The Great Culture Clash of Helensburgh, Scotland

February 26, 2006

The day’s work in port over by three, I said I would go with Ferrari, a fellow sonar man, because I only wanted to pick a few things up in town, and be back at a good hour to be in shape for my trip to Edinburgh on Sunday.  Slowly I checked off my to-do list, getting enough envelopes and postcards to appease those back home and abroad. 

Helensburgh itself is a very quaint village with shops along the coast, as couples strolled along the sea walk, enjoying the last rays of the afternoon.  It is full of just what you might envision: yards cordoned off by high, lush shrubberies, quaint old homes and stonewalled hillsides along the roads.  Being the weekend, most the shops were closed by mid-afternoon, including a great many restaurants.  The post had closed hours before I was let off work and I still needed stamps.  One of the few eateries we found still open was an Indian curry takeout.  In need of a place to eat our meals we thought the train station across the street might be best.

When we arrived three from our ship– Evans, Sims, and Bowser– were already there.  When I tell you they are black it is to set up for when nearly a dozen Scottish children soon passed by, and stopped to crowd around us.  They were immediately amazed by them, especially Sims and his Atlanta cap and silver teeth.  One girl was determined to get the hat for her own, while I watched the three Americans get peppered with eager questions:

“Are you (Sims again) a rapper?”  “Do you know 50 Cent?” “Do you own a gun?”

Of course being kids they didn’t know quite what they were asking, only that they had never before met Americans like them, and merely asked what I suppose the telly had told them.  Even I was asked if I knew Madonna.  I guess that’s how it goes.  They wanted to shake the three African-American sailors  hands, which I got a picture of, but I could tell they were uncomfortable by the time a few when walking up and feeling their hair without asking.  It was the meeting of two differing cultures with several layers to it all.

We were back to the ship by eight o’clock, passing through extensive enough security that it really seemed like we were passing through to West Germany.  The end of the night I spent on the mess decks, drinking coffee and finishing the Garrison Keillor novel Lake Woebegone, 1956.

I was not asked if I knew Garrison Keillor.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Becca says:

    I love Scotland. But equally, as a foreigner in the US, I was often asked things like “Do you guys have McDonald’s over there?” and “Who controls the nukes? The Queen or David Cameron?”. People who haven’t travelled much and only see the US or UK on television shows are going to have a very distorted view of what life is actually like in each country.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s