Being a Local: Feeling at Home, Abroad by Sarah Barclay

I am currently in my third week in Scotland, and already it feels like home.

But it didn’t take me three weeks to get to this point. When you go abroad, you expect everything to be so completely different. You expect culture shock. But in reality, going from the US to the UK, there aren’t many changes. They still have groceries and bars and novelty shops. Thus far, for me, the biggest diffrence between back home and Edinburgh is that this city is a little more historical, and the accents are cooler.

Here’s a similarity – the UK folk still love Batman just as much as us, including the campy ’60s version!

But it is nice to not feel like a ‘tourist’ and more like a ‘local.’

I can’t help but laugh sometimes, as I walk down towards Grassmarket, and up to the Royal Mile on an almost daily basis with my fellow Bobcats. Tour buses whoosh by, and we see everyone on board whip out cameras and start snapping pictures of us as we sit in a cafe or are standing at a street corner. There’s been a few times (once on our first day here!) when people have come up to a group of two or three of us and asked for directions, and we barely know where we’re going ourselves.

It’s even gotten to the point when I was out on my own, and a Scotsman asked me if I was Irish, because apparently I sounded like one with my accent?

But ignoring what other people think of our tiny slice of Ohio, my fellow classmates and I have just become…used to the place. We can get around the majority of Edinburgh on our own, at any point in the day, and we’ve learned the local currency and language (for future reference, the word ‘pants’ does not equal ‘pants.’ It means ‘underwear’). We’ve even been lucky enough to have sat with local street performers and storytellers to merely people-watch. You know, like scenes in movies, where the group of old men just sit there and watch the action. That’s basically what we looked like.

This wasn’t part of our ‘people-watching’ but there was a day when we saw the Queen! We were afraid of being over-excited Americans, but were later told that, really, EVERYONE was that excited to see her, Prince William and Catherine!

There was an instance just last night, actually, when we went to visit a photographer’s studio for a little get-together and were watching the movie called ‘The Match’, about two feuding pubs and a football (soccer) match. At one point, one of us said “It doesn’t even feel like we’re watching a foreign film right now. The accents and stuff are just normal stuff.”

We even have a ‘normal spot’ to eat lunch. The Coffee Mill Cafe, where the one waiter knows us so well, he waves to us every day when we pass by and visits our table every ten minutes, if he’s not serving us directly, when we eat there.

I was talking to a friend back home about these instances, and he asked me if we changed anything about ourselves. Like our clothes or how we carry ourselves. I told her no, and that frankly, most of the time we still feel like ‘stupid Americans’ as is kind of the stereotype here. But since he asked me, I’ve been thinking about it, what has made us seem more like locals and not travelling students?

I think it’s just all about the observation. We spent our first couple of days here just watching how things went on. In restaurants, we would make conversation with our server and nearby patrons. On the trains, we’d ask people about places to visit and things to do. If you say something wrong, after a few giggles, most people are happy to help correct and teach you the correct way to say and do things.

As travellers, most people know they have a very limited time to do things, so they try to jump right in. But really, just take a day or two and observe what’s going on, you’ll feel at home in no time.


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