In Scotland, people have found a way of interacting with strangers in the form of apologizing to one another.

schotland glasgow apologizingDuring the independence referendum in Scotland of last autumn, I stayed in Glasgow, the Capital of the country. I stayed there for one week, and I was staying at two of my friends’ places, at each one’s place separately. They were completely different people, so I’ve had a small insight into two very different circles of people. With the one friend I stayed at home mostly and went to his parents’ place on the countryside, with the other friend I hung out downtown, in the city or at the university’s pub. One thing I noticed throughout Glasgow, a habit that seemed to be very common, was apologizing, or rather, saying the word sorry, all the time. A little too much, I thought. Why would they say sorry all the time?

In general we use the word ‘sorry’ as an apology, we use it if we have offended someone, have hurt him/her, or if we want to talk to someone. We use the word as an apology, we want to apologize for the fact that we might have wronged someone. In Scotland it’s not any different, it’s just that they seem to use the word ‘sorry’ at least once every five minutes. You hear it all the time. After a while you start looking around, because you’ve become curious about what people seem to be doing to each other that they have to apologize to one another. And you see that people seem to say it when they almost bump into one another on the street, when they pass each other in the hallway; they might even say it when waiting for a traffic light. ‘The light is still red, sorry about that’.

At first I found this a bit strange. Why would you say sorry for every single act or happening, coinciding with another person? It’s almost as if someone punches you in the face and you say: ‘Sorry for putting my face in front of your fist’. Is it just the British, exaggerating in their politeness? But then it occurred to me that saying sorry wasn’t really an actual apology, but just an act of kindness, maybe even a way of greeting a person. In Europe, we pass each other on the street or in the hallway in silence most of the time, not saying a word. We often look away or pretend to have found something interesting to look at, so we don’t have to look the other person in the eye or to not look at him…. it is awkward either way. But greeting is something we don’t do either, it is unusual to greet someone you don’t know, and usually, whenever you say hi, you’re rewarded with an angry look or you are just completely ignored. It seems the Scots have found an answer to this awkwardness or grumpiness. You just say ‘sorry’ every time you pass someone, look at someone, or whatever involves short, direct interaction with a stranger. You maintain not greeting someone you don’t know, but you say sorry, so that there’s still interaction. It’s nice to have some human interaction, whatever the place or time is. Why would you do this? Because you want to prevent awkward silences? I don’t know, maybe just because it’s nice? Maybe it’s just nice to be nice to people. Rather, why wouldn’t you say it, why wouldn’t you be nice to someone? Do we really have to be grumpy and cold towards other people? Great Britain is known as a cold country with cold and overly polite people, but the Scots seem to have found something to that: just say sorry, be nice, and no one gets hurt. I think it that’s great solution!

 

http://www.diegomallien.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/schotland-2.jpghttp://www.diegomallien.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/schotland-2-150x150.jpgDiederik MallienTravelling and CultureIn Scotland, people have found a way of interacting with strangers in the form of apologizing to one another. During the independence referendum in Scotland of last autumn, I stayed in Glasgow, the Capital of the country. I stayed there for one week, and I was staying at two of...Bezinning op het controversiële - Tijd voor een nuchtere beschouwing