All this sunshine is making me so confused. I mean, I am in Scotland, it is April; I am still supposed to be walking around in a jacket. On Saturday I went to the dry-cleaners to drop off the winter coat, and was daunted by the three-week wait to get it back, fearing I would be unprepared if unimaginable sorts of freezing weather fell upon us once more.

I was wrong. I feel out of place every morning as I leave the house in a waterproof jacket. Everyone else is walking around in Bermudas and sun dresses. This time I cannot even say it is the British craze for those couple rays of sunshine they see every other decade: this time, I admit, it is actually very warm.

So, I got to thinking about all the times I have felt out of place in Scotland because I did not do the right thing, culturally speaking.

On the top of that list is, perhaps, the ‘boiling-my-tea-in-the-microwave’ incident, which many friends so fondly remember. You see, before coming to university I had never seen a kettle. At home in Mexico, if we want the occasional cup of tea, we just pop a mug full of water into the microwave and call it a day.

So, when I arrived here, and my unaccustomed biological thermostat started to require more than just the occasional cup of tea, the microwave in our flat was rumbling away several times per day. Until one afternoon, when the girl who I would later come to call ‘my Weegie doll’ walked in on me.

Her: “Fran…what are you doing?”
Me: “I’m making tea.”
Her: (Look of total and utter bewilderment) “But…why don’t you use the kettle?”
Me: “The…what now?”
We are still laughing about this.

During those early days, the cock-ups just kept coming. I had to learn about the ‘no-kissing’ policy the hard way, too. In Mexico, people just greet each other with a kiss on the cheek, even if they have just met. Here, you reserve this type of exchange for the darkness of a bedroom, at most. So, naturally, when I tried my way of saying “hello” with a Scottish man, the (disgusted) remark I got was, “Why are you smelling me?!” To this day, how he thought “she’s smelling me” over “kiss on the cheek” is beyond me.

Priceless, and perhaps quite naive of me (given the context of St Andrews), was the complete and utter curiosity with which I asked a girl on my corridor, “Who is ‘Jack Wills’?”, after examining the big letters on the front of her t-shirt, thinking that I was about to discover some unheard of, cool, indie band. That, I did not find out from her.

I guess there’s also some of the classic ones; the ‘crisps’ vs. ‘chips’ dilemma, the ‘french fry’ taboo, not to mention ‘baked potatoes’ or ‘potato scones’, neither of which I had previously encountered (so much catching up to do in the potato-eating department of my life). Asking for a sausage, expecting a sausage, and getting a squared-shaped, dubious-looking piece of meat instead.

The Scottish buzz words, “wee”, “chapping”, “down-the-road”; they all took a while to be incorporated to my already jumbled up English. Apparently, I also have an awkward way of saying ‘category’ and ‘salmon’. I still retain the ‘l’ in ‘salmon’ is there for a reason.

However, at least all these things did not take that long to be corrected. Not like some other major cock-ups. On one occasion, it took me months to realise a mistake I had made. You see, in the summer of 2010, I was working in Stirling as a camp leader. Almost all the other camp leaders were Scottish or English. On one occasion, we decided to play a game of Never-Have-I-Ever (after a day’s work, of course, not with the kids we were taking care of). I was doing quite well, revealing just the right amount and not losing my train of thought when coming up with things I had ‘never done’. Then someone said, “Never-have-I-ever…been in the Mile-High Club”. I was the only one who drank to that.

The cheering and patting on the back was almost instantaneous, as were the pleas to “tell the story!” I was so mortified; I immediately thought to myself how rude and immodest I was being, why I hadn’t simply sat that one out? Because, you see, in my world, being part of the ‘Mile-High Club’ means flying so much during the year that you get one of those special cards to collect your air miles on, and you get to go into the business class lounges at airports. Never did it occur to me that it means having sex on a plane. So the story continues:

Them: “FRAN! Tell us all about it!”
Me: “Well…It’s no big deal…I do fly between Europe and Mexico quite a lot, you see…I mean, my whole family is in the mile-high club, even my little brother…”
Them: Petrified looks of absolute discomfort.
I did not understand that look on this particular occasion, and we just moved on. So I did not give it much thought. It was not until about three months later, when playing another round of this game (incidentally, with my Weegie doll and company) and the same question came up again.
Me: Hey…what does that actually mean?
Them: It means that you’ve had sex on a plane.
Me: Petrified look of absolute discomfort…and understanding.

I am just scared that I am still committing one cock-up after the other. I will wake up, years from now, and realise, “Oh! That’s what I was doing/saying wrong…”

I am still waiting for that to happen to me with regards to Irn Bru, for instance: I’m sure there must be a correct way of drinking it for it to be so popular.

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