Why Glasgow could be a Rustbelt City
By Grace Brown, Opinion Section Editor
In my time studying abroad, I’ve found myself explaining The Rustbelt a surprising amount. Maybe I’ve found myself hanging around a surprising amount of people interested in Cleveland and Detroit, or maybe I just like talking about the Golden Days of Buffalo’s past. Regardless, I’ve been preaching the history of the Erie Canal and how post-industrial cities are struggling to make a comeback.
Similarly, I’ve spent considerable time over the last four months pondering the ways in which Glasgow is a lot like Buffalo, thus making it a comfortable and convenient home away from home.
First off, we can start by revisiting post-industrial syndrome. Like Buffalo, Glasgow was once a prolific commercial hub, benefitting significantly from its location on the River Clyde. In fact, in an effort to describe the distance between Buffalo and Canada, I actually pointed at the opposing riverbank and realized the Clyde is approximately the same width as the Niagara River — just a wee bit weaker, for lack of a massive waterfall.
Beside the gorgeous Gothic architecture and brick buildings that line the streets of Glasgow are numerous old semi-abandoned warehouses and rusty factory shells. Like the silos in the outer harbor, these are sometimes utilized for cool hipster events, or more popularly, skateparks. (Skateboarding is so popular here that it’s basically a free spectator sport.)
Next up comes the cost of living: like in Buffalo, Glaswegians complain regularly of how “expensive everything’s gotten.” Yet on the contrary, I can assure both groups that their cities are still an affordable safe haven in a rapidly expensifying world. It’s sort of like when you decide to visit New York City or Boston and suddenly realize the same cup of coffee you’d buy at home is twice as expensive, and then you can’t wait to get back home.
As a result of my study abroad experience, I was lucky enough to take two separate trips to two of the world’s most fabulous cities: Copenhagen, Denmark and Paris, France. Accordingly, these were two of the most expensive places I have ever been. Now, I’m really not one to complain about price, especially when it comes to eating — one of my favorite pastimes. But upon paying 12 U.S. dollars for a latte and croissant in Copenhagen, I felt a bit conflicted; should I continue to spend exorbitant amounts of money on the simple pleasures in life? Or just find the nearest Tim Horton’s (yes, they exist here, too) and drink more crayon-tasting hot water for my caffeine kick?
For the record, that croissant from the cafe attached to the Copenhagen public library was still the best thing I’ve ever tasted, period. Sorry, Paris, but you need tae up yer croissant game.
After my beautiful (and delicious) visit to Copenhagen, I thought nothing would ever be more pricey; and yet, I found myself in Paris, paying €5 each for cappuccinos for my boyfriend and I (a total of about $12).
Baffled, I was again struck by the urge to not consume anything except water and protein bars from my overstuffed backpack. Luckily, my boyfriend has a mean salary from M&T, so he reminded me: we came all the way here for a reason, so we need to indulge in the ridiculously small European coffees and cakes.
As much as I enjoyed eating our way through Paris as well, it would be an understatement to say I was relieved to return to Glasgow’s £5 sandwiches and £2.50 cappuccinos by the end of the week.
Not to mention, the food scene in Glasgow is definitely a hidden secret — another parallel to Buffalo’s culinary realm. Though people like to pick on British food, the chefs are endlessly creative and original in their combinations of seemingly mundane food — and not just at one or two restaurants, but every single one I’ve visited. I might just have a knack for Googling good places to eat, or Scotsmen might just be bold enough to try strange food combos in a pursuit of something new and scrumptious.
Scotsmen are fun like that; they’ll try almost anything at least once, and they’ll tell you exactly what they think of it, no sugarcoating or around-the-bush beating. Their straight talking style and stark sarcasm can put some people off, but I think it just adds to their infectious sense of humor.
There’s a statue in the city center of the Duke of Wellington, who is old and dead and important. Infamously, his head is almost always adorned with a traffic cone. Legend has it that this tradition originated years ago, via unknown motivation. However, when the city council attempted multiple times to remove the triangular orange hat, it was miraculously replaced overnight. By modern day, they’ve stopped trying to restore the dignity of said statue and let him hang out with various decorative cones perched upon his dome.
Maybe I find this absurdly hilarious because I come from a city where people jump off of the roofs of their cars onto folding tables (sometimes while on fire) and ice skate to the grocery store. Both cities boast a generous and compassionate crowd of blue-collar citizens who come off as a little bit cranky but have hearts warm enough to melt the ice on your windshield.
Glasgow may be the only city I’ve ever visited which rivals Buffalo for bizarrest weather; while Western New York has been experiencing 40-degree temperature swings within a single day, northern Scotland has been enduring sideways rain under cloudless skies. It’s never safe to leave the house without a rain jacket — it doesn't matter if the sun is out and the air is warm. The minute you step outside, it’ll pour without fail, soaking you through your jeans with the worst sun showers I’ve ever experienced.
There are still a few things Glasgow has that Buffalo lacks: although I’ve been told my accent is nice, I thoroughly believe a Glaswegian lilt is more enjoyable to hear. Sure, it is completely unintelligible for the first three weeks you’re around people saying “Diddnae” instead of “I did not” or “Leckey” in place of “Electricity” — it still puts a smile on my face without fail.
Though I’ve come to love my home away from home since January, there is one thing I’m anxious to leave behind: the East End Odor. As a result of a large brewery on the south side of the Clyde, the entire East End wreaks of discarded malt — a smell somewhere between expired eggs and burnt toast — on a regular basis. I wouldn’t say 24/7, but maybe 18 hours a day, six days a week.
Needless to say, I can’t wait to be in a city that smells like Cheerios again.