Italian Influence on Scottish Culture
By Reece Thomson
Scotland in recent years has developed an identity as one of the more open minded areas of the UK, with the country booming in tourism since the 2000’s this has had a knock on effect for a more cosmopolitan country to begin to develop. If we trace the country’s history, though, one of the earliest and most successful examples of integration was the mass arrival of Italians in the 1890’s primarily on the West Coast.
When immigrants arrive in a country or city more often than not they will stick together and tend to settle in once place, this was not the case for these eager Italians. Despite several challenges including lack of education and differing faith from most of the locals twenty years after their original arrival the Italian influence had exploded across the entire country. This was in large part to the initiative of Italian entrepreneurs who had great success in forging businesses such as cafe’s , sweet shops and as everyone knows their undoubted influence on fish and chips becoming a staple. As well as this Italians managed to learn english very quickly and the Scottish slang to go along with it showing their overall adaptability and confidence. This quick mastery of the native language was just as important as their proficiency in food as it allowed the Italians to deepen their connection to Scottish culture.
Even to this day the Italian impact on Scottish identity is huge. For instance one of the most associated icons with modern day Scotland is the deep fried mars bar. Unfortunately it is arguably the pinnacle of Scottish cuisine. Without Italian muscle behind expansion and mainstreaming of chip shops in their early days the path of the Scottish pallet may have taken a completely different direction. Some of Scotland’s most loved snacks such as haggis Supper, red pudding , deep fried pizza and as previously mentioned deep fried Mars bar can all be derived from the chip shop or as Scots call it the “chippy/ chipper”. I get the feeling though that if you asked the average Italian to try a deep fried Mars bar or made any attempt to link it to their cuisine you would be in their bad books.
Even out with food the Italian influence in Scotland has produced some of the wee countries finest artists. Paolo Nutini is a direct example: his parents own a chip shop on the west coast of Scotland which traces the Nutini family back to those successful pioneers who arrived in Scotland in the 1890’s,specifically his father’s side originated from Barga in Tuscany. Lewis Capaldi is one of the most current artists globally and is another product of the Scottish Italian Union. The superstars Italian flare can be traced to Picinisco. A distant cousin of Lewis is the actor Peter Capaldi, he shares a similar path to Paolo and his parents owned an ice cream establishment in Glasgow. Famous for his role as Doctor Who and starring in “The Thick of It” for which he won several awards. It seems to be no accident that some of Scotland’s most successful personalities have the secret ingredient of Italian flare in their recipe to success.
It is hard to measure the full extent of what the people of Italy have contributed to Scotland however it is fair to say they have had a long lasting impact on the nation and have helped produce some of Scotland’s most iconic people and cultural talking points. The cultures share a “bloodiness” to them in which we will not shy away from defending our opinions and use every vocal cord we possess to achieve this. Some call it impulsiveness or lack of reflection but the Scots and Italians call it true passion. These overlapping branches of Italy and Scotland can be seen within our dedication to football with both nations sharing a true vigor for the sport but perhaps not sharing the same skill level on the field. I will let you interpret who is better.
All joking aside both nations have suffered throughout their history in perhaps different ways and circumstances. But what remains is two lands of people who always hold their head high , have an optimistic attitude to the world and their branding as a nation from history ,culture and food is instantly recognisable.
If you come from a family with Italian heritage and want to spark your Italian flare here at La Dante we offer online courses to teach you the language at several levels. On the flip side if the tale of Italian immigrant success in Scotland has inspired you to move to the Uk we also have courses in English to help you on the journey.
I really like this common trait between Italians and Scottish people: ‘The cultures share a “bloodiness” to them in which we will not shy away from defending our opinions and use every vocal cord we possess to achieve this.’ It sounds like Scots have a lot in common with Southern Italians …………