Two Types of People in Glasgow

Glasgow is a city where it seems there are two kinds of people: those who live to drink beer and cheer their soccer team, and those who confuse you by having that hard Glaswegian accent yet are cosmopolitan, sophisticated, cultured, and hardworking.

The first Glaswegian I met was from the first group. He was a cabbie who spent the entire ride insulting me for being an American because Yankees don’t go to pubs and drink lots of beer until late at night. If you venture into a rough neighborhood after dark — as I did one night — it seems the entire world is populated by angry people with dead-end lives, like that cabbie. Crammed into bars, they leer at passersby who don’t want to join the mosh pit.

But the next morning, with the sunshine came a world of that second type of Glaswegian: people with vision for making Glasgow an on-the-rise city with a purpose.

p3-buchanan-streetBuchanan Street is part of a Glasgow pedestrian shopping zone called the “Golden Zed” for the way it zigzags through town. Just strolling up this street — listening to buskers, enjoying the people-watching, and remembering to look up at the architecture above the modern storefronts — was a delight.

p2-glasgow-street-artGlasgow’s city center has a stretch nicknamed the “Golden Mile.” Rather than letting graffiti artists mess up the vibe with random or angry tagging, the top street artists are given entire walls to paint. These paintings are almost sightseeing destinations in themselves.

p1-phoneboxThroughout Great Britain, you can see red boxes on the streets that people back in the 20th century would enter in order to make “telephonic” calls to each other. They would put coins in a slot, turn a rotary dial with a sequence of numbers, and then speak through a device connected to the machine by a flexible pipe. These red boxes (which smelled like urine and doubled as handy places for the neighborhood prostitutes to stick their advertisements) were produced for the entire British Isles by a factory in Scotland. Now they are commonly seen no longer on the streets, but decorating nostalgic pensioners’ gardens.


12 Replies to “Two Types of People in Glasgow”

  1. As always, I enjoyed your slice-of-life observations. But, while your cabbie may indeed have had a rather limited outlook on life, to conclude that there are “2 types of people” troubles me. With all that you know of European history, you must be well aware of the dangers of pigeonholing people into stereotypical categories…

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with TFlyness. And regarding the comment: “…angry people with dead-end lives, like that cabbie,” I also didn’t understand the point of being unkind. You do not know where he has come from, why he is the way he is at the moment, and where he will be in the future.

  3. I think all societies have changed. I know that 10-15 years ago if we were traveling in Italy or France, we would think nothing of strolling back to our hotel at all hours. But in the last few years we are more careful anywhere we are, even at home. Not too great of things seems to go on in cities late at night.

  4. Rudeness is rudeness. I fully support you, Rick, in your reaction to a yobbo cabbie, and I’m surprised that you didn’t just ask to get the heck out of his cab asap. (Perhaps the neighborhood was too dubious to stop in). While I commend your curiosity in even going to Glasgow, let’s face it, it is about the last place in Scotland any time and budget-constrained traveler would want to go to, I imagine. Any more than Manchester or Leeds in England.

    As a regular reader of your fine blog, I look forward to your moving on to more interesting places, Rick.

  5. No reason to put Glasgow down. Anyone interested in Art Nouveau would certainly want to visit. Plus it has the very good, ecumenical, St. Munro Museum of Religious Life and Art. And it’s the start for the scenic West Highland railway line to Mallaig for Skye.

  6. Technological changes are doing away with classic items like red phone booths on the street. Hopefully, most modern smartphones don’t smell like urine, but some probably still have prostitutes’ advertisements on or in them.

  7. We just returned in June from Scotland including a few days in Glasgow. I didn’t care for it at all, but not because of the people. Just about everyone we spoke with was very nice. It was the city that was underwhelming, to say the least.

  8. Also just got back from Scotland recently, agree with D and Andrea. Not a horrible place by any means but compared to Edinburgh, St. Andrews etc. a waste of time in my opinion (and I do like art and museums).

  9. I usually don’t comment on these things, but I feel that I need to speak up for poor Glasgow here. Last year I visited Glasgow for the first time. Although I had spent about six weeks touring GB an Ireland in previous trips, I’d never made it to Glasgow. As my daughter was interested in attending university in Scotland, we did stay for a couple of nights this time and I was blown away, I loved it so much. Unfortunately, we didn’t meet anyone fitting either of Rick Steves’ types, but we did meet a number of very nice people. I agree that the accent is very heavy to my American ears, but we all felt a bit accomplished because it felt as though we — who can barely speak the second languages that we tried to acquire in high school, — were actually understanding people speaking a different language. We loved Glasgow University, parts of which look just like Hogwarts. There a row of shops and restaurants next to the Uni that looks just like Diagon Alley, but not in an amusement park. The Kelvingrove Museum is outstanding and we had much fun touring the Tenement House, the art school, and having tea in in one of Rennie Macintosh’s tea rooms. Did I mention the people, so lovely! They are not tired of tourists. I do need to thank Rick for inspiring my daughter’s university choice. We went on one of his family tours several years ago. Our daughter fell in love with Europe during that tour. Alas, she didn’t choose the University of Glasgow, but she will be attending St Andrews. Thanks, Rick, for your lasting impact! The adventures continue.

  10. So people who don’t do the same things you enjoy must have dead-end lives? What an nasty comment.

  11. I’m with Phil on this one. Go to a large enough city and you’ll always find an area which is, shall we say, not to be recommended, especially not at night. It would be like me taking a cab into the middle of Harlem or the Bronx (and NYC cabbies don’t exactly have a reputation for friendliness!) and then panning the people of NYC on that basis. In fact, since we’re talking about Glasgow, probably the best American comparison would be Detroit. What would you think about people in the rougher parts of Detroit, Rick?

    Sure, Glasgow can be a hard place. When you take a large city and then devastate its predominant industry (shipbuilding) the pressure on the jobs that are left becomes unsustainable, and people have to grab anything they can get, or sign on the dole and likely be told to work for nothing except the benefits they were entitled to in the first place.

    There are times when the night in the pub is the only thing which keeps you going (not that the unemployed can afford to spend much time in the pub!)

  12. I normally do not comment on blogs but I find this to be so completely offensive that I must. First of all there are not two types of people in Glasgow – our city affords a mix of people coming from a variety of different backgrounds. As the latest city marketing campaign states – it’s the people that make Glasgow. Steve you met 2 examples of people that live in Glasgow but from this you can not lead to such a sweeping generalisation. Furthermore you may come from a more privileged background but what gives you the right to comment on dead end lives? Some people are just trying to get by in life. And as for leering at people who don’t want to join the mosh pit – are you sure that any judgmental looks you were getting were because you are clearly an arrogant person who enjoys sitting on his pedestal looking down at people?

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