In my year of living in Scotland, I spent a majority of my time in Stirling, but it was Glasgow I fell in love with.
Which causes a lot of people to raise their brows. Before I left for Scotland, my mom insisted that I would hate Glasgow, as she had when she’d visited; I think I shocked her when I told her I was a Glasgow girl.
But people are surprised because Glasgow’s not always had the best reputation. Though it’s always felt like a warm and welcoming city to me, I’m not deaf to the jokes about Glasgow’s violent past. And I’m certainly not naive enough to say that one needn’t be careful in Glasgow; you should always be cautious when you’re out and about in any big city, no matter how safe it is.
I’ll talk about the history of Glasgow in another entry someday, I’m sure. For now I want to talk about my love for Glasgow and what I see in it. Maybe even get to the bottom of why I love it so dearly.
When one falls in love, they’re often asked what was “the moment” that caused the fall.
With me and Glasgow, I don’t know that there was one specific moment; it was more like a gradual slipping I didn’t notice until I was already too far gone.
My very first trip into Glasgow was with the two people who became my closest friends: a Dutch girl, Nieske, and another American girl, Ashley. Nieske and I were in the same programme, and Ashley was one of Nieske’s flatmates. We spent the entire day walking around Glasgow, had pizza in Princes Square for lunch, and by the end of the day, we’d realized we were synched u”, so we ended the evening with hordes of sweets and doughnuts while watching Brave.
Perhaps that started my affinity with Glasgow because it had been the place that my friendship with both of them had really started.
My next big day in Glasgow was for a ceilidh. We’d arrived before the doors to the Buff Club had opened, so we had to roam the streets of Glasgow, while I sang the song “That’s Not My Name”, despite the fact I didn’t know the words, except for the lines “That’s Not My Name”.
But when we finally got to the ceilidh, I lit up. Men in kilts, dancing, cake—it was it was like heaven. If you’ve never been to a ceilidh, be prepared to to be thrown about the room, especially during Strip the Willow—because even if you’re not directly thrown, you will feel like you’re about to be! My feet and legs were so sore the next day, but it was well worth it. To this day, the only ceilidhs I’ve to are big, stupit ones; I’ve heard they’re the best.
Maybe that was when I started to fall in love with Glasgow.
But then, didn’t I spend so much quiet time, walking through the different paths of the Necropolis, watching the city from above? Reading books in the peaceful silence while surrounded by the manmade statues and memorials, and the beauty of nature itself? Finding a meditative space in that respectful place, residing in the world of the living, but housing those among the deceased?
What Was It?
So, what could it have been? The brilliant and happy adventure that helped blossom friendships? The soreness after long nights of ceilidh dancing? Was it the calming and quiet walks through the Necropolis? Or perhaps the lively, loud gigs at various venues and pubs that burst my ear drums? Or various shopping trips on Argyll Street, or eating in restaurants on Sauchiehall Street? Getting caught in the rain while staring down at St. Enoch’s from the top of Buchanan Street?
I couldn’t tell you a moment. I could only tell you that I loved, and still love, Glasgow dearly. After I finished my degree, when I was trying desperately to stay in Scotland, I stayed in a old flat on Bridge Street with a classmate. Despite being on the top floor and having to climb what felt like hundreds of stairs; the freezing temperatures because we were trying to save on heating; and the windows rattling every time a train from Central Station went by, I loved it.
I loved it because I was home. I just crossed a bridge, and I was in City Centre, and all felt right in the world.
The Love Lives On
Years later, Glasgow still holds on to my heart like no other city has. Which still makes me—and many others—ask: what is it? What’s the appeal? Why Glasgow?
So I’ve tried to think about that honestly and logically. Here’s what I’ve come up with from that.
I love the city-feel. That feeling of high energy and excitement that you get from being in a big city. But Glasgow’s city-feel is different than New York City or London. Because Glasgow isn’t as big. For someone who’s an introvert, that matters. I can have the feeling of being in a big city without feeling overwhelmed, like I do when I enter New York.
I love how real Glasgow feels. My mom didn’t like how industrial Glasgow looked and felt in her time visiting there decades ago, but I don’t see or feel that when I’m there. Yes, Glasgow does look more industrial than Edinburgh, and there are factories and smokestacks; even very close to the Necropolis, one of my favorite places to haunt. Some might argue that this detracts from a city and its beauty, but they don’t make me dislike the skyline of Glasgow.
It makes me think and feel that Glasgow isn’t just a place to visit as a tourist, but a reminder that it’s a real city—that people live and work there, that industry is alive and thriving. To me, Glasgow looks and feels real in addition to being a beautiful city.
And, of course, those factories and smokestacks are not part of what one would consider the Glasgow skyline. The Squinty Bridge; the Hydro; Glasgow University; Kelvingrove museum; the Finnieston Crane—these are what make up the Glasgow skyline. They represent all of what Glasgow encompasses: unique and recognizable architecture; entertainment and energy; knowledge and ingenuity; history and wisdom; and, yes, even that work and industry.
I love Glasgow’s humor and its uniqueness. Glasgow, for how wonderful it can be, doesn’t always take itself so seriously, and there’s a charm in that. One year at Halloween, we saw a group of lads dressed up as street cones, and they would just stand on random streets in city centre. It was hilarious. Granted, we were walking, so it probably wouldn’t have been as funny if we’d been driving, but it’s something that I cannot forget.
It’s not just the humor you see on the streets; I adore the humor among my Glaswegian friends as well—and the language that comes with it. You see, Glasgow has a culture and uniqueness all on its own. I’ll sit with my friends, and hear them go off on a tale in their thick Glaswegian accent, and hang on every word. I’ll yell at a horror movie, “OH, WHIT’RE YE DAE’IN”, or laugh at every crack in Still Game. Because there is something about Glasgow and its humor that I connect to; I so dearly wish there was more of it in the world.
Perhaps it is because of the above that I also love the people. The slogan of “People Make Glasgow” is the truest statement: the people really do make this city. I find in Glasgow, the people are kind and helpful and funny and true. I’ve had people come up to me and offer to help me find my way around because they thought I was looking at a map on my phone (I was really playing Pokemon GO). But I’ve also seen countless times where someone brings food or tea to a homeless person, or even just sits down and chats. I don’t see that a lot in the world, but I see it in Glasgow.
The subway is a bonus, too. I’ve never had a panic about the Glasgow subway.
These are but a handful of things that make me smile about Glasgow. What I truly love about this city is how to makes me feel. How my heart stirs and I can’t control the smile that overtakes me. In my University days, whenever I felt sad or frustrated or lost, I’d go to Glasgow. I would simply walk around and find myself calm again, even in the midst of city chaos. Glasgow, even with her high energy, soothed me like a security blanket; how could I not fall in love?
In past years, I’ve tried to hide my adoration for Glasgow. Not necessarily for shame—though I’ve had some Glaswegians look at me like I’m crazy, considering they’d much rather be in the States—but because I’m sure people get tired of hearing it.
But the point of this website is to celebrate my love of a nation and all that it is. With that, it felt right that my first personal story—aside from my introduction—be about the city that captured my heart and still holds it.
I’m that person that recommends Scotland to you, will give you an honest opinion on whether you should visit Edinburgh or Glasgow if you only have one day, but I won’t hide my preference. Edinburgh will have her own entry, and I’ll pit the two against each other in another entry, but Glasgow deserves her praise first because she caught me. And because it often feels like she doesn’t get the recognition she deserves as often as other cities do.
I’m still trying to sell Glasgow to my mom, but I haven’t been successful yet. She still holds that negative image from so long ago tightly, as many others might, but after going there so many times and talking to so many people, I can say that Glasgow’s changed so much—even just in the past seven years that I’ve loved it.
So obviously I’d tell anyone that had a chance to give Glasgow one as well.