A newbie’s guide to Glasgow

It’s difficult to know what to expect when moving to a new city. There’s lots to explore and if you’ve never visited before it’s difficult to wrap your head around everything. Hopefully this blog can give you a little insight into what it’s like moving to the “Dear Green Place”.

The Language

“Parliamo Glasgow” Glasgow legend Stanley Baxter guides us through some classic Glaswegian phrases.

Every town or area has some words that are specific to that area, and Glasgow is no exception. The Scots language (not Gaelic, which is different) has a long and turbulent history, as explored in this BBC Scotland documentary. Here are some common examples which are not just amusing words for tourists but actually used in everyday language – throw some of these into sentences and you’ll be sounding like a local in no time!

Apart from having to learn new words, some phrases can also cause confusion. For example “Where do you stay?” actually means “Where do you live or come from?”. Also if someone asks you “how?/how no?” they might actually mean “why?/why not?”.

The City

Twilight scene of Clyde waterfront with SECC lit up
Twilight scene of Clyde waterfront with the Clyde Auditorium and The SSE Hydro

There is so much to do in this city –  from the bars, cafes and restaurants of the West End, Southside and city centre, to the excellent free museums such as Kelvingrove, Scotland Street School and the Riverside Museum. Luckily Glasgow is very compact. It is easy to move around the centre on foot thanks to Glasgow’s grid street pattern, which incidentally has been featured in many films and TV series as a substitute for the great American cities such as Chicago, New York and San Francisco.

It is also very quick to travel from the suburbs to the city centre, and there are lots of train links, bus routes, a cycle hire scheme and, of course, the subway that make travelling in and out a breeze. What was that? Glasgow has a subway? Yep, and it’s actually the third-oldest underground system in the world after London and Budapest. It’s super convenient for travel between the city centre and the West End. There are only two lines (one going clockwise, the other anti-clockwise), a total of 15 stations, and to travel around the entire circuit takes just 24 minutes. The trains run every 6-10 minutes and are bright orange, leading to it being dubbed “the Clockwork Orange“.

The Weather

RCS film students on location in Queen's Park
RCS film students on location in Queen’s Park

The name Glasgow comes from the Gaelic “Glaschu”, which means “green-hollow” or the more poetic translation “Dear Green Place”, which you’ll hear used in many contexts around the city. It’s a lovely phrase,  but there is a reason that there is so much greenery and the parks are so lush – the rain! On a nice calm early summer day, there’s nowhere better than the many leafy parks around Glasgow (except maybe the rolling hills and stunning scenery that can be found just outside Glasgow), but I’m sorry to say there’s no getting away from the fact: Glasgow, you are a very wet city. It’s position on the west coast, with the highlands above means it gets all the weather from the Atlantic breaking on this side of the country, and whilst areas in Wales and the Lake District are also possible contenders for the official title of “UKs wettest city”, the west of Scotland gets on average 2000-3000mm rain annually, and Glasgow itself has rain 167 days a year (that’s 5 ½ months!), so be prepared.

Some Glasgow weather tips:

  • Make sure your shoes are waterproof
  • An umbrella is not much use in a Glasgow wind (or “hoolie”. See: ‘Language’ above)
  • Invest in a decent waterproof coat
  • The Scots word “dreich” is absolutely perfect for describing a grey day with constant light rain. You’ll probably find you’re using it a lot.

Other useful things to know

Walkers admiring the view over Glencoe
Walkers admiring the stunning Scottish scenery

Here are some other things to know about Glasgow and Scotland:

  • Go to Glasgow or Edinburgh and most people would say they’ve “done” Scotland. However, there is a lot more to it than you think and there is some truly breathtaking scenery. There are lochs, mountains, valleys, beaches and spectacular rugged islands which all draw you to head out and explore them. 
  • Glasgow loves football. Like many people around the world, Scots are very passionate about the beautiful game, and they will happily talk about the national team or share their views on international matches just like anywhere else. There are four pro teams in the city: Celtic, Rangers, Partick Thistle and Queen’s Park, and the city is home to Hampden Park – Scotland’s national football stadium. 

Moving to a new city, whether for work, study or any other reason can be many things: exciting, intimidating, uplifting, bitter-sweet. The important thing is to be open to all the possibilities living somewhere different brings. Glasgow is on the whole a very welcoming city (weather aside!). Explore it, enjoy it and embrace all it has to offer.

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