Stories from Scotland: A badge of pride

Sophie Dingle/For Steamboat Today
The busy streets of Kirkcaldy, Scotland.
Courtesy Photo

— When we first decided to move to Scotland, my mother was thrilled because she felt that we would be “so much closer.” My parents live outside of Boston, and granted, the flight to Edinburgh for them, is slightly closer than the flight to Venice and instead of a six-hour time difference, it’s now only five hours.

As it turned out, Scotland does feel closer — to Boston, to Steamboat, to the United States in general. The culture shock here is much less shock than it was in Italy.

Consequently, I have no funny stories about mistakes we made with the language, like when my Italian teacher asked me to translate “I would like to eat the cake” into Italian, and I told her “I would like to eat the cat.”

I have no complaints about going for three months without Internet in our apartment. I have no insights on unspoken rules stating what time of day is appropriate for what type of drink (in Italy: no red wine before noon and no cappuccinos after noon). And I have no thoughts on cultural phenomenons, like the grocery store hours or what people eat for lunch.

In truth, everything is easier in Scotland. Our Internet is already hooked up. We understand the language — except for when people are angry and yelling of course, and then I don’t think that they’re speaking English anyway. I’ve seen people drinking beer at 10 a.m. and cappuccinos at 4 p.m., so it doesn’t seem like the laws of drinking are as strict as they are in Italy. The grocery store stays open until 11 p.m., just like at home, and it’s open on Sundays too.

Living in Scotland, even for four weeks, has only made me realize how extremely different Italy is from the U.S.

Everything that I seemingly “endured” in Italy, I now wear with a badge of pride.

Yes, I cooked for two years in a kitchen that only had two burners and no oven. And I hosted Christmas dinner for 16 people in that same kitchen. I lived without the Internet for three months. I learned to drive a stick shift on the winding roads of the Dolomites with crazy (literally) Italian drivers passing me on both sides. I made do without things like cheddar cheese, chocolate chips and peanut butter and lived to tell the tale.

And I walked to the grocery store every single day and lugged my bags home to my tiny refrigerator (uphill both ways, in the snow of course).

There are a few players on Ryan’s new team who are just now experiencing their first year overseas, and whenever I look at them, all I can think is “you have it so easy.”

And now I do too. I keep searching for cultural differences between Scotland and the United States, and while of course there are some, they’re much fewer and far between than what I’ve been used to while living abroad.

I keep waiting for a hilarious gaffe to occur, like they did in Italy on a daily basis, but in four weeks, the only story I have to report is how Ryan, used to driving on the right side of the road, turned the wrong way out of the parking lot one day. But absolutely nothing interesting happened, as there were no oncoming cars and therefore no outraged drivers honking at us. He quickly corrected himself, we got an odd look from a child in the backseat of a passing car and then we drove home, uneventfully.

Sophie Dingle is a freelance writer, currently making the switch from living in Italy to living in Scotland. While she’ll miss the pasta and wine, she’s looking forward to exploring a new country and trying haggis. Sophie’s husband, Ryan, is a Steamboat Springs native and professional hockey player; you can follow their adventures online at

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