Welcome to Scotland

I was tired, full of mulled wine and ready for a nap. I’d spent the day at the Edinburgh Christmas market with my friend and my husband, watching people ice skate and admiring the beautiful but impractical trinkets that the vendors were selling. We had even taken a ride on the Ferris wheel that had been set up next to the Victorian monument to author Sir Walter Scott. Edinburgh looked almost perfectly festive from the top, with its grand buildings bathed in the glow of white and blue Christmas lights.

We got on the train to go back to Glasgow and sat down, grateful for the warmth and the chance to rest our feet. And then the singing started.

“Oh God,” I muttered. The two men next to us were drunk and singing football songs at the top of their lungs. If they stayed on all the way to Glasgow, we could be stuck listening to them for an hour.

“It’s a bit early for them to be this drunk,” I whispered to my friend. She nodded in agreement – after all, it was barely 6pm.

“Maybe we should move,” she suggested. I glanced around the train, hoping to see three empty seats. As I was about to get up to get a better look, one of the singers turned to my husband.

“Cómo te llamas? (What’s your name?)” he asked.

“Qué? (What?)”, my husband responded. He was confused, but not as confused as he would have been if he didn’t speak Spanish.

“Hablas Español? (Do you speak Spanish?)” he asked.

“Sí (Yes).”

He turned to me.“Y tú? (And you?)” I nodded, and so did my friend.

The man grinned widely. “Me encanta Español!” (I love Spanish!). And then he proved how much he loved it by talking to us in broken Spanish for the next 40 minutes.

“Soy barracho,” he announced. “No wait…estoy barracho.”

The difference is an important one. Estoy barracho means “I am currently drunk”, whereas soy barracho implies that you’re always drunk.

“Español es la idioma perfecta (Spanish is the perfect language),” he said. He used this perfect language to tell us all of the best places to go in Europe (Rome, Prague and Ibiza, the party capital of Spain), list all of the swear words he knows, and tell us how the city of Inverness is the only place in Britain where people speak ‘the Queen’s English’. He got so caught up in our conversation that he missed his stop, prompting several angry phone calls from his wife as the train pulled away.

“Oh no,” he said. “Soy muy malo (I am very bad).”

As he exited the train at the next stop, he shook all of our hands and shouted “Bienvenidos a Escosia! (Welcome to Scotland!)”. I’d been living in Scotland for nearly five years at the time, but I appreciated the sentiment nonetheless. It wasn’t the first random conversation that I’d had with a friendly, drunken stranger in this country, and it wouldn’t be the last. Welcome to Scotland indeed.

K Dickerson

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