Edinburgh, Scotland

Scottish & American Pride 

Before visiting each country on the Mass Media study abroad in the United Kingdom program, I made a prediction of what each country would look, sound, smell and taste like. In my head, each place had a specific stereotype which correlated to their country’s culture. From an American perspective, I thought of tea and crumpets when I thought of England; leprechauns, pubs, sheep and potatoes when I thought of Ireland/Northern Ireland; Welsh corgis in Wales; and of course, Scotland and their infamous kilt. The way American media portrays these countries in a way which simplifies and mocks their culture. The media is what gave me the false impressions I had before I visited the countries. Before actually visiting these spectacular places, I felt I had an idea of what that country was like, but I was very wrong. If traveling gave me one thing, it was perspective. These countries and their people were so much more than a simple stereotype.

Upon arrival to Scotland, I referred to my agenda and found that we were going to be visiting the leading kilt manufacturing company. I thought to myself, “What does this visit have to do with media?” But that was before I met the kind little lady who presented the company’s vision to our group and expressed her deep passion for Scottish culture and quality kilt making. Before her presentation began at the Kinloch Anderson museum, my classmates and I giggled at the photographs on the walls of men in Kilts. All we could think was “a man in a skirt” and it just seemed too different to adjust to and take seriously. After the Kinloch Anderson presentation, though, I had a new respect and appreciation for Scotland and the Kilt.

The Kilt is such significant part of the Scottish way of life and their pride in their country. There is a great amount of quality effort put into the creation of each kilt and it can serve as a family heirloom for generations. An entire hand can fit within each pleat in order to create a flow-like wave to the kilt as it is worn. I would find it wonderful to have something so special and so valued in the American culture to share with my family, but that is not a part of our culture which is why it is so difficult for Americans to understand. A really great quote which popped into my head a lot over my journey was “Do not judge what you don’t understand.” There were so many situations which felt so different to me, but I never wanted to jump the gun and get in the mindset that they were wrong, or that they were weird for doing things a certain way, because I’m sure they could look at the American culture and find plenty of ways of life a little un-Orthodox.

The national pride of Scotland felt powerful but not patronizing. I think that at times Americans can come off very strong in their national pride as though they need to prove a point (for example) by chanting “USA! USA!” anywhere they find appropriate, or inappropriate, even in other countries. Though I am prideful myself, I do not want to appear naive to the flaws of my home country. I think the media has a way of convincing us that we are the very best, and not to say we aren’t, but the media should not be bias in this way. Other countries portray us in a stereotypical way which may have some truth to it. They say we are loud, ignorant to the world’s problems, and stand in the way of walking traffic.

I can say that after piling into trains, ferries, planes and tubes with 22 Americans, we are indeed loud. And we do stand in the way of others (in our defense, we drive on the other side of the road and that is the side we walk on, opposed to other countries). To generalize that we are “ignorant” to the world, would be wrong, however there are many simple things I did not know of until I reached another country, and I would be embarrassed to admit just what those are. We must be so engulfed in our own country’s culture, that some people never even have the desire to step foot outside of it. An incredibly low percentage of people in the United States have traveled to another country. I feel extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to open my eyes to some of these realities.

Many people, including myself before I arrived, did not know the stories of Edinburgh – the haunted city. I did not even know castles truly existed until this study abroad trip when we first visited Ireland, Wales and England. The gothic architecture and dark cloudy skies in Edinburgh, the nation’s capital, set the mood for a spooky movie. I suppose the country’s landscaping is used in several movies but sometimes not even shot in the area where the movie says they are taking place! That is Los Angeles directors interchanging the landscaping in Scotland, Ireland, etc. because it looks so similar (at least, to Americans).

Our visit to Edinburgh Castle and to the tip of Arthur’s Seat (two hours later…) gave us a wide-range view of the city and its greatest attractions. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) gave us the opportunity of a lifetime at their studios in Glasgow. We saw a tour and discussed the United Kingdom’s media vs that of the United States. The BBC prides themselves on authentic, original works and since they are publicly funded – they can not risk to get it wrong! I found this interesting because I feel as though in America, media jumps to conclusions and wants to get the story out there first, before any other publications. They are sacrificing their credibility by doing so, and that speed that we feel makes us the “best”  may not necessarily deliver the quality or accuracy of the information.

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