13 Differences Between Scotland and the States

If you didn’t know, I just got back to the States (I never know if I should capitalize that or not??) about 10 days ago. Before that, I was over in Scotland for almost five months studying abroad and traveling around the UK and Europe.

I knew pretty early on that I was going to do a post like this. People always ask about Scotland so I thought sharing differences would be the best way to give you more insight into what the country is really like.

13 Differences Between Scotland and the States

Basic Vocabulary

Of course, Scottish people have an accent compared to Americans, so that would just be dumb to include, but they also have quite a few vocabulary differences as well. Some are things I had heard of before, and others completely surprised me.

  • Cheersthis is thank you and hi and bye and everything over there
  • Joined up writingalso known as cursive here
  • Fitnow this word seems simple enough but it can mean hot in addition to athletic there
  • Pantsthe one that caused me the most trouble because I’m so used to any bottom being pants, but no, pants to them are underpants
  • Footballthis is soccer and probably the most know vocab change
  • YousI was told this is more of a Glaswegian thing, but I definitely heard people from other cities say it as well. It’s basically the Scottish y’all
  • Lorrysemi truck. No idea how lorry makes any sense at all
  • Toiletyou don’t ask where the bathrooms are, you ask where the toilets are
  • Holidayyou don’t go on vacation, you go on holiday
  • Chipsfries
  • Biscuitcookie
  • Crispschips
  • Campgay

Everything Closes Early

One of the things I found out real early, and bothered me the most, was that everything closes so early!! Most shops closed between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Which is insane to me because here the first wave of stores don’t close until 9 p.m. And those are usually just clothing stores, while all grocery stores and drugstores are still open.

Scotland also actually shuts everything down for holidays. Like nothing is open. There’s always at least somewhere open for a couple hours here in the States!! Maybe that’s bad for the people who have to work, but like I need things on holidays too guys.

Power Sockets

They are obviously different and you’ll need an adapter to plug in anything with a cord from the States, but they also have switches. Like on and off switches. Like light switches.

So many times I would plug my phone into the socket at night and forget to turn it on and my phone would be on 10% when I woke up. Not fun. Especially not when traveling.

Drinking Culture

First off, the drinking age there is eighteen. So while I still can’t legally drink in the States, I could drink in Scotland. And everyone drinks early and there was no way I could ever keep up with any of them. Like two ciders and your girl is starting to feel tipsy usually.

But I did love that it was normal culture to just order a pint at like dinner. I miss that. You’re an alcoholic or bougie mom if you do that here.

I do think having the drinking age lower is a good idea though because it teaches young adults more responsible drinking habits and they don’t have to do stupid things to hide it from their families or law enforcement.

Rugby and Football

Everyone prepares you for the massive football (soccer) craze in Europe, but no one ever hypes up rugby. Or even talks about it to be honest. So I was actually surprised to see how many guys actually played it.

Honestly, it’s a lot more interesting to watch than soccer. More confusing, but more interesting. That’s right. I said it.

scotland and states differences manual cars

Cars are manual

Not only do they drive on the left side of the road with their steering wheels on the right, but almost every car is a manual. So sadly, I never got to drive while I was abroad.

It’s so rare for any car (unless it’s older I feel) to be manual in the States. Knowing how to drive stick just isn’t common knowledge like it is there.

Post-drinking snacks

I found out after my first night out that chip and cheese are the thing to get after a night of drinking. Personally, I don’t find them all that appetizing, but I will always take some good chips. I will miss my late night Blue Lagoon runs.

I got asked what the American equivalent to chips and cheese is, but honestly, I don’t think there is? Please correct me if I’m wrong though.

Secondary Education System

I touched on this in one of my study abroad updates a couple months ago, but the education system in Scotland is just bonkers. But I also loved parts of it.

So basically, for each class I had a two-hour lecture, one-hour lab, and one-hour tutorial. But no homework. And all my grades came from one final project and the final exam. And wow are final exams different.

Everyone had an assigned seat for final exams, and you had to fill out a cover sheet, and put your bag up at the front of the room, and there was a proctor, and people walking around to check your ID to make sure you were the right person sitting the exam. Like I felt like I was taking an AP test or the ACT, not a college exam.

Either they care too much about people not cheating or America just really doesn’t care. I think it’s a bit of both honestly.

Everyone dresses up

And I mean literally everyone. Even the dudes!

It was common to see girls having full on glam makeup and amazingly fashion forward outfits no matter where you were and what time it was. It helped me fit in, but like I also hated it because when I wanted to be lazy I couldn’t. Like I couldn’t walk to the library in my pajamas without getting looks while if I were to do that at NKU I wouldn’t get a single second glance.

Girls also wear booties so often. Like I know booties are popular, but you never see girls wear them to class here in Kentucky!! It’s all Nikes, shorts, and oversized t-shirt with messy bun and baseball cap.

The F-bomb

I swear Scotland should make that their national word. Too bad national words aren’t really a thing.

It’s not even like they sounded angry a lot when they said it, it was just a normal vocab word a lot of the time. It was so normal that professors even used it casually!!

coffee liverpool

Coffee Sucks

First of all, they don’t have iced coffee like anywhere. Not even Starbucks. And Starbucks coffee is even worse there and they don’t have my beloved Dunkin.

I did acquire an appreciation for nice cappuccinos though, but I am 100% back to my iced coffee obsession now.


You know how when you order somewhere like Chipotle they ask you if it’s for here or to go? Well, in Scotland they ask if it’s sit-in or takeaway. And I kid you not, even though they used that lingo to ask me, I literally would still use the American word and get funny looks.

On top of that, something I found greatly annoying was that fact that I had to ask for the bill, they don’t just bring it over. Flagging down a waiter is just annoying, and hard when you have social anxiety.

Waiters also don’t come to check up on you, so I never got water refills! Like no I don’t want to ask for water, you should just know. But I guess that’s why they don’t expect to be tipped. They don’t do much anyway. And they are paid better than American waiters.

The most annoying thing though, is that they always put the bills together!! So if you’re out with friends they put it all on one check and you have to split it yourself!


Paying with purely coins is pretty common if the purchase is £5 or less. Can you imagine doing that with American coins? That’d be insane. I guess it helps that they have £1 and £2 coins.

Funny story, I got so used to the pound coin sizes that yesterday when I tried to get change out to pay at Target I couldn’t find a nickel and just gave up. Guess I need to go back to first grade and learn my coins again.

So, there you have 13 differences between Scotland the States!! I loved writing this post because since I’ve been back so many people have been asking me about Scotland and the only things I can think to tell them are the annoying and weird differences.

Keep a lookout for a few more study abroad related posts to come out as I sift through all my content ideas!

Which difference would annoy you the most?

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