35 Pros and Cons of Living in Scotland as a Foreigner

If you’re considering moving to Scotland, you should know the pros and cons of expat life in the country.

I moved to Glasgow when I was 21 to study abroad, and honestly it didn’t go well.

That’s not Scotland’s fault though!

I actually really enjoyed the country and think it’s a wonderful place to live.

But before you decide to live in Scotland, you should consider these 35 pros and cons. They’ll help you understand the intricacies of living abroad in Scotland as a foreigner and whether or not it’s the right choice for you.

So let’s dive in so you can figure out if living in Scotland will make you happy!

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Nina holding a Scottish flag and waving it in front of a historic Scottish town while living abroad.

My Experience Living in Glasgow, Scotland as a Foreigner

I moved to Scotland in 2015 to study abroad at the University of Glasgow.

Unfortunately, that was quite a dark period in my life, and being isolated in Glasgow with that darkness didn’t lead to a great experience.

I came out on the other side, having conquered my demons and ultimately being a happier Nina.

While I lived in Glasgow, there were moments of brightness – namely getting to travel the Scottish countryside.

My experience may not have been ideal, but I don’t hold that against Scotland. In fact, I’d still recommend that other people move there.

Glasgow especially is a stunning city.

I lived in a studio apartment beside Kelvin Park that allowed me to see dogs playing every morning.

With Tescos on every corner and a great bus system, it was easy to meet my basic needs without having to trudge through the rain (because yes, it does rain a lot).

The Scots are some of the most jovial and friendly people you’ll meet. Even when they seem bristly at first, they’ll almost always crack a smile a moment later.

Studying in Glasgow is the best schooling experience I’ve ever had, and I’ve attended 5 universities around the globe now.

The lecturers actually encourage original thought and give students room to live outside of doing homework or tests.

It was the first time in my life that I felt truly smart and engaged with the material, even if I had straight As back home.

You’ll be shocked at how quickly Scotland becomes a part of your heart. The rolling green hills, bawdy jokes, and cobbled streets are something you’ll carry with you for years after you’ve left.

Don't Forget to Pack the Essentials!

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Pros and Cons of Living in Scotland

Pro: Free Healthcare with the NHS

If you need medical attention, the National Health Service (NHS) will take care of you free of charge.

This is wonderful because it means that you don’t have to worry about finding a doctor or paying for expensive procedures.

The NHS exists across the UK, but in Scotland it offers slightly different services. They cover more drugs under the national drug plan and generally have better service records than England.

Con: NHS Wait Times

Although the NHS is free, you may have to wait a while to be seen by a doctor or to receive treatment.

This can be frustrating if you’re not used to waiting for your healthcare, but it’s something that you’ll have to get used to.

I waited longer in Canada and England than I ever had to in Scotland. Admittedly, I didn’t need any specialist services, which I’m told would have taken a few months to book.

Like the UK, you can pay for private healthcare to expedite the process.

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Pro: Scottish Accents

Hear me out on this one!

The Scottish accent is incredibly attractive, and you’ll find yourself swooning over it before you know it.

I’m not the only one who thinks this – a study found that people rated people with Scottish accents as some of the most attractive in the world.

The Scottish brogue and the deep timbre of their accent will make that dull Tinder date seem far more exciting!

Con: …But Scottish Accents

On the flip side, the Scottish accent can be difficult to understand.

I’m very good at understanding accents, after years of living abroad and growing up with immigrant family members from a variety of countries. So I always found the accent very easy to understand.

But I’m told most people are challenged by it, especially if you’re speaking to a fired-up Scotsman.

Glaswegian is said to be the most difficult accent in all of Scotland, but when I lived there, I never had trouble understanding anyone.

So take this with a pinch of salt, but be prepared to give your ears some time to get used to the new accents around you.

Nina smiling and holding a pink umbrella on the green lawn in front of a university of Glasgow sign

Pro: Very Green

Scotland is incredibly green, and I’m not just talking about the hills.

Glasgow has more parks per capita than any other city in Europe.

This means that you’re never too far away from a bit of nature, no matter where in the country you are.

The greenery is soothing, and it’s wonderful to be able to take a walk in the park while you’re in the middle of a city

Con: Rainy Weather

Scotland defies physics.

There were three separate days while I lived there that on perfectly sunny days with not a single cloud in the sky, it was still somehow raining!

Beyond that miracle of precipitation, you will find that Scotland has a lot of rainy days. Much like England, gloomy weather is pretty common, especially in the autumn and the spring.

You’ll get used to always having an umbrella or a rain jacket on hand.

It’s not usually pouring rain, so it’s pretty easy to adjust to.

Pro: More Vacation Days

In the United States, you get two weeks of vacation time per year.

In the UK, that number is four weeks.

In Scotland, it’s five weeks.

That’s a lot of time to explore your new surroundings!

One of my best friends lives in Scotland and I’m constantly jealous of the 6 weeks of paid leave she gets from her job – and she’s only been there a year! The longer you’re with a company, the more leave you’ll get.

It’s no wonder I refuse to live in North America long-term. Our vacation days are laughable.

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Con: High Cost of Living in Major Cities

If you’re living in a major city, you’ll find that the cost of living is higher than in smaller towns.

Glasgow and Edinburgh are two of the most expensive cities in Scotland to live in, with rent prices that are often comparable to London.

However, if you’re willing to live outside of the city centre, you can find more reasonably priced apartments and homes.

But then you’ll need to deal with car prices, petrol prices, and paying for parking in the city.

Culloden three sisters mountains in Scotland

Pro: Historic Country

Scotland is one of the oldest countries in the world.

This means that there are a wealth of historical landmarks and sites to see, all throughout the country.

From the ancient standing stones of Callanish on the Isle of Lewis, to Edinburgh’s Old Town which dates back to the 12th century, you’ll never be bored with the history around you.

Find the best local tours with this search engine (and the best deals)!

Con: Very Remote Areas

If you’re looking to live in a more rural area of Scotland, you should be aware that some parts of the country are very remote.

This means that you’ll be quite isolated, and it can take a long time to get to the nearest town or city.

If you don’t mind being cut off from the rest of the world, then this could be a great option for you.

But if you’re looking for easy access to amenities and socializing, then it might be best to look elsewhere.

Scottish fish and chips with mushy peas

Pro: Yummy Scottish Food (and Whisky)

Scotland is well-known for its delicious food.

From haggis to Cullen skink, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

And of course, you can’t forget about whisky.

Scotch whisky is some of the best in the world, and there are distilleries all over Scotland waiting to be explored.

Con: Hard to Find Good Vegetables

When I lived in Glasgow, it was nearly impossible to get vegetables that weren’t wilted. Finding something green and leafy from a grocery store was nearly impossible.

Restaurants had the items for salads, but for some reason it was impossible to get the items to make it yourself at home.

I resorted to eating out a lot more because of that, which was quite expensive, just to get my daily 5.

I’ve heard it’s better in Edinburgh, but it’s still not as easy to get good veg as it is in England.

Pro: Historic Homes

If you’re a fan of historic homes, then you’ll love Scotland.

Many of the homes in the country are hundreds of years old, and still have their original features like fireplaces and staircases.

It’s really cool to be able to live in a place with so much history.

Con: Very Small and Expensive Homes

One of the downsides of living in an old home is that they can be quite small.

And since they’re often located in desirable areas, they can be quite expensive as well.

If you’re looking for a spacious home, then you might want to look elsewhere.

Even renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city is extremely expensive.

The cost of living in Scotland is roughly £3,000 a month for a one-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of the city and basic necessities.

Pro: Great Public Transportation in Cities

If you’re living in a city, you’ll find that public transportation is quite good.

There are buses and trains that can take you all around the city, as well as to other parts of Scotland.

This is great news if you don’t have a car, or if you just want to save money on petrol.

Nina smiling beneath Old Man of Storr rocks in Scotland

Con: No Options in the Countryside

If you’re living in a rural area, you’ll find that there are no public transportation options.

This can be quite inconvenient if you need to get to the nearest town, or if you want to go on vacation.

You’ll either need to have a car, or take a taxi which can be quite expensive.

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Pro: Lots of Festivals and Events

Scotland is known for its many festivals and events.

From the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to the Glasgow Film Festival, there’s always something going on.

If you’re a fan of live music, then you’ll be in heaven with all of the concerts and festivals that take place throughout the country.

Con: Gets Dark Very Early in Winter

Since Scotland is so far north, the winters can be quite long and dark.

The sunsets as early as 3 pm in December, and doesn’t rise again until 8:30 am.

This can be quite depressing, especially if you’re not used to it.

I would recommend getting a good lamp for winter. Scotland is where I first invested in a SAD lamp to help me get over the winter blues.

I still use it to this day, starting most winter mornings sunning myself in front of it like a lizard to try and get vaguely pumped about the idea of cold, dark days.

University of Glasgow structure

Pro: Free University Tuition

If you’re a student, you’ll be happy to know that tuition is free in Scotland.

This is great news, since university can be quite expensive in other parts of the world.

You’ll just need to pay for your living expenses, which can still add up.

This is only true for Scottish citizens.

Con: High Taxes

One of the downsides of living in Scotland is the high taxes.

Compared to other parts of the world, the taxes are quite high.

This can be a bit of a shock if you’re not used to it.

However, it’s worth noting that many of the public services like healthcare and education are free.

You can find a breakdown of income tax rates here. They start at 19% and quickly grow to over 40% depending on your income.

Pro: Scots are Very Friendly

One of the best things about living in Scotland is the people.

The Scots are known for being some of the friendliest people in the world.

They’re always willing to help a stranger, and are always up for a good conversation.

Even if they seem a bit gruff, they’re usually warm and fuzzy under that exterior.

Admittedly, this isn’t true if they’re drunk. Then they can get a bit brash and that’s when Scottish pub fights break out (very regularly).

Con: Scottish Humor can be Offputting

If you’re not used to it, the Scottish sense of humor can be quite offputting.

They often make fun of each other, and they’re not afraid to poke fun at foreigners.

It can be quite overwhelming, and you might not find it very funny.

When my mom came to visit, her hotelier joked that she must have a stolen credit card because the first swipe didn’t work. As someone who works in banking, she got flustered for a moment before realizing the joke.

However, once you get used to it, you’ll find that the Scottish sense of humor is actually quite endearing.

I love their dry wit and ability to make a joke of anything.

Pro: Very Safe to Live in Scotland

Overall, Scotland is a very safe place to live.

The crime rate is relatively low, and you’ll usually feel safe walking around at night.

Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule, but generally speaking, it’s a safe place to be.

I used to walk home from classes at the university. It was about a 15 or 20 minute walk to my apartment through dimly lit streets.

I never felt unsafe or had anyone make any comments towards me.

In fact, I felt more uncomfortable doing so in small town Halifax than I ever did in Glasgow.

Con: High Cost of Petrol

Another downside to living in Scotland is the high cost of petrol.

It’s not as bad as some other parts of Europe, but it’s still more expensive than other parts of the world.

This can be a bit of a shock if you’re not used to it.

Be prepared to shell out a bit more for petrol than you’re used to.

Scots often wait to fill up in England if they can.

Pro: Great Job Opportunities

Scotland is a great place to find a job.

The job market is relatively strong, and there are a variety of jobs to choose from.

This is especially true if you have a good skill set or are looking for work in the tech industry.

Con: Only in the Cities

But the myriad of job opportunities are based in Edinburgh or Glasgow.

If you’re looking for work outside of the major cities, your options might be a bit more limited.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t jobs in other parts of Scotland, but they might not be as readily available.

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Castle in Oban, Scotland

Pro: Literal Castles

One of the best things about living in Scotland is the castles.

Okay, so this might only be a pro if you’re into that kind of thing.

But seriously, Scotland has some of the most beautiful castles in the world.

From Edinburgh to Stirling to Glasgow, there are all sorts of amazing castles to explore.

It’s just so cool to live in a place with that kind of history!

I recommend this tour of famous Scottish castle Eilean Donan (pictured above)!

Con: Stores Close Early

One downside to living in Scotland is that the stores close early.

This can be a bit of an adjustment if you’re used to 24-hour shopping.

But, it’s not a big deal once you get used to it.

It just means that you have to plan your shopping trips a bit better.

Nina smiling behind Loch Ness sign in front of the loch.

Pro: Easy to Travel From Scotland

Scotland is a great jumping-off point for travel in Europe.

You can easily get to England, Ireland, France, and other parts of Europe from Scotland.

This makes it a great base if you love to travel.

With EasyJet and Ryanair, you’ll find flights for literal pennies to go all over Europe for fun vacations.

I flew to Amsterdam for 20 pounds!

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Con: Hard to Open a Scottish Bank Account

One downside to living in Scotland is that it can be hard to open a Scottish bank account.

This is because the banks often require you to have a UK address.

If you’re not living in Scotland full-time, this can be a bit of a challenge.

But, with a bit of persistence, you should be able to open an account.

I gave up on the process quite quickly since I was on a temporary student visa and couldn’t justify the days of fighting with the bank to get my documents sorted.

Nowadays, I’d skip this process and get a Wise.com multicurrency account. This is a free account that lets you hold currencies from around the world.

Pair it with their debit card and you’ll be able to make your transactions in local money without international charges.

Make getting a bank account MUCH easier by opening a free multi-currency account here.

Pro: Very Inclusive

I found Scotland to be a very inclusive place.

If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, you’ll be treated very well. The Scots are very accepting of everyone’s sexuality.

There are tons of resources and support available if you need it.

And, disabled people are also well-supported in Scotland.

There are wheelchair ramps everywhere and accessible public transportation. For somewhere so old, I was surprised at the accessibility of everything in the country.

Con: You’ll Never be Scottish

No matter how long you live in Scotland, you’ll never be Scottish.

You might be able to get a Scottish passport, but you’ll always be an outsider.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something to keep in mind.

The Scots are very proud of their heritage and culture, so don’t expect to be welcomed with open arms into their culture if you’re not Scottish.

They’ll happily treat you as a guest, but they’ll know you’re not really a Scot deep down.

Pro: Beautiful Beaches

Despite what a lot of people think, Scotland has some beautiful beaches.

Yes, the beaches are colder than in other parts of the world, but they’re still worth a visit.

From Morar to Inverie to Sandwood Bay, there are all sorts of amazing beaches to explore.

And, if you’re feeling really brave, you can even go for a swim!

Pro: Cheap Cellphone Plans

If you’re looking for a cheap cellphone plan, Scotland is the place to be.

The major cell phone providers in Scotland offer really cheap plans.

This is great if you’re on a budget and don’t want to break the bank.

Just make sure that your phone is unlocked so you can switch providers easily.

Pro: Very Walkable Cities

If you’re a fan of walking, you’ll love Scotland.

The cities are very walkable and there’s always something to see.

Even the smaller villages have a lot to offer in terms of beauty and history.

So, if you’re looking for a place to slow down and enjoy life, Scotland is definitely the place for you.

Nina standing on Isle of Skye in Scotland

Best Places to Live in Scotland for Expats

Although often overshadowed by its more famous neighbour England, Scotland is a country with its own unique identity, history, and culture.

And while it may not be as popular of a destination as England when it comes to immigration, there are still plenty of reasons why living in Scotland can be an attractive proposition for foreigners.

Here are some of the best places to live in Scotland for expats:

  • Glasgow – The largest city in Scotland, Glasgow is a thriving metropolis with plenty to offer its residents. There is a great arts and nightlife scene, and the city is also home to some of Scotland’s top universities.
  • Edinburgh – The capital of Scotland and one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Edinburgh is a popular destination for expats. It is home to many multinational companies, and its historic architecture and lively cultural scene make it a very attractive place to live.
  • Aberdeen – The third-largest city in Scotland, Aberdeen is a major oil and gas hub. It is also home to a large number of expats, drawn by its booming economy and high quality of life.
  • Dundee – Dundee is Scotland’s smallest city, but it is a major center for technology and biotechnology. It is also home to a large student population, making it a lively and youthful city.

There are of course many other great places to live in Scotland, depending on your individual needs and preferences. But these are some of the best options for those looking to live in this fascinating and beautiful country.

Pros and Cons of Living in Glasgow

Pros:

  • Great university
  • Tons of nightlife
  • Has cleaned up its rep and is now safe to live in
  • Streets are too narrow to easily drive
  • Summer is brilliantly warm and sunny most of the time

Cons:

  • The Orange Circle train circles the city without going into it
  • Expensive housing
  • Hard to get good vegetables
  • Not a lot of street lighting
  • Gets dark by 2pm in the winter
  • Hardest Scottish accent to understand (allegedly)
Edinburgh castle from the ground in Scotland

Pros and Cons of Living in Edinburgh

Pros:

  • Most job opportunities in Scotland
  • Festival culture
  • Great public transportation
  • Beautiful city with lots of history
  • Lots of pubs and nightlife
  • Great university

Cons:

  • Very hilly
  • Popular with tourists
  • High cost of living and rental prices
  • Rainy and windy most days
Baby highland cow licking it's lips

Wrap Up: Living in Scotland as a Foreigner

Overall, I really enjoyed living in Scotland as a foreigner.

The Scots are very friendly and welcoming, and there’s always something to do.

If you’re thinking about moving to Scotland, I would definitely recommend it! Just be prepared for the cold weather and be aware that you’ll never truly be Scottish.

You’ll still be able to enjoy all of the amazing benefits that come with living in this wonderful country.

Before you go, I recommend looking into your visa options and ensuring you have a job offer if you’re going on a work visa. You don’t want to waste time paying the high rents in the city if you don’t have work lined up already.

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FAQs About Living in Scotland as an Expat

Living in Scotland vs Ireland

There are many pros and cons to living in Scotland vs Ireland, depending on what is important to you.
If you’re looking for a lively city with plenty of nightlife and job opportunities, then Edinburgh or Glasgow would be a better choice than Dublin. However, if you prefer a more relaxed atmosphere, then rural Ireland may be a better fit for you.
The cost of living is also higher in Scotland than in Ireland, so keep that in mind when making your decision.

Living in Scotland vs England

There are many differences between living in Scotland and England, but it really depends on what you’re looking for.
If you want to be close to London and have easy access to the rest of Europe, then England may be a better choice. However, if you prefer a slower pace of life and stunning scenery, then Scotland is definitely the place for you.
Both England and Scotland have high costs of living in major cities.

Living in Scotland vs America

There are many pros and cons to living in Scotland vs America, depending on what you’re looking for.
Scotland is a much smaller country than the United States, so it may feel more manageable and less overwhelming.
However, America is much more diverse both culturally and geographically, giving you more options when it comes to choosing a place to live.
The cost of living is pretty similar in major cities, although Scottish people have more vacation time and free healthcare.

Living in Scotland vs Canada

There are many pros and cons to living in Scotland vs Canada, depending on what you’re looking for.
Scotland is a much smaller country than Canada, so it may feel more manageable and less overwhelming.
However, Canada is much more diverse both culturally and geographically, giving you more options when it comes to choosing a place to live.
The cost of living is pretty similar in major cities, although Canadian healthcare is free.
Like America, Canada also has a more diverse landscape with more opportunities for outdoor activities.

Safest places to live in Scotland

The smaller rural areas in Scotland are considered the safest due to the low crime rates; however, they can be very isolating.
The safest places to live in Scotland for expats are:
-Aberdeen
-North Berwick
-Dennistoun
-Edinburgh (has some pickpocketing crime)
-Glasgow (historically unsafe, but now very safe)

Is it hard to understand Scottish accents?

Some Scots have very strong accents that can be difficult to understand for foreigners. However, you’ll get used to it over time. And even if you don’t understand what someone is saying, chances are they will still be able to help you out with context clues.
Scots understand that Americans don’t know their accents well, so they’re usually ok to repeat themselves once or twice.


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