Carlisle and Glasgow: The Land Where Speaking with American Accents is like Speaking Icelandic
Last Sunday, several hours away from unexpectedly booking a one-way ticket to London, was one of those days when I was inexplicably in a Scottish mood. That usually consists of going through my drawers in search of the tartan wool scarf I purchased during my first trip to Edinburgh and listening to the Scottish Bagpipes Highland Pipes on Spotify on my way to work, thinking, “Scotland is just so great, why are bagpipes not ubiquitous?” Actually, that morning I was in the mood for American fall. After finding some imported canned pumpkin and baking pumpkin baked oatmeal, my flat smelled very much like American fall and I was thinking, “American fall is just so great, why do European countries not care about pumpkins and fall as much as we do in America?” And then, fifteen minutes later, I was in a Scottish mood. So I decided to fly out of Scotland and spend the latter part of my week venturing through the north of England and Scotland.
After Dent, I went up to Carlisle for the sole reason of briefly seeing Hadrian’s Wall. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do a proper hike, but I dressed the part anyway, complete with my travel backpack (simply because I nowhere to store my luggage in Carlisle.) I hiked about twenty minutes from the city center, along the river Eden, until I was just a bridge crossing away from the wall. Except the bridge was out and the closest crossing was a twelve mile-hike away, which I didn’t have time for since I needed to catch the train to Glasgow. Foiled! (Guess who is starting fencing next week!?)
I still went to the Tullie House Museum, which discusses Roman history in the region and had artifacts from Hadrian’s Wall so it wasn’t a wasted stopover. Even better, there was a “How to Train Your Dragon” theme going on throughout the exhibit! Like London, Carlisle must have known I was coming. The lady working was very helpful and tried to figure out a city bus route that I could take to at least see the wall, which didn’t end up working out, but I appreciated her effort.
The annual Carlisle Pageant (what Americans would call a festival or carnival) was on and my visit coincided with the International Market so I spent the rest of my visit exploring that. The most puzzling thing started to happen: every single time I said something, people started looking at me as if I was speaking Icelandic instead of English. I do sometimes accidentally speak the wrong language, so I took a moment to make sure I wasn’t actually speaking Icelandic. I wasn’t, but everyone still just looked at me blankly. I stopped at a café to charge my phone and it took three workers and me actually showing them my phone charger for them to understand that I was asking if there was a wall plug. They said, “Sorry, we can’t understand your accent.” I was so amused by that, since I’ve never really had that happen before.
This accent confusion continued in Glasgow. I had been warned that Glasgow accents were hard to understand, but I usually consider myself good at understanding other accents. Most of the time, I could understand them, but there were a few times when neither one of us could understand the other, despite us both being native English-speakers speaking English! Until I reached the Edinburgh airport when I was about to fly back to Iceland, I did not encounter another American, for 60 hours in an English-speaking country! I was on a train in Glasgow, talking with the elderly woman across the seat from me. She said, “Are you really American!?” She seemed very surprised. I guess in some parts of Scotland, American sightings are rarer than Loch Ness Monster sightings. Who would have thought!?
A couple of times in both London and Glasgow people asked where I was from and I said, “Reykjavik” and they said, “Oh, you’re Icelandic? With your accent, I would have thought you were…Australian.” I have been mistaken for everything from Canadian to French to Czech, but never before Australian and then it happened twice in a couple of days! When in Dent, heard on the radio something about “pretending to be Icelandic,” and I remarked to my friend that just a day prior I too pretended to be Icelandic. Someone said, “Oh, but you speak English.” I said, “Yes, Icelanders have to learn English in schools.” Then he asked me how to say “thank you” in Icelandic, I said, “Takk fyrir.” And then he asked me to just say something else in Icelandic so I said, “Eg tala ekki islensku,” which if he understood, would mean that I am not actually Icelandic at all!
Speaking of Icelandic, I was on the bus in Reykjavik recently when a few German-speaking tourists asked me if I spoke English. I thought it was funny since I ONLY speak English (fluently at least). They asked all these follow-up questions about the culture festival that was going on and I don’t think they ever suspected that I wasn’t actually Icelandic.
I might like Glasgow better than Edinburgh. Glasgow has all the same offerings that make Edinburgh so incredible: the history, the stone buildings, and the distinctly Scottish culture, but with far less tourists. I visited the Glasgow Botanic Gardens and aside from that, mostly just explored the area, watched seven consecutive episodes of Reign (when in Scotland!), and got engaged to the attractive Scot working at my hotel reception (okay kidding, but he was the only Glasgow resident who actually understood my accent!)
I left Glasgow Sunday morning, taking an Uber to the bus station, a bus from Glasgow to Edinburgh, a flight in to Reykjavik, a bus to the Reykjavik bus terminal, and then a friend took me back to my flat, with a full three hours to spare before I started work for the day!
Haha, I used to live in England for a while and I noticed that people in GB have difficulties with recognising accents. It used to make me laugh when I was asked whether I am from America or Australia when I come from Poland and always though my eastern European accent is quite obvious.
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Hi, I’m Crystal! I love to travel and am currently a graduate student in Scotland. You’ll get all the best tips and insights from my experiences as a former ice-skating coach in Iceland and former study abroad student. Of the 27 countries I have visited, a type 1 diabetes diagnosis has been the strangest land yet. Type 1 has not slowed down my travels and you'll learn how to take type 1 with you on the road! You can connect with me further on Instagram @CrystalChilcott, or send me ideas of where I should travel next via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgHappy Travels, Crystal
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