Insider reporter holding a Tesco and a Sainbury's bag

Grocery shopping in Scotland.Coren Feldman

  • On my first-ever visit to Scotland, I was surprised by how cheap groceries were compared to the US.

  • I came across more American brands in Scotland than I thought I would.

  • I didn’t realize some stores closed for lunch in the middle of the day.

I recently visited Scotland for the first time.

Talia Lakritz in Scotland.

The author in Edinburgh, Scotland.Coren Feldman

I grew up in the Midwest and have now lived in New York City for six years, but I had never been to the UK before until January, when I took a vacation to Scotland.

I stayed in Edinburgh and traveled to Glasgow and Inverness by train. I also made a quick trip to England, staying in London.

While I was aware of major differences between the US and Scotland, such as driving on opposite sides of the road, I was still surprised by some aspects of my time there.

I was surprised by how rapidly the Scottish weather changed throughout the day during my visit.

Left: Arthur's Seat with partly cloudy weather. Right: Insider reporter Talia Lakritz covered in snow.

These photos were taken less than an hour apart.Coren Feldman

On the morning I hiked up Arthur’s Seat, an 823-foot ancient volcano in Edinburgh, the weather started out sunny and clear. By the time I reached the top less than an hour later, I found myself caught in a full-on blizzard.

Other days started with pouring rain and cleared up completely by the afternoon. I quickly realized the importance of a waterproof coat and shoes, and dressing in layers.

In the winter, the sun set earlier in the day than I was used to.

The view out of a train window in Scotland.

The train to Inverness had gorgeous ocean views.Talia Lakritz/Insider

Because Scotland is further north than the contiguous US, daylight hours are even shorter in the winter. I visited Scotland in January, and I was surprised when the golden hour of sunset colors began to appear in the sky around 2 p.m.

I came across more American brands in Scotland than I thought I would, with some differences.

Insider reporter Talia Lakritz stands outside TK Maxx in Scotland.

TK Maxx is the UK’s version of TJ Maxx.Coren Feldman

As I walked around cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow, I found that American fast-food establishments such as Burger King, KFC, and Subway were widely available.

There were also some surprising differences, like how the UK version of TJ Maxx is called TK Maxx. Both brands are owned by TJX Companies, which has more than 4,700 discount stores around the world, Insider’s Grace Dean and Dominick Reuter reported. When the company opened stores in the UK in 1994, they went with “TK” in the name to avoid it being confused with a UK-based discount department-store chain, TJ Hughes.

Some public bathrooms cost money to use.

A bathroom sign with a price at Glasgow Queen Street Station.

Not all public bathrooms are free.Talia Lakritz/Insider

At the Glasgow Queen Street train station, the bathroom access cost 50 pence (about 62 cents), and only accepted exact change. I don’t think I’ve ever had to pay to use a public bathroom in America.

Groceries were so much cheaper in Scotland compared to what I pay in the US.

Insider reporter holding a Tesco and a Sainbury's bag

Grocery shopping in Scotland.Coren Feldman

Every time I went grocery shopping, I was shocked at how little my total was compared to my usual grocery spending in New York City.

For example, a package of Beyond Meat burgers cost £3 (about $3.71) at the Sainsbury’s I visited in Edinburgh, while at Wegman’s in Brooklyn they retail for $6.39.

Eggs aren’t refrigerated in Scottish grocery stores, and they don’t need to be refrigerated at home.

Eggs at a supermarket in Scotland.

Eggs aren’t refrigerated.Talia Lakritz/Insider

In America, eggs go through a washing and sanitizing process that clears contaminants, but also removes the natural protections that eggs have against bacteria, Insider’s Kelly Burch reported. This requires eggs to remain refrigerated to reduce the risk of salmonella.

In Europe, eggs don’t go through this sanitization process, so they don’t require refrigeration. The UK also vaccinates chickens against salmonella.

As an American, I wasn’t used to seeing eggs shelved next to canned goods and dried fruit instead of in the refrigerated section.

I was surprised to find that Scotland uses wooden single-use utensils instead of plastic ones.

A box of wooden forks, knives, and spoons

Wooden cutlery.Talia Lakritz/Insider

Scotland banned single-use plastics in June 2022, becoming the first UK nation to do so. Instead of disposable plastic cutlery, wooden utensils were the norm.

I knew that cars drove on the left in Scotland, but I didn’t realize that keeping to the left also applied to pedestrian traffic on staircases and escalators.

A sign on a staircase at Edinburgh Waverley saying please keep to the left.

The rules of the road apply on staircases and escalators, too.Talia Lakritz/Insider

Signs at Edinburgh Waverley train station reminded travelers to “Please keep to the left” when walking down the staircase, whereas my instinct as an American would have been to keep to the stairs on the right. Up and down escalators were also on opposite sides than I was used to.

I discovered some stores close for lunch in the middle of the day.

A pharmacy closed for lunch in Scotland.

A pharmacy closed for lunch in Edinburgh, Scotland.Talia Lakritz/Insider

Most stores in the US cities where I’ve lived don’t close for a lunch hour, so I hadn’t anticipated finding a closed pharmacy in the middle of the afternoon in Edinburgh.

I was amused by kitschy odes to American culture.

A New York-themed cafe in Glasgow.

A New York-themed cafe in Glasgow.Coren Feldman

In Glasgow, my partner and I came across a New York City-themed diner and ventured inside to take a look. A neon sign proclaimed: “Spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way.”

“Clearly written by someone who has never been to Brooklyn,” my partner joked.

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Chandan kumar patel (BA) , I am not social worker I am Social Media Worker.

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