The English vs. The Scottish: How Are They Different?

Today, in their ongoing “What is Britain?” series, The Guardian asks “What’s the difference between the English and the Scottish, other than the tell-tale accent?”. May 1 will mark the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union that brought England and Scotland together. The two regions have long held separate identities; no one has really accepted “British” as an all-encompassing term. And there’s still talk that Scotland may strike out on its own in the next few years. However, the differences are less stark than we’ve been led to believe, says The Guardian.

First of all, migration between the two regions has grown over the years. Scots are moving to England, and English people are moving to Scotland, and both groups find they quite like the change. A married English woman named Julia Thomson, for example, says that she prefers the country charm of Scotland:

“We like the slower pace up here…Even in Edinburgh people are much more friendly. It’s not so aggressive. There’s less crime. Clean air, better atmosphere.” Downsides include the lack of infrastructure, in particular fast, frequent trains from Perth to Edinburgh, and the dearth of dentists. Thomson is also concerned about job opportunities for younger people. “You see these kids doing really well at school and university and then they can’t get a well-paid professional job here. So they have to go to London or the south.”

Forbes Hodge, a Scottish man who moved to England for work, says it’s easy to fit in down south:

Hodge believes that the lack of English nationalism helps English-Scottish integration. “The English lack of nationalistic feeling that us Scots all have makes it easier for the English to welcome us,” he says.

Hardeep Singh Kohli says that it is England, not Scotland, which will benefit from breaking up the UK, if only because it will give England a chance to get its sh*t in one sock:

I think the English deserve to find themselves, to define themselves. The rise of the far right in England is not because the English are uniquely racist within the gathering of nations that we call the British Isles. It is because the English have for so long welcomed and absorbed other nations and races, and in doing so have lost sight of themselves. They struggle to know who they are.

Also, what are the differences between British and Scottish humor? Jenny Colgan tries to sort it out:

The basis of Scottish humor is fundamentally working class, whereas often English comedy – from the Pythons to Ben Elton, Fawlty Towers to The Office, and certainly including anything written by Richard Curtis – is manifestly middle class, and about the difficulties of fitting in. There is nothing in Scotland to rival the emetic Curtis – managing to be funny, while at the same time also unbelievably smug; quite the opposite of self-deprecation.

In Scotland, that leftwing stronghold, there is no point in being embarrassed about your class. Oh yes, you might dress up for the local priest (“Another custard cream, father?” as [Billy] Connolly would say), but essentially you know your neighbors and you are all in it together (or you are from Edinburgh). Many Scots coming to London for the first time are amazed at the different classes who live side by side.

Colgan also makes a case for Billy Connolly as World’s Funniest Man. I can live with that.

Music has also been a point of contention between the two regions. Take The Proclaimers. They have now gotten their own ABBA-esque musical, but will they finally win respect in England? Brian Logan recommends not holding your breath: “Most Scots can’t get enough of their sweaty, shouty, close-harmony, call-and-response songs. But in England, their brand of militantly Scottish folk-pop is deemed a novelty at best, grievous aural harm at worse.”

In other news:

  • Fergie looking very saucy in a Harper’s Bazaar photo.

    This interview with Teen People only makes me love Lily Allen more. On Posh and Becks moving to L.A.: “Good. As long as they are out of my country.” Found via Perez Hilton. If I were Kate Moss, I’d be jealous of Lily, too.

  • Amy Winehouse‘s “Back to Black” video looks suitably bleak.(Daily Mail)
  • Noel Gallagher tells Bono to “Play ‘One,’ shut the f*ck up about Africa!”(NME)
  • Morrissey fans have launched a download campaign to get his single, “Life is a Pigsty,” on the charts.(NME)
  • Prince Harry‘s night with the Ritchies, 24-style.(The Sun)
  • Spare the rod, spoil the royal: The Daily Mail thinks Harry needs some reining in: “Harry’s self-indulgent preoccupation – some might say obsession – with late-night-to-early-hours drinking among London’s louche nightclub crowd smacks of a young man on whom little control is exercised.”
  • Will “former lovers” Daniel Craig and Sienna Miller have an awkward moment at this weekend’s BAFTAs? Damn, DC looks hot smiling in this Sun photo.
  • OMG, what happened to Joss Stone, and whom do we hold responsible?
    (The Sun)
  • Three-fifths of the Spice Girls, together. Of course, speculation about a reunion abounds.(Daily Mail)
  • Has Paul McCartney offered Heather Mills a $50 million divorce settlement?(Daily Mail)
  • Stef Penney won the Costa Book Prize for her very first novel, The Tenderness of Wolves, but the struggle to write the book may be more compelling than the novel itself. Penney’s agoraphobic, you see, a character trait she shares with a character from her novel, and she’s very candid about how it affects her. But in her obligatory post-win Guardian interview, she refuses to discuss any other personal information, which the cynic in me finds quite odd.

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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