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What NOT To Do When You Visit Scotland: 25 Scottish Customs and Etiquette

What NOT To Do When You Visit Scotland: 25 Scottish Customs and Etiquette


Are you planning on vacationing to Scotland? Are you worried about embarrassing yourself? Accidentally insulting a stranger? Acting like a fanny? This guide is for you!

Please note this is just a tongue-in-cheek bit of fun, and I hope I don’t insult anyone. If I have, please email Yvette directly. In the subject, please write “Delete this email without opening.”

Also, fanny doesn’t mean the same thing over here. On with the nonsense!

This is the sixth article in my Planning A Trip to Scotland series. To read the first article in the series, click here. To receive all the articles in this series by email, you can sign up here.

What Not To Do When You Visit Scotland

scotland travel tips for travelling scotland

Food & Drink

1. Spell ‘whisky’ as ‘whiskey’

‘Whiskey’ is Irish or indeed American.

Bourbon isn’t whisky. We laugh at Bourbon. Then drink copious amounts of it at the weekend anyway.

2. Add anything other than water or ice to your whisky

The barman will escort you to the door where the police will meet you to escort you to the airport. That’s like slapping God in the face for giving you a beautiful gift.

a glass of bunnahabhain whisky on the isle of islay in scotland

3. Refer to whisky as Scotch

Or the people for that matter. You can call us sexy.

4. Accept a drink without buying one in return

“The round” system dictates that everyone in a group must buy everyone else in the group a drink, no matter how many people there are. Ten-person rounds aren’t uncommon. Neither are hangovers.

5. Buy bottled water

Our water is amazing. Bring a refillable bottle. Whether tap water or straight from a highland stream, it is a gift from the Gods.

6. Come all this way and not try haggis

If you’ve ever eaten hot dogs, you’ve eaten worse. At least we don’t hide what the ingredients are.


7. Ask if we know your friend Jock McTavish from Auchtermuchty

There are more than 5 million of us. There’s a good chance we don’t. Unless it’s Jock McTavish from Auchtermuchty who used to play rugby as a laddie and his grandad used to run the butchers in the high street…

8. Refer to yourself as Scottish

If you, your parents, your grandparents, your great grandparents, et al once vacationed in Seton Sands Caravan Park this doesn’t make you Scottish or whatever other tenuous link you can conjure up. We do accept exemplary applications for membership though.

a puffin spreading its wings on staffa in scotland

9. Start a conversation about religion

Sectarianism in Scotland is still rife in certain areas. It’s a subject best avoided. Even our football teams have strong links to Catholicism and Protestantism. Aye, it’s stupid. We know.

10. Ask someone if they can play the bagpipes

Of course we can. Every single one of us. The Scottish government supplies a “My first bagpipes set” as part of the Baby Boxes given out to new parents.

11. Expect us to be ‘perma-kilted’

Times have changed, “Now, the kilt was only for day-to-day wear. In battle, we donned a full-length ball gown covered in sequins. The idea was to blind your opponent with luxury” – Groundskeeper Willie.

12. Ask a man what’s under his kilt

It’s his boaby. If a man is in a kilt, it’s likely for a special occasion and he’s more than likely had a few drinks and will be delighted to show you ‘the last turkey in the shop.’

13. Speak with a Scottish accent

Even if you’re on your 7th round just don’t. We were probably enjoying talking to you up until that point but will likely make any excuse to leave. “Sorry, I’ve left my gerbil on fire at home.”

scotland quiz highland cow

14. Talk about politics

The whole independence thing can be pretty divisive. We just tend to save our opinions for the voting booth here. Probably best you don’t bring up US politics either as you might not hear what you expected whether you’re a gun-toting redneck Republican or one of those tree-hugging liberals.

On a side note, I’ve still never met a Scotsman who liked Margaret Thatcher. I hope I never do.

15. Complain about the lack of face clothes and top sheets

We’re a hardy bunch. We wash our faces with handfuls of gravel and sleep under unravelled kilts. Seriously though – this has been the most discussed topic on the Scotland Travel Tips Facebook group. It’s mind-boggling.

16. Take our gruffness as rude

It rains here 367 days a year. It’s mostly down to seasonal affective disorder. We might walk around with a face like a smacked arse but we are genuinely some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.

17. Queue Jump

If you have ever wondered how lynch mobs become a thing this is a great way to find out.

glasgow mural trail

18. Get offended if someone asks to “Bum a fag off you”

This literally means “Can I possibly have one of your cigarettes please my good man? I appear to have left my cigarillos on the credenza in the boudoir.”

19. Make a movie about an immortal claymore-wielding Scotsman and have him played by a French Canadian with a plummy Scottish accent, while an actual Scotsman plays his Spanish mentor (but refuses to speak with anything but a Scottish accent.)

I am of course referring to 1986’s should’ve-been-straight-to-video classic, Highlander, starring Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery. I slate Braveheart and Mel Gibson in every other article I’ve ever written so it was time to mix it up.

best scottish pubs the clachan inn in drymen

Travel and Transport

20. Forget to thank the bus driver

I was shocked recently to learn that it isn’t universal to say “Cheers, driver” when disembarking a public bus. Manners go a long way.

21. Stay in the overtaking lane

If you are driving on a motorway or dual carriageway and overtake a slower vehicle don’t forget to move back into the left lane when it is safe to do so.

22. Rent a car without reading this first

Read this guide to driving in Scotland and it will make you much better prepared.

Yes, I am promoting one of my own articles on my travel blogger wife’s website. It’s a goal of mine to have the article with the most reads as it will wind her up to no end. Share it with your friends!

23. Butcher world famous place names

Edinburgh is pronounced “Ed-in-bruh”. Glasgow is pronounced “Glazz-go”. Milngavie is pronounced “Mull-guy.” Erm… aye.



24. Rub the dog’s nose

Just don’t touch the Greyfriars Bobby statue in Edinburgh at all. He’s a national hero and should be recognised as such. Some eejit tour guide made up the rumour it was lucky to stroke his nose. It isn’t It angers him and he is a vengeful pooch.

greyfriars bobby statue in edinburgh

Beware the wrath of Bobby

25. Think Scotland is part of England

I just mean… what…?!

To Conclude

These are just some funny examples; we aren’t actually that judgmental.

If you need help with your Scotland trip, my wife has a great Planning a Trip To Scotland course that will help you to avoid costly mistakes like the ones I mentioned in this article.

planning a trip to scotland course

Now- get the plane tickets sorted, book some accommodation, and come have a good time with us. Oh, and bring money – it’s your round.

This is the sixth article in my Planning A Trip to Scotland series. Be sure to read the next article in the series, 50 Scotland Travel Tips, or sign up here to have the whole series emailed to you.

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Elizabeth Simmons

Friday 26th of April 2024

Made in America with Scottish parts: On my last visit to Scotland I bought myself a bum bag with Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow Roses all over it. I was telling EVERYONE I got myself a Rennie Mack fanny pack... And, that's how I learned that word means something different. My glaswegian mother was horrified! My auntie, however, said "Well, that's where you wear it."

Yvette Webster

Saturday 27th of April 2024

Ha ha ha I love this!

Yvette xx

Susan Scott Slavin

Saturday 9th of December 2023

Thank you enjoyed this very much made me laugh and good information. I have always wanted to go to Scotland.

Heather Doelman

Sunday 21st of May 2023

These tips are so good! As a fellow Kiwi, as is your Yvette, we tend to thank the bus driver when we hop off too. Maybe it's the wee bit of Scot in many of us!

Yolanda South

Friday 10th of February 2023

Very entertaining. Still not quite sure on haggis though.

Vickie Coffland

Saturday 4th of February 2023

Excellent! Loved every one!! Can't wait to try these out!! If I end up in jail it will be your fault!