I'm the type of person that likes to be well-prepared before I travel. I like to know where we're going, what we're doing, and how we're doing it. This post is just to give you a few ideas of what Scotland is like and what to expect when you visit. Plus, I've thrown in a few tidbits pertaining to culture and etiquette. Definitely, not a complete list (that might take days) but some of the bigger stuff you'll probably encounter.
Pronunciation: So, you'll fly into one of two cities: Glasgow or Edinburgh. Scottish names are tricky, they don't always pronounce the letters you see and while you can probably bumble through some other names that aren't as common, make sure you can pronounce these ones properly. Glasgow is pronounced "Glaz-Go" with equal emphasis on both parts. Bonus points if you half swallow the word like the locals do. You'll know it when you hear it. Edinburgh is the one I hear most commonly mispronounced. It's pronounced "Edinbura". I know, it makes no sense, but hey, whatever floats their boats.
Similarly, the Scottish accent is peculiar and can be quite thick, especially around Glasgow. Don't forget that just because you can't understand the locals, they watch American tv and they'll understand you just fine (most of the time). Take it slow and after a while your ears will adjust. And watch this video first, just to get an understanding of how thick the accent really is. The Scottish also use a lot of slang, so just focus on the words you understand. ;)
Know the money. The Scottish also use the pound sterling or pounds (£). They have regular (often plastic-y feeling) notes or bills in higher denominations, but their coinage system is very different. No £1 notes, (ok, there are a few but you probably won't see any) but rather they use heavy coins for £1 and £2. What always throws me off is the five pence coin which is very similar in size and weight to the American dime.
Etiquette: When walking through the city, it does not matter which side of the sidewalk one hugs. However, when taking the escalator, stay on the right. Yes, there will be signs telling you this, so pay attention. The right is for people standing there as the escalator moves. The left is for people running to catch their train/bus/subway. They will, wonderfully passive aggressively, attempt to move around you, so just stick to the right and you'll be fine.
One's personal space bubble is generally 1-3 feet, except when you're on the train or subway and then it's reduced to mere inches.
When in the queue (or line) for a restaurant, grocery store, or especially for the ATM, do not, I repeat, do NOT stand close to the person in front of you, especially if it's the person at the front of the line. Give them space and respect the queue.
When eating out, unless there is a sign, you seat yourself. Now, someone may come and take your order for you, but generally you will place your order at the bar. In most pubs, the menus and are up there as well. The bartender will give you your drinks, you'll take a seat, and someone from the kitchen will bring you your food and clear away when you leave. Additionally, there are no hard rules about tipping, and whether you tip or not varies from restaurant to restaurant. Most of the time you'll see the gratuity added to your bill. If not, 10-15% is fine.
Culture: You won't see a lot of kilts everyday here unless you're in popular pedestrian walkways, such as the Royal Mile in Edinburgh or occasionally on Buchanan Street in Glasgow. Most of the time, you'll see men in kilts playing their bagpipes so stop and enjoy the music.
Irn-Bru is the drink of choice (although whisky is popular as well). It tastes like fizzy cough syrup but you have to try it if you're here. Bonus points if you actually enjoy it, because it's either an acquired taste or lack of taste buds that leads to one enjoying it. Likewise, have a meat pie, some haggis, neeps and tatties, or some cullen skink. If you don't like any of those, don't worry. There are a lot of other excellent foods to be discovered and eaten while you're here. Try some Indian, some seafood, or some wild game if you're up in the Highlands. Or, if you happen to come across a local cheese maker, definitely stop in! Scottish cheese is an undiscovered (and cheap!) treasure. There are 14 Michelin Star Restaurants in Scotland, so perhaps one of those would be up your alley if you're in the mood for something a bit more fancy.
Jaywalking isn't illegal, so don't fret if you can't find the nearest crosswalk. Just look right and left (opposite of the USA) before crossing the street. Better yet, do it with a group of people and your likelihood of getting hit really drops.
Most of the museums are free, so they are a great place to stop for a bit, dry off and meander around. Plus, they're educational, so it's really a win-win.
And lastly, just look up the Scottish National Animal so you can better understand some dry, Scottish humor.