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Issue 18 - He cannot be serious

Scotland Magazine Issue 18
January 2005


This article is 13 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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He cannot be serious

Dominic Roskrow defends Scottish hotel staff

In your experience of meeting Scots in Scotland, have you found them pleasant and helpful, or rude and aggressive? Would you say that many of the Scots you have met have been in hotels, restaurants and bars? And would you say, on balance, that the Scots you have met have broadly speaking enriched your stay or sullied it?

I ask because recently the Australian owner of a Perthshire hotel announced that he would only employ his fellow country men and women because Scots were too dour, rude, lazy and shiftless. They would rather spend their time on the other side of the bar he said.

I find these comments astounding. No, more than that; I find them astounding and appalling. His comments, bordering on racist, are simply incorrect. And my view is that of an English visitor to Scotland, and not that of an indignant Scot.

Let's deal with these comments one stage at a time.

Firstly the comment about the bar. Well wouldn't you rather be drinking at the bar than working behind it? I certainly would. Most of the people I know would. There is nothing wrong preferring to play rather than work.

Indeed, having spent a disproportionately large amount of my time in the company of Australians, my experience is that not only are they very good at enjoying themselves, but they regard it as a badge of honour.

An Australian once told me that what was wrong with us Brits is that we go to work in the dark, we go home in the dark, and we do this all year just so that we can afford two weeks in a hot country by a beach. Australians, he said, can enjoy the sun every day, he said, and unlike us, Aussies treat work merely as a means to an end.

The Scots have what is known as a work ethic, and lazy doesn't come in to it.

Dour? Well, like all clichés and stereotypes there may or may not be a grain of truth lurking there somewhere.

But I go back to my original point about my personal experience of Scots on my frequent trips there. Is our Antipodean friend seriously suggesting that the Scots are, generally, an unhappy and sour people? Come on! Rude? No way. Forthright sometimes, refreshingly opinionated, occasionally a bit sharp and over direct. But compare service in Scottish establishments nowadays with that of London, Dublin, Paris for heaven's sake! And there's something else here, too. When you enter a hotel you can tell the difference between a happy and an unhappy staff. Sometimes they are immaculately attired, professional, impressively efficient. And impersonal, uncommunicative, unhappy.

Nine times out of 10 this is not because they are badly paid (which they are if it's the income they're expected to live on, and not if they're an Australian topping up the finances on his or her extended European holiday) but because there's something wrong with the management of the hotel.

Perhaps our Australian might consider that any problems aren’t with his Scottish staff at all.

I haven't named the hotel but I suggest that if you're booking a stay in Perthshire you check that there are Scots working there first. After all, do you really want to visit Scotland and NOT meet Scots?

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