Scotland's culture: sports, food, higher education, and traditions
The vibrant culture of Scotland is built on rich history and traditions. A place of beauty; Scottish scenery is popular with filmmakers. The dramatic valley of Glen Coe was featured in James Bond’s Skyfall, and the historic Glenfinnan Viaduct was used in the Harry Potter films.
Split into three; the Highlands, the Midland Valley and the Southern Uplands, Scotland has a diverse population across the whole country. This is just one of the reasons why over 50,000 international students from 180 different countries choose to study in Scotland every year (Scotland.org, 2022).
The people of Scotland are known for their friendly nature and Glasgow, home of the University of Strathclyde, is the friendliest city in the entire world, according to the results of Time Out Index (July 2022).
How to immerse yourself in Scottish culture
Immersing yourself in Scottish culture can be as easy as taking a walk. By doing so you may come across interesting architecture or you can observe the day-to-day lives of the locals.
Educating yourself on the history of the city or country you are studying in is a great way to learn about its culture. Visiting museums is an excellent way to do this and many offer free admission such as Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, The Riverside Museum and People’s Palace.
One of Scotland’s biggest traditions is Ceilidh, a social gathering that involves playing folk music and dancing. Attending Ceilidh is a great way to immerse yourself in the traditions and culture of Scotland.
Attending events is another great way of learning more about life in Scotland. These can include sporting events and live shows such as The Highland Games and national football matches.
One of the most identifiable pieces of Scottish culture is tartan, a woven wool cloth with criss-crossing horizontal and vertical stripes. Traditionally, Highland clans would form their identities around their unique tartan pattern. To this day, many Scottish people honour and uphold this tradition by wearing their family tartan.
In Scotland, sports play a big part in tradition. The most famous sporting event in Scotland is the Highland Games, which are held all over the country from spring to late autumn. The Highland Games occur annually, featuring different sporting events and traditional aspects of Scotland culture such as the bagpipes.
Tossing the caber is the most well-known event of the Highland Games. This is where the competitors must run carrying an entire tree trunk and attempt to heave it end over end in a perfect throw.
Outside of traditional events, Scotland’s most loved sports include football, golf and rugby. As a nation that takes sports very seriously, a Scotland game of any kind is always a great event to experience.
Food is a large part of any culture and the same can be said for Scotland. The national dish of Scotland is haggis, a savoury meat pudding, which is traditionally served on Burns Night.
On the sweeter side of Scotland food is shortbread; a buttery biscuit sprinkled with sugar. Shortbread is often associated with Christmas and Hogmanay.
Higher education in Scotland
Scotland, home to some of the best universities in the world, is known for delivering a high standard of education.
How does education in Scotland work?
The UK education system is respected around the world for its high-quality teaching and excellent results – but it differs slightly between countries.
Studying a degree in Scotland gives you the chance to try a range of subjects before choosing your specialism. The standard length of a Scottish university undergraduate degree is four years, giving you a broader and more flexible education. If you want to develop your academic knowledge further, you can do so with a postgraduate degree which will add an additional year to your study time.
Studying in a Scotland university for international students can be a big step, however, the University of Strathclyde International Study Centre offers expert support and guidance to those looking to study abroad.
If you don’t meet the direct entry requirements to study an undergraduate degree, the University of Strathclyde International Centre offers an Undergraduate Foundation Programme to help prepare you for university study. The programme will give you everything you need to succeed in higher education in Scotland.
There are two subject options available: Business and Social Sciences, and Engineering and Sciences. Both programmes take one year (three terms) to complete and have excellent subject focused modules and an Academic English Skills core module to develop your English language skills.
The International Year Two Business is designed to support overseas students who perform well-above the level needed for entry to the Undergraduate Foundation Programme. When you successfully complete this programme, you can progress to the University and complete your final two years.
If you have completed an undergraduate degree in your home country, but want to study a Masters in Scotland, studying a Pre-Masters Programme at the International Study Centre can help you raise your subject knowledge and English language level in order to get the most out of your studies.
The programme has two study options available; standard two-term or 12-week accelerated. With these options you can progress to the University of Strathclyde at a pace that suits your study needs. After successfully completing the Pre-Masters Programme, you can progress to your chosen masters degree at the University of Strathclyde.
Scottish traditions and holidays
There are many holidays within Scottish traditions taking place across the whole year.
This Scottish tradition, taking place on January 25th, is named after Scotland’s national bard Robert Burns. The night is a celebration of Scottish food, drink and music.
Burns Night celebrations take form in many sizes, from small gatherings to elaborate events.
Traditionally, Scotland’s national dish, haggis, is served as the Burns supper – with Burns’ poem ‘To a Haggis’recited before the meal is served to guests.
The evening’s proceedings take shape in the performance of the songs and poems of Robert Burns. The night traditionally ends with a group rendition of Burns’ most famous work, ‘Auld Lang Syne’.
The festive season in Scotland is an exciting time of year, even for those who don’t celebrate Christmas. Twinkling lights and festive markets make every city in Scotland beautiful and welcoming during the winter months. Exciting events and attractions such as ice skating in the city centre run across the entire country for all to enjoy.
Occurring as part of New Year's Eve celebrations, Hogmanay is an important event in the Scottish calendar. Although some of the older traditions have disappeared, many of the unique customs have been carried through generations and remain part of the celebrations today.
The main tradition of Hogmanay is celebrating with friends and family as soon as the clock strikes midnight. Many towns and villages have street parties where firework displays are a main event.
Religion and beliefs
Religion is a large part of Scotland culture with most of the country practicing Christianity. However, this is not the only practiced religion as other faiths such as Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism are also present. Glasgow for example has several synagogues, mosques, and a Buddhist centre within its city.
Scotland prides itself on a sustainable economy that priorities collective wellbeing, because of this it has the highest employment rates in the UK (The National, 2023).
The top sectors in Scotland’s economy are:
- Chemical sciences
- Digital and technology industries
- Energy industries
- Food and drink
- Health and life sciences industries
Places to visit in Scotland
Scotland is home to many beautiful cities and landscapes and has no shortage of great places to visit.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Situated in the west end of Glasgow, a short car journey from the University of Strathclyde, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum showcases Glasgow-made and themed art pieces including Van Gogh’s portrait of the Glaswegian art collector Alexander Reid.
Riverside Museum and The Tall Ship
The award-winning Riverside Museum reflects the important part Glasgow has played in the world through its contributions to heavy industries like shipbuilding, train manufacturing and engineering.
The Tall Ship, situated just outside the Riverside Museum, is a restored Navy ship from 1896 which first launched from the Bay Yard Port in Glasgow. Named the Glenlee, the ship is now a free to enter exhibition that teaches the history of sailing and how life at sea used to be.
Glasgow Green and the People’s Palace
Glasgow Green is the oldest of the city's parks and is an easy walk from the city centre.
One of the park’s main attractions, other than stunning greenery, is the People’s Palace. The museum, built in 1898, shows the history of Glasgow from 1750 to the 20th century.
If you are looking to develop your knowledge of Scotland facts and history, then visiting the People’s Palace is a great place to start.
What is Scotland best known for?
Scotland is best known for its food culture, holiday traditions and stunning cities and landscapes.
Scotland’s most famous dish is haggis, this is served as part of holiday traditions at special celebrations. Scotland is also famous for shortbread; a buttery biscuit sprinkled with sugar.
How much does it cost to study at university in Scotland?
Tuition fees for international students in Scotland depend on the level of study, subject area, and the duration of the degree.
Is Scotland a good place for international students?
The Scotland education system is one of the best in world, making it a great place for international students. The University of Strathclyde is a close-knit community that offers a vibrant student life for those who choose to study there.
Outside of studying, Scotland is a beautiful country that is rich in history. There are many places you can visit to learn more about Scottish history, making it very easy for international students to immerse themselves in Scotland culture.
I think that the thing which is special about Glasgow is that it is not just a city; there is also green everywhere. Each place has a different character and for me, it's all about exploration. So, it's all about discovering. Glasgow is multicultural; it has all this diversity that you never get tired of and it's not limited. Glasgow is incredible.
Asma from Algeria
Studied Pre-Masters Programme in Engineering and Sciences