Max Kelly, Jack Corban and Bethany Woodhead
Travel Editor, Deputy and Editor-in-Chief
The Glasgow Guardian debunks some of the city’s most stubborn stereotypes.
Billy Connolly famously said that the best thing about Glasgow is that “if there’s a nuclear attack, it’ll look exactly the same afterwards”. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about Glasgow and the people in the city, despite the mantra literally being: “People Make Glasgow”.
Connolly is not the only native to be scathing of Glasgow. His successor as Glasgow’s most popular comedian, Kevin Bridges, remarked that whenever he “goes down south”, he faces a myriad of questions about his hometown. But he’s proud to come from “a violent city far away” and he says he finds it hilarious that on advertisement campaigns you get a sales assistant called “Nathan” instead of the real people that really make up the city, like “wee mental Davie – apprentice joiner”. The myth that Scotland is full of crazy characters is no myth at all, but it is certainly something to embrace. After all, Annie Lennox, Travis, Peter Capaldi and John Barrowman were all once – and still are – part of the people who make Glasgow.
Stereotypes regarding Glasgow have always been ones of danger and crime. The only time you’d see a blade in Edinburgh would no sooner be swallowed by a street performer; whereas in Glasgow (rumour has it), you’d be lucky to not see a knife in every person’s hand as you run down the street in fear. If you want to enjoy your time in Glasgow, I’d drop any such conceptions now. Instead, it’s a place where you’d sooner be bought a Tennent’s by a stranger than stabbed by one. And if you’re really worried about the rumours, just know that London is currently looking to Glasgow for advice on how to tackle knife crime as successfully as this city has managed in recent years.
Glasgow truly is a cultural hub, brimming with character and wonder. We have one of the best music scenes in the country, supported by the Barrowlands (which has seen the likes of Oasis, U2, The Smiths, Muse and the Foo Fighters grace its ballroom halls), as well as the SSE Hydro, which is the eighth busiest music venue in the world (thus ranking it in the top ten arenas globally). This is coupled with an abundance of street artists and an endless list of live music to choose from every day and night around the city. What’s more, Glasgow is filled to the brim with rich architecture (you only have to take one look at the University or Kelvingrove Art Gallery to see that plainly), plentiful green spaces (the etymology of the name “Glasgow” literally means “green hollow”… thank you two years of Linguistics lectures), and art floods the streets, as evidenced by the humongous murals adorning many city centre buildings. And even though Glasgow has an endless number of activities to do, places to go and things to see, it’s important to note its ideal location: only a hop, skip and a jump away from beautiful lakes surrounded by picturesque villages, rolling highland landscapes, iconic coastline and, of course, Scotland’s capital – Edinburgh. Over half a million weird and wonderful people contribute to making this one of the greatest cities in the UK and you’ll be sure to encounter countless unforgettable experiences in your time here.
Now on to some niche but albeit crucially important rumours which must be resolved as you embark on your journey here. First up: food. So some of the rumours that you may have heard are almost certainly true. Last night I had a half-pizza crunch supper (if you are not sure what this is, just imagine a super unhealthy store-bought pizza, coated in batter, swimming in vinegar and buried in salt, with a side of chips, of course, and all thrown together with extra mayo and ketchup). Despite the stereotypes, there are some truly delicious Scottish dishes. A proper meal of haggis, neeps and tatties (sheep innards, turnips and potatoes) is an obvious national choice. However, there are a multitude of other foods that originated in Glasgow that you wouldn’t believe – namely chicken tikka masala, but also tattie scones, macaroni pie and even salt and chilli chips! Regardless of their doubtful origins, they are certainly available here all year round (probably all together in a munchie box). And one question you’ll be asked both in Glasgow and as soon as you return home to the place you grew up is, “Have you had a deep-fried Mars bar?” I’ve always lied and said yes just to stop the questions, but I had one only recently for the first time and it was sensational – so maybe just get it the once.
In terms of drinking, it’s a slightly different story. If you are coming from England or internationally, you’ve probably been told horror stories of Glasgow’s battle with alcoholism and its “draconian” 10pm licensing laws. The NHS and anti-alcohol campaigns have rightly warned that Scotland’s alcohol problem is getting worse, but this is a city-wide problem; for students the problem is still relevant, but not so visible. As long as you are safe with your drinking and have your pals around you, you’ll probably have the best night out of your life here.
Further misconceptions include that the city is segregated into “fool-hardy nationalists who all hate Rangers” and “Orangemen who all love the Queen”. However, as someone who has worked at both Celtic Park and Ibrox, I can tell you that no two fans are the same. There is little inherent hatred between the two. Like every example of intolerance, it is a learned emotion, and for every Celtic fan you see fighting a Rangers supporter, there’s five of each at Gary’s stag-do, telling each other that Morelos has better ball control than Edouard. Simply, the divisiveness of the sectarian divide is very clear to see and certainly exists from the outside, but it is a far cry from the days of “Scotland’s Shame” in 1970 – and although skirmishes occurred at the end of 2016 Scottish Cup final, the difference is now it is facing widespread condemnation and those who perpetuate the violence and division are hooligans.
My advice on this matter would be to say you support Partick Thistle. Despite being a total mess, they are the closest club to Murano and the eponymous Firhill, and the tickets are cheap-ish. I remember a Celtic fan buying me a drink because I was his “ally” against Rangers, and then a Rangers fan buying me a drink because I was his “ally” against Celtic.
There are misconceptions to every city – Glasgow is no different, but it is like no other city.