Expat Voices: Jennifer on living in Glasgow

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Canadian Jennifer moved to 'cosmopolitan' Glasgow in 2006 and loves the sense of community there, if not the national 'obsession' of football.

Name: Jennifer
Nationality: Canadian
City of residence: Glasgow
Date of birth: 1979
Civil status: In a relationship
Occupation: Team Assistant at the BBC
Reason for moving to the UK: Originally came as university exchange student in 1999 – 2000 and fell in love with Glasgow. I decided to move back in March 2006.
Lived in the UK for: Four years

What was your first impression of the UK?
I first came to Scotland as an exchange student so my initial impression was probably slightly skewed, as I lived in a beautiful mansion in the west end of Glasgow that had been converted into student residence, so naturally I fell in love immediately.

I did, think, however, that the wet and windy weather was terrible but the people made up for it.

When I moved back to Glasgow in 2006, I found that the city had changed dramatically: it felt more cosmopolitan and international but had maintained its Glaswegian charm.

A rare sunny day in Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow
What do you think of the food?
Coming from Toronto, I found that the restaurants aren’t as varied here and it’s impossible to get decent Mexican food. That said, Glasgow has some of the best Indian food I have ever had.

As for Scottish food, I love most of it: from Cullen Skink to vegetarian haggis to tablet. Scotland has some amazing restaurants that are putting new life into traditional Scottish fare.

I also think that Scotland has some of the best junk food in the world – probably not something to boast about but I still enjoy it from time to time.

What do you think of the shopping in the UK?
With regards to clothes, it’s great. People are quite fashionable in Glasgow and there are a plethora of stores that are, for the most part, affordable. There are also some great vintage clothing stores and if you’re in Glasgow, you MUST go to the Barras at least once!

The first time I went to the grocery store, as a student in 1999, I almost broke down in tears because I hardly recognised any of the food labels. To this day I still discover odd British foods that I am perplexed by (see 'bread sauce' and hot dogs in cans). For groceries, I love Tesco and their organic food line but still miss Loblaws.

My only gripe is that electronics are a lot more expensive in the UK than in Canada and I don’t understand why?!

What do you appreciate about living in the UK?
A lot: the people, the culture, the architecture, the humour, five weeks paid vacation, being so close to mainland Europe, the diversity, the great pubs and the junk food.

On Glasgow's "squinty" bridge
I love that strangers strike up conversations with one another and it’s completely normal to do so. I feel there is more of a sense of community in Glasgow and that most people do genuinely look out for one another.

What do you find most frustrating about living in the UK?
It changes weekly! Overall I love Scotland and moved here of my own accord. Sometimes though, I get depressed by the dire poverty that exists in some parts of Scotland; the lack of centrally organised recycling; the drink culture; sectarianism and orange walks.

What puzzles you about the UK and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I’m puzzled and bemused by my boyfriend’s obsession with football. I just don’t get it.

It’s a cliché, but I really do miss Tim Hortons coffee, hockey on TV, snow, four distinct seasons, hospitals that don’t look like they’re from the Victorian era, and decent nachos. As well as friends and family back in Canada.

How does the quality of life in the UK compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
It’s different. In Canada, you do get a long more for your money, everything is bigger (cars, home, food portions) and it’s a lot cheaper to live. That said, I think people live to work in Toronto, while people in Scotland tend to work to live.

When I first started working, I couldn’t believe I was entitled to five weeks paid vacation and wondered what to do with all my time. Now, I can’t imagine getting by on anything less.

If you could change anything about the UK, what would it be?
I’d make it a republic. I would also change the archaic liquor license laws so pubs could serve drinks until 2.00am.

What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Be open to new experiences and say “yes” to any invitation offered. It’s a great way to meet new people and see the city.

Bring a rain coat with a hood.


You can follow Jennifer 'living amongst the puckered pale flesh and scorching ginger hair of Glaswegians'  on her blog

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1 Comment To This Article

  • Ashley posted:

    on 16th July 2012, 10:15:31 - Reply

    You hit the nail on the head here Jenn. I've just moved to Glasgow in April (for a boy, change of scenery. Its quite possible I'm also experiencing a mid-life crisis in my late twenties) and I must say that the people and friendly atmosphere make up for the weather. I've made my way to Wholefoods in Giffnock four times already and that's by train! Just another attempt to relate to something that reminds me of Toronto ;)