Warm to Scotland

11th March 2005 at 00:00
* Bagging a Munro: not retail therapy but still a national pastime, especially with teachers, Munro bagging refers to climbing mountains over 3,000 ft. There are 284 at the latest count, and since Sir Hugo Munro first published his table of Munros in 1891, the Scots have been trying to bag them all ever since. So pack proper footwear.

* Scotland's not cold. You are wearing inappropriate clothing. It's freezing, wet and windy, even in summer, but you get use to it. Make sure you have your Goretex and thermals.

* Ceilidh: an evening of traditional Scottish dancing and PTA favourite for fundraising, Ceilidhs are rarely compulsory for teachers. However the opportunity to see your Heedie (headteacher) Stripping the Willow after imbibing the national drink is worth the effort.

* Under there: Scotsman doesn't wear anything under his kilt. But, this tradition came under threat recently as kilt hire companies tried to insist on underwear for hygiene purposes. It has been ignored.

* A wee dram: the national drink being, of course, whisky (without the e) which you will be expected to consume in large quantities, especially on a Fridays, after every pint. This must be done without screwing up your face or coughing as it takes the lining off your throat and settles like a chilli on your chest.

* Unhealthy diet - well, how would you describe fried haggis, fried pizza and, yes, deep-fried Mars Bars? There is also a tendency to pour salt on everything before tasting but this can be balanced with traditional breakfast of porridge, followed by Arbroath smokies (kippers).

* Cigarette ban: Scotland is following its Celtic cousin, Ireland, by introducing a ban on smoking in public places. So smokers should wrap up because it's chilly puffing away outside the pub. Oh, and you have to leave your pint inside as you can't drink on the street.

* Scots hate English: there's a bit of history there, but the Scots are friendly on the whole. "It's all been blown out of proportion," says Pat O'Donnell, secretary of NASUWT Scotland. "Whether the kids like you or not has nothing to do with being English, it's whether you are a good teacher."

* Tartan Army rules: possibly the most endearing football fans in the world, back home things aren't quite so amiable. Sectarianism is still rife so choose your football team carefully: Celtic and Hibs are associated with Catholics while Hearts and Rangers are strongly supported by the Orange movement.

* Haggis hunting: the Scots do not go out on the hills hunting haggis and it is not a short, pig-like creature that lives off the heather. It doesn't have two legs shorter than the other so it can stand up straight on hills, and it doesn't always face north.

* Summer holiday: don't plan trips with English chums as few of the holidays are synchronised between England and Scotland, expect Easter, Christmas and two weeks at the end of July. You do miss the peak times so travelling can be cheaper. Not so good, you go back to school a month earlier after summer than the English, which means 16 weeks of hard slog until Christmas.

* Who's running the country: First Minister is Jack McConnell but had you noticed England is also in the clutches of the Scots? Tony Blair (honorary Scot), Gordon Brown, Alaistair Darling to name a few.

* Get used to: the different money, but you can spend it in England; you don't have to be posh to play golf in Scotland; and the Highland Games; the Edinburgh Festival, old ladies calling you hen, Burns Night and the party to end all parties, Hogmanay.

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