it at all…

The Social Linguist

  1. Anne
    May 20, 2013 at 2:22 am

    DOn’t be too affronted about the customer service comment. Japanese customer service really does put the entire western world to shame, not just Scotland. Probably excessively so.

    • May 22, 2013 at 1:57 pm

      Yeah, I can imagine that customer service in Japan is fantastic. The UK still has much to learn unfortunately…

  2. December 16, 2013 at 12:37 am

    I read that article too and I have to say it did come across as very patronising. I felt that they had read a ‘see you Jimmy’ style book and decided it was what Scotland was all about. Flat sausage … love it 😛

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