The Scottish Ambassador: Learning how to be Scottish in America
An ex-pat Scot persuades perplexed Americans to teach her how to be Scottish. Across 11 states, she finds locals to show her how to do stereotypical Scottish things that she never did growing up in Glasgow, from Scottish country dancing in Hawaii and attempting bagpipe lessons in Louisiana to playing her first round of golf on a rattlesnake-infested desert course in Arizona and going on a Gaelic immersion course on a ranch full of cats in Texas. Along the way, she learns about what it means to be Scottish, what it means to be Scottish-American and what it means to be at home so far from home.
“Very funny and entertaining… Too many books about Scotland as po-faced and serious as my own are craving attention. [The Scottish Ambassador] will amuse readers of every political stripe and will be popular with both Scots patriots and their critics.” – Alasdair Gray, author of Lanark
“Welcome to the USA – the United Scots of America – as chronicled by [Aefa Mulholland], a Glasgow-born author who has spent four years documenting the good, the bad and the crazy subcultures of our expats across the pond.” The Sunday Mail
You have to read this! Even if you’re not a Scot and even if you’ve never lived abroad, you will laugh out loud at this engaging tale of Aefa Mulholland’s search for the missing 14% of Scottishness she discovered in herself. Wonderful descriptions – I can’t get out of my mind the vision of the supposed understanding smile that, “…..looked like I’ve just eaten a mouthful of parboiled squirrel.” Understated humour, a great turn of phrase and lots of interesting information. Travel writing that takes you right there along with the author and right into her experience. – Jennifer, Amazon.co.uk
They say you can be anything you want in America… I just wanted to be Scottish.
When I first moved from Scotland to the US, I’d never been to a Highland Games. Or played golf, discovered the delights of Scotch whisky or worn a kilt or feather bonnet. Or spoken Gaelic, patted a Highland Terrier, gone Nessie-spotting or played the bagpipes. Or done any of the clichéd things so often expected of Scots overseas.
We did plenty of entertaining things growing up in Glasgow, but our antics and outfits tended not to feature tartan or to make it onto postcards sent overseas. My Scotland was grittier. It was down-to-earth. It threw pizzas into deep-fat fryers. It was a Scotland that didn’t make it onto tourist brochures or itineraries and I’d never felt it lacking… until two decades later, in Oregon, when I scored only 86% on a ‘How Scottish Are You?’ quiz. Where had all my other per cents gone?
Spurred into action by the realisation that I was on the brink of losing my cultural identity, I knew I needed to regain this missing 14% of myself. And fast. Who knew how much more of myself would disappear if I didn’t do something about this soon. But I wasn’t in Scotland, I was in America. How could I ever become a fully rounded 100% Scot again, from so far away from home?Where could I to go to work on this tartan transformation? Where could I find people to teach me how to be a better Scot?
As I began to despair of ever again being complete, I looked around me… and slowly realised that all over America there were people fiercely committed to maintaining Scottish skills—people playing bagpipes and golf, walking Scottie dogs and gossiping away in Gaelic, whirling about doing Scottish country dances and donning the precise shades of tartan that 18th-century Highland etiquette dictated. There were plenty of people out there who could help me find myself.
Over the following year, I faced my fear of bagpipes and my dread of organised social dancing as I travelled from Florida to Washington State and New York to Hawaii, meeting the kind, the compelling and the kooky characters that inhabit Scottish-America and every other ethnicity of America. I struggled through a Scottish Gaelic immersion weekend on a ranch full of cats in Texas during a heatwave, played golf for the first time on a rattlesnake-infested, sand golf course in a desert trailer park in Arizona and was perplexed by the proliferation of cloaks and dragon puppets at my first ever Highland Games in Oregon. I visited Chicago’s Scottish Retirement Home to learn the secrets of ‘The Scottish Way,’ had tea with Hawaii’s freshly elected Scot of the Year on the windward side of Oahu and was as confused as the passing New Yorkers by New York’s paltry Tartan Day parade. I sought out Scottish bars and shops across the country, caught caber tosses, whisky tastings and sheepdog demonstrations from the Pacific to the Mississippi, tried to claim Elvis for the Scots and found myself deep in backwoods Georgia with a hundred Scottie dogs. In every corner of the country I was met with warmth and kindness and by perplexed Americans, confused as to why a Scottish-born Scot couldn’t recognise her clan colours or manage more than a mediocre, mangled attempt at a simple Strathspey.
From the early days of my quest in Portland, Oregon through till my final steps in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, I explored what it means to be Scottish, what it means to be Scottish-American and what it means to be at home so far away from home.
Read more! www.thescottishambassador.com