Writing & Living in Hanoi, Vietnam
Whisky! Men in skirts! Sir Alex Ferguson!
The three things that immediately spring to Vietnamese minds when you reply that you are from Scotland.
It was from this starting point that I recently developed a little presentation to act as a catalyst for discussion by some students I had been invited to meet. After breakfast at a nearby cafe, I kicked off with a flashy VisitScotland promo video to set the scene.
I then went through my carefully crafted PowerPoint presentation that sought to inform and entertain an audience that I had been told would range in age from 11 to 21 years. Tough crowd.
First off, I showed a map of Scotland then zoomed out to UK level and then Europe-wide to fix an idea of which part of the world we were talking about. Thereafter, there was a mixed bag of fun facts including that Scotland is the only country in the world where the top-selling soft drink isn’t Coke. It’s Irn Bru. Had I thought, I could have taken some along as it’s stocked in the Gourmet Shop at Fraser Suites on Xuan Dieu.
Scotland’s other national drink
Irn Bru (tag line: Made in Scotland from girders) allegedly contains more caffeine than Red Bull, and is a well-known hangover cure. Combine it, unthinkably for many, with Scotland’s other national drink and you have something called a Girder. I tried it for the first time a couple of years ago in a moment of reckless abandon and found it was actually very pleasant. But I digress.
Then there was a quick trot through a slide modestly entitled, ‘Scotland has invented everything worthwhile’. This is, of course, an extensive list, ranging from James Watt’s steam engine through television, the telephone, penicillin, rubber tyres, Dolly the Sheep, the world’s first cloned mammal, and the little known facts that both the Bank of England and the American Navy were founded by Scotsmen.
Any presentation on Scotland, meanwhile, would not be complete without saluting our contribution to the arts and sports. Not exhaustive, but these include Star Wars’ Ewen McGregor, Gerard Butler, of 300 fame and numerous other movies; tennis player Andy Murray, and the original 007, Sir Sean Connery. It is not particularly well known that Big Gerry is a Scot. A few years back he was interviewed on Scottish television news at the opening of an arts centre in Paisley.
He commenced the live interview in a vaguely mid-Atlantic accent until he yelled at a nearby youth who was making a racket. Immediately, he slipped back into his broad Paisley accent to make his point, yelling: “Haud it doon! We’re trying to make some telly ower here.”
He then forgot to revert back to his mid-Atlantic accent, which was a refreshing change.
Voicing a dragon
Weirdly, and this is a true story, I was sick last week and sounded much rougher than usual. I got talking to a Vietnamese guy on the bus and he said I sounded like the Viking from the movie ‘How to train your dragon’. The next day I discovered, on relating the story to a friend, that the Viking had been voiced by Gerard Butler. Given that Gerard Butler and I were born about 30 miles apart, it’s probably not surprising.
Weirder still, when I attempt to sound like the wee wifie on Google Translate, I, like Gerard, also produce a not very convincing American accent.