Impressions of Edinburgh: 3 Months As Canadian Expats in Scotland

Three months ago today, we were getting off the plane in London and preparing ourselves for the seven hour bus ride into Scotland. It was also three months ago that we really started to blog. We’d done a few posts before we embarked on this adventure, but it didn’t really start to take off until we were here and writing about the new land we found ourselves in. Three months seems like both a long a short amount of time.

In the time we have been here, we’ve had to both physically and mentally integrate ourselves into Scottish society. We’ve gone through finding an apartment in Scotland, getting bank accounts, searching for the best phone provider for international calls, and have even found ourselves jobs.

Rooftop view of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland

It’s a Parallel Universe Across the Pond

On top of that we’ve had to adjust to all of the small differences between the UK and Canada that seem insignificant when taken on their own, but when taken together, have amounted to confusion and occasional home sickness. Everything here is the same, but the details are different.

Right is Left

It’s probably been said to death before, but the cars in the UK drive on the left side of the road. In Canada it’s the right. We were expecting this; what we weren’t expecting was that this makes small things like catching the bus that is headed in the correct direction difficult. If you’re taking a bus headed north in Canada, you wait for it on the right side. In the UK, it’s the left. There have been more than a few times we’ve found ourselves crossing to the wrong side of the road in search of a bus. It’s not that this is an overly difficult concept to grasp, but when you’ve used the rules for right handed roads for 20 odd years, things become instinct. And instinct isn’t always that easy to break.

Really, any difficulty we have had adjusting comes down to just that: Expectations that are so ingrained in the way we go about our daily lives that when something is different, our minds don’t know how to adjust. Adjusting to life in Scotland has involved as much of a reconditioning of our subconscious expectations as it has the conscious ones.

The good news is that we’re starting to find our way around here quite easily. Whereas before the rows on rows of architecturally similar flats would have us all turned around, now we can pick out exactly where we are and where we want to go. Tip: If you’re ever lost in Edinburgh, find a bus to Princes Street. You can get just about anywhere from there. Incidentally, we were mistakenly calling it Princess Street. When locals say it, it sounds like Princess, but it’s actually Princes. More confusion.

Taste: Food in Scotland ≠ Food in Canada

The Food. One of the biggest differences between Canada and Scotland is the food. In Canada we’re used to an abundance of choices.  For example potato chips (aka crisps in UK land) in Canada come in a larger variety of flavors than the ones in Scotland. Want a bag of sour cream and onion chips? Nope. They only have cheddar and onion. And Doritos. But that’s about it.

Even items that are the same brand taste different. Kraft Dinner in Canada, or Kraft Mac and Cheese in Scotland, tastes completely different (Canada’s wins). It’s the same product, the same company even, but somehow the recipe is different.

This all amounts to an experience both foreign and familiar. It’s actually become a bit of a game, pointing out all of the minute differences between the two countries. Even mundane tasks are made a bit more exciting when things are done differently.

Edinburgh castle on a gloomy day

Castles, Nature, and History. Oh My!

It’s not just the small things we’ve had to adjust to. We’ve had to get used to seeing some pretty amazing sights every day. And that’s not all that bad.

Compared to most cities, our home city Edmonton is quite young; it lacks the old historic buildings that Edinburgh has no shortage of. We never get bored of walking around the city, discovering all the little details on the buildings, the grungy character of the bricks in the walls, the Georgian windows, the brick roads, and the clocks mounted to what seems like every building. Oh and there is a real castle in the center of the city. We pass by it every day when we go to work. It’s what drew us to Edinburgh to begin with.

The city is surrounded by mountains, and is built around a series of extinct volcanoes, visible from nearly every point in the city. Amongst the medieval architecture, nature has left an even more ancient sight for citizens of Edinburgh to enjoy. And we count ourselves among them.

Where to Next?

Edinburgh is starting to feel a bit like home. This is both fantastic and terrible. We don’t want to get too comfortable here; we want to keep moving. But we feel we still have a few more sights to see; we haven’t climbed Arthur’s Seat, or been inside Edinburgh castle, and we’ve even been thinking about walking to Glasgow from Edinburgh.

With so much to do, we plan to stay in Edinburgh for the summer, and will make our outro at the end of September. In the beginning of October we plan to visit Dublin for about a week. After that we plan on moving to somewhere in England, perhaps Bristol, or maybe Liverpool – we’re not quite sure yet. We’re just looking forward to starting a new adventure.

A couple of photos we have taken during our stay here:

Portobello beach, in Edinburgh, Scotland

Portobello Beach is inside the city of Edinburgh

A barn in the Scottish Highlands

What the rest of Scotland looks like (aka the Scottish Highlands)

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Have you been to Edinburgh? How was your experience?

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7 Comments

  • Vancouver Ventures says:

    Welcome to Scotland! We have just moved here too after a year of living in Vancouver but we’re from England originally. We miss Vancouver every single day!! but glad to hear you are settling into your new Scottish life! I personally think a move to England and living down South would be way cooler for you guys, there’s tons more stuff going on…plus slightly better weather! and defo more job opportunities the closer you get to London but I guess it all depends on what you’re into! If you like huge expanses of Loch’s and hillsides then maybe Scotland is the place for you after all! We blog at puddlehoppinginpen.blogspot.com, I still have a big west coast roadtrip to blog before I move onto landing in Scotland so we’re a bit behind still!!

    • I lived in Vancouver for 2 years, it’s one of my favorite cities! We’re still not sure where we’ll end up next, but perhaps it’ll be England, for now, we’re enjoying Edinburgh.
      How are you liking Scotland? Looking forward to reading your thoughts on it!
      -Miranda

  • william says:

    What nonsense about potato chips. There are many, many more flavours in Scotland that Canada. I know, I am a Scot living in Canada and one thing I miss most is the choice of potato chips in Scotland. Try looking in a bigger store and you will see.

  • Beautiful photos! It is funny, some of the differences you noted between Canada and Scotland…I never would have thought about the bus thing! That must have been confusing! And I think the reason why some things would have different ingredients for food in the UK instead of Canada is because they have stricter rules as to what can go into food…for instance, they only use natural flavours there and no chemical preservatives. So, even though Kraft dinner might taste better here…chances are, it’s slightly healthier for you there! Anyway, glad to hear you’re still enjoying life there! :)

    • Hi Justin and Lauren,

      Thanks for stopping by. Having only natural ingredients makes sense as to why it tastes so different, also explains the UK having a lower obesity rate than Canada!

  • Anuradha Srinath says:

    Hey there..Welcome to Edinburgh. I’am an Indian expat living in Edinburgh for the last 3 years! It’s a great city to live, as long as you are able to adjust to the frequently changing weather conditions :) Actually, there are a variety of crisps flavour and a lot of brands too. Try to visit Tesco Extra or Big Asda/Morrisons or M&S supermarkets!!
    Very glad to see a fellow travel blogger in the same city :D

    • Hi Anuradha. Looking back at the post, it’s hard to believe we didn’t even mention the weather! It does take some getting used to. You’re right about the crisps, we may have been exaggerating a little bit, but the thing is, we can’t find any of the flavors we are used to. And they come in those tiny bags! Ah. Oh well.

      Thanks for reading.

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