Skift Take

Guidebooks often signal what's ahead with travel patterns, which is good news here for the Scotland that lies beyond fairways and putting greens.

Source: The Guardian
Author: Justin McCurry

Keep away from football supporters and “flat sausage”, and never, ever, refer to a Scottish person as English. That’s the blunt advice for Japanese visitors to Scotland in a new guidebook that looks beyond the predictable round of golf and a stroll along the Royal Mile.

Not all the advice in the Insider’s Guide to Scotland is prohibitive, however. It recommends Mackie’s honeycomb ice cream and ginger marmalade, as well as Irn Bru. Lorne sausage, though – which is sliced and square, also known as a flat sausage – is best avoided.

The Japanese-language book, published by the Edinburgh-based Luath Press, notes the attraction of pub crawls, even urging visitors to get “merrily drunk” on whisky. There is advice, too, on pub etiquette: buy rounds, and if in a group, ensure there is enough in the kitty.

But it is cautious about interacting with the locals, which can be fraught with misunderstanding: referring to a kilt as a skirt is only surpassed in the potential to cause offence by calling the locals English, it says.

Travellers expecting Japanese standards of service will be disappointed: “Please do not expect to have the same quick, polite and accurate service here to compare with Japanese service at shops, restaurants and hotels. Be patient anywhere in Scotland, it is not Japan.”

The list of dos and don’ts represents a cultural minefield for inexperienced travellers, particularly those ignorant of the finer points of Scottish football. It implores readers not to approach “men in green or blue football tops” and to steer clear of council estates. Don’t be surprised, it adds, when the first sign of rain does not produce a flurry of umbrella-opening.

Akiko Elliott, one of the authors, said the book was designed to be honest, but affectionate. “I believe more Japanese will find the nature and culture of Scotland interesting and fascinating,” she told the BBC.

“Until now the emphasis of Scottish tourism was on visiting historical sites or playing golf, but younger people are showing a keen interest” in other aspects of Scottish life.

A Visit Scotland spokesman said: “The comments within the book should be taken with a pinch of salt and are probably indicative of the Scots sense of humour, but clearly there’s a wealth of information in the book that showcases Scotland at its very best.”

Cara Ellison, a Scot who lived in Japan for three years, said the guidebook was a “brilliant idea”. She said: “When I lived in Japan it became clear that Japanese people have a fascination with Scottish culture, in particular whisky and golf, and this book seems to present the opportunity for them to enjoy those, as well as widening their chances to experience more.

“And the umbrella advice really rings true. Scottish people care very little about a bit of rain, for obvious reasons, but when I was in Japan, people were appalled that I didn’t use an umbrella.” 

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Tags: guides, scotland

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