The Essentials of Scottish Etiquette

University of Edinburgh Content 01

Scotland, a country in its own right in the north of Great Britain, shares some etiquette with its southern English neighbors, but there are also many uniquely Scottish mannerisms you’d do well to know a bit about before you study abroad at the University of Glasgow or the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Scotland Is Not England

Top of the list of most important things to know is Scotland is NOT England. Calling a Scot English can be very offensive – there’s a lot of history between the two countries, and the question of Scottish independence from English governmental control. It’s always safer to assume someone is Scottish rather than English when you’re north of the border.


It's important to be polite in Scotland, so using phrases such as "please" and "thank you" is expected. When asking for assistance or directions, it's recommended to begin with "Excuse me" or "Sorry to bother you."

Scottish Slang

Also part of being polite is acknowledging Scotland has a strong dialect of its own. Learning a few specifically Scottish phrases helps your understanding, and, more importantly, it shows you care about the culture and its people.

Bairn - child or baby
Bonny - pretty or attractive
Cheeky - impudent or saucy
Dreich - dull or gloomy weather
Gonnae - short for "going to"
Ken - to know or understand
Minging - unpleasant or disgusting
Nae Bother - no problem or it's okay
Pure - very or extremely
Wee - small or little


Arriving on time is important in Scotland, as it shows respect for others and their time. If you are running late, call or message the person you’re meeting and let them know you’re on your way and will be there as soon as possible.

It’s especially important you’re on time for your lectures and seminars. Being late can leave a negative impression on your lecturers and teachers – and could even affect your grade. If traffic, a bike puncture, or some other event prevents you from being on time, staying back after the class to apologize for your lateness is a particularly good idea.

Dining Etiquette

Table manners mean a lot to people in Scotland. And those manners extend beyond the table. Whether you’re eating in the uni café, grabbing a sandwich while you wait for the bus, or dining at a top restaurant, you should eat with your mouth closed and not talk when you have food in your mouth.

Other rules apply when you’re out for a nice meal or have been invited to dinner in someone’s home. It's customary to only start eating when everyone you’re dining with is sitting. Your host will initiate the meal by saying “bon apetit,” or “tuck in,” or “I hope you enjoy it.” If there’s a napkin at the table, put it on your lap, and try to eat at the same speed as everyone else at the table – try not to finish too much before or after everyone else.

If you’re offered more food, you are welcome to have more or not, depending on how you feel. To turn down more food, say something like “That was delicious, thank you so much, but I really am full.” If you’d like more, say something like “Oh yes, please, it really is delicious. Thank you so much!