On one of our local radio stations last week they were discussing the story of a woman who gave birth in the London Underground system. The main theme of their comments was outrage that apparently no-one helped her. Cue presenters and members of the public declaring that this was typical of Londoners, how it would never happen in Scotland and how they would never live in such a dreadful place as London.
This kind of attitude really annoys me, because although it may be one of the few instances where Scots believe themselves to be the superior people, it is essentially based on nothing more than false generalisation and stereotypes.
I lived in London during 2003-4 and since then I visit 2 or 3 times a year. I always thoroughly enjoy my time there. I have never once encountered negative attitudes from anyone about being a Scot (though people do seem to think I’m Irish a lot….no idea why) beyond a few jokes but I am by no means alone in receiving them and people are generally able to take it as well as dish it out. I found the people that I studied with, worked with and spend time with to be, well, just people – they are the usual assortment of kind, friendly, bad-tempered and boring that you’ll find anywhere. Those I encountered in shops, on buses or on the tube are sometimes rude, but mostly indifferent – but then they are complete strangers so I expect that. If they were anything other I would have find it odd.
Having lived mostly in Glasgow in recent years I can tell you that some of the steroetypes about here are true, but equally some of them are false. I have never got into a fight, nor been mugged, stabbed or otherwise attacked. I have seen some violent incidents out on the street of a Saturday night, but I’d defy you to go to any town or city centre and not see something similar. I did once witness an attempted armed robbery, but other passers-by thought that it must be Taggart filming and they ignored it and walked by. A colleague of mine last year complained that she couldn’t travel by bus any more because despite being 8 months pregnant no-one gave up their seat for her.
So when I hear such comments about how Glaswegians are so friendly and Londoners are all so selfish and mean it really doesn’t match up with my experience and I think it is quite damaging when “responsible” radio presenters allow such attitudes to be repeated, further entrenching those views in people who may never have been to London or met people from the city.