December 16, 2020


Somehow we’ve already been in Edinburgh for three weeks, and I’m not sure where the time has gone! People keep asking if we’ve “settled in”, and to be honest – it’s been a really strange time. Moving to a new country and quarantining immediately (not to mention in a temporary apartment with only some of our belongings) has been kind of weird. We’ve been out in the real world for about a week now, and it still doesn’t feel like we actually live here! I keep walking past ancient buildings and cathedrals and thinking – “this is my home!”- it’s all a bit surreal.  

Don’t get me wrong, we’re definitely liking it here- the city is beautiful and it’s so fun to live right in the centre of things. I just had no idea I would experience culture shock in the way that I have – I guess since I lived in England for a bit during university I thought it wouldn’t be so shocking? But between the accents (what did you say?), appliances (mini fridge and laundry in the kitchen?), and people in general (yes stranger, I WILL have a nice day!), I’ve definitely realised it will take some getting used to! 

There are so many things that I’ve noticed right away about Edinburgh, and these are just a few. Obviously we’ve only been here a few weeks so these are my very initial thoughts-it will be interesting to look back after I’ve been here a while and see if I still think the same way! 

Interested to learn more? Keep scrolling to see my initial thoughts about Scotland and how it compares to my life in Sweden! 

Delivery is super easy

This realisation has been a bit dangerous for me. In Sweden, we always had to pick up packages at the grocery store’s post office. The long queues + general inconvenience of this resulted in me very rarely shopping online, and choosing to shop locally whenever possible. Things are completely different here- deliveries come right to our door, and quarantine + Black Friday + lacking all the home necessities has made online shopping all the more enticing. While it’s convenient to shop online (especially since store are getting crowded), the packaging that’s involved is pretty alarming. When possible, I’ve been trying to shop from businesses that have sustainable packaging. And of course, keeping boxes for Christmas presents! 

Recycling is more tricky

Speaking of packaging, recycling in Scotland is quite a bit different than in Sweden. Did you know that only 1% of Sweden’s trash is sent to landfills? Meanwhile, the UK recycles just 44% of its waste. When we first moved to Sweden, there was a bit of a learning curve when it came to sorting our trash. We had 4 different bins under our sink (paper, plastic, food, glass), and even more in the trash room. It took a little while for us to get used to sorting every single item, but after doing it for 2 years, we basically became recycling pros. 

So when we moved to Scotland and discovered that there was only one general trash bin outside our building, we were shocked. I actually knocked on a few neighbour’s doors to figure out where and how to recycle. It turns out we have to walk a block or two to the nearest recycling station. Super weird for me coming out of the little “recycling bubble” of Sweden. I’ve even had to order my own food waste bin since there isn’t one accessible!

Apartments are COLD

To be fair, we lived in a new apartment in Sweden, and now we live in one that’s 100+ years. However, most apartment buildings in Sweden are made of concrete and are equipped with triple paned windows. During the three winters we spent in Sweden, we actually only turned the heating on once or twice because the insulation was that good.

After a long day of travel and desperate for some sleep, we didn’t think about heating when we first arrived at our Edinburgh flat. Flash forward to the middle of the night – we woke up freezing and huddled together for warmth because we couldn’t find the thermostat. Now that we’ve gotten used to the apartment, we’ve figured out what temperature we like, but it’s definitely taken some trial and error! 

It’s just as dark

People always talk about Scandinavia being so dark, but the UK is just the same! Edinburgh is just a tiiiiny bit more north than Malmö, and with the time difference we actually get one minute less of sunlight than we did in Sweden! 

The people are so friendly 

This is something that I struggled with the entire time I lived in Sweden. Swedes are pretty reserved, and I can count on one hand the times a stranger made small talk with me. I always had a sense that I was bothering people, and I often talked with my international friends about how difficult it can be to make friends in Sweden because of this. I grew up in America, where customer service is everything and people genuinely want to know about your day. This often comes off as “fake” to foreigners, I’ve been told – but it’s something I had no idea I would miss so much! 

So imagine my surprise when I walked into a coffee shop in my new city and the barista starts asking me about myself – I was genuinely caught off guard. It’s still a little startling to be approached by people in the shops (though still not as much as some places in the US), but I actually like it. It’s nice to have a stranger complement your mask or ask how your day is going!

The accent though…

I can already tell this accent it going to be a bit tricky for me to understand. Masks + thick Scottish accents do not make for easy comprehension! However, I really do think watching Scottish films and tv beforehand has helped a bit! Now I just need to learn some of the slang…

Everything is old

This wasn’t too surprising, but Edinburgh is an old city. It’s amazing to walk down the cobblestone streets and think about how much history has happened on those very streets. Combined with a castle in the middle of the city, everything feels a bit medieval!

Crossing the street is a bit scary

In the past, every time I would visit the UK, I got so confused because they drive on the other side of the road. You would think now that I’m confronted with it every day, I’d be used to it, but I’m still confused! 


Scandinavian fashion is all about minimalism, neutral colours, and practicality all while looking effortlessly chic. In Sweden it seemed that everyone shopped from the same stores, and the overall style was more or less the same. Personally, I love Scandinavian fashion and was constantly inspired by the clothing I saw people wearing out and about! 

In Edinburgh… well… let’s just say it’s a bit different. I would equate it to the US actually in that there is no “uniform”. Everyone pretty much wears what they want – so far I’m seeing a lot of tartan and bright colour, definitely not what I saw much of in Sweden! In general, Swedes prefer more minimal, high quality clothing as opposed to branded or fast fashion, and seem to always dress to impress. I actually felt uncomfortable wearing gym clothes to the shops in Malmö, but in Edinburgh it seems really common!

So there you have it – my initial thoughts about my new home. I absolutely love that I’ve been able to experience life in new places; I can already see ways in which I like Scotland better for certain things and Sweden and America for others. I’m especially interested to see how my thoughts and opinions change as time goes by! Will I learn how to cross the street? Will I ever understand the accent? Who knows! (hopefully yes to both though)

Have you visited Sweden or Scotland? How do you think they compare? 

Talk soon,

expat life, Scotland, thoughts 8 Replies to “LIFE IN SCOTLAND: MY INITIAL THOUGHTS”



    Author’s gravatar

    Love reading your posts! Feel like I’m right there with you!

    Author’s gravatar

    Fun to hear your initial thoughts. The counties seem to be very different. You’ll find your groove and make it special ❤️

    Author’s gravatar

    I wish all countries recycled and composted like Sweden! But I love how medieval Edinburgh is! Merry Christmas!

    Author’s gravatar

    This post was fun to read! The first few weeks/month in a new place definitely mean becoming accustomed to things you weren’t expecting. The accent in Scotland must be one of them! I went to Edinburgh on a short trip years ago and loved it though, the city is so eerie. A great place to be! 🙂

    Julia x
    Last Post: The Best Festive Displays in Paris This Winter!

      Author’s gravatar

      The accent is definitely something that will take a while to get accustomed to – especially these days when everyone has a mask!
      Thanks for reading and commenting, Julia!

      xx Emily

    Author’s gravatar

    Wonderful blog Emily…..not sure how it has escaped my attention!! I will be a frequent visitor now, and WILL swing by Scotland soon!

    What is the most important lesson learned from my years of living abroad……time goes by quicky (the more exciting and fun, the faster!), so make those travel and excursion goals early, and don’t leave the UK with regrets!

    ps. Rick Steves needs to hire you!!!!

      Author’s gravatar

      Thanks for reading David, we would love to have you visit someday soon! We’ll be working on our travel goals as soon as everything is open again, one of the best parts of living abroad as you know 🙂

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