Atanas, aged 35, moved to Scotland from Bulgaria in 2017 in order to make a change to his life. Four years later, he is living in West Lothian and can finally describe himself as a happy person. We caught up with him to find out more about his experience living and speaking in Scotland.
Do you remember your first impressions when you arrived in Scotland?
It was a Sunday. I had arrived the previous night and gone straight to bed. When I woke up the first thing I did was head out of my friend’s house and look for coffee. I went to the wee shop near the house and on my way back a nice old lady dragging a bike stood in front of me and asked me if I could tighten the seat of her bike, as it seemed she couldn’t do it herself. I helped her and she had a wee chat with me about her outdoor activities, daily routines and family. As a thank you for helping her she gave me a wee bag of ASDA sweets. Later that day I went for a walk and saw all the beautiful green fields surrounding the town. All these experiences totally made my day and I felt happy I was in Scotland.
During your first few weeks here, did you feel much of a language barrier when speaking to locals? Were there any misunderstandings?
I had heard Scotland has its own dialect, but never really managed to do any research before coming here. During the first couple of days everything sounded a bit strange, but I found it was easier to understand young people when I was out on the street. In general I felt like what I was hearing was not the English I had learned in school and to be honest I was quite insecure in the first 2-3 months. I was trying to concentrate on listening to the person’s speech and this sometimes was kind of exhausting. A couple of times I totally misunderstand what people were saying. At work I was invited to attend training in the “wee room downstairs”, the only thing I heard was “werum donstars” and had no idea what that was!
Has this changed? How do you find communicating with people around you now?
Now I’m more prepared as I have had the chance to speak with many locals and I’m more used to local people’s speech. Sometimes I still have to ask people to repeat what they are saying, but in general I find I’m more confident and able to understand the local dialect.
Do you have any Scottish favourite words or phrases?
What would you say to other people coming to Scotland for the first time? Do you have any tips for other people wanting to learn to “speak Scottish”?
Scottish people are made of spirit and light, the same as their dialect. Learning to “speak Scottish” will be fun for you and be appreciated by the locals, and both of these are very worthwhile!