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By Angus Baird
 
Like most I received news of the 'royal baby' by checking the international news websites when I awoke on the morning of the 23rd of July. 
 
The gaggle of sycophants triumphantly declaring the new royal heir to the throne led immediately to feelings of frustration, anger and disappointment.  The more I read and watched the more it increased.

The sadist in me devouring the reports whilst finishing off my morning coffee.  Glancing at the comments sections I was swept up in the ebbing and flowing of public opinion tapping the 'likes' and 'dislikes' where appropriate.

I suspect you had a similar experience.  The difference with myself however is that; I was slurping my coffee and reading the news whilst sitting in my living room in a small city, by Chinese standards, of just over 1 million about an hour away from Shanghai.  A world away from the fanaticism I was witnessing in London. 

You see I now have been away from my home, Scotland, for the last three years.  I am, what would be deemed by many, an economic migrant.  The recession and financial crisis upon my graduation in 2009 left myself and thousands of other young Scots with little option than to head off abroad in the hope of securing a decent form of employment and an escape from the crippling student loans and rising house prices that have left many of my generation in a perpetual cycle of debt. 

Of course some would say I'm being melodramatic sticking to the old adage; if you work hard and persist there is always hope and reward.  I would not disagree with that.  I would however disagree that reward and fulfillment are possible for many young people in today's Scotland. 

After completing a TEFL course, thanks to ILA funding, a journey into overseas teaching was in order.  Like many, employment in English language teaching has provided me with the essential escape to avoid the benefit trap of my homeland.  I welcome and indeed embrace this opportunity.  My salary is reasonable and my adult students are enthusiastic.  You may then be asking; why the long face?

For the last year I have been trying softly to convince the Chinese students of the many benefits of international integration, the rule of law and a sound working, and above all, accountable democracy.  This for obvious reasons has not been without its challenges due to their present indoctrination.  Reminders have had to be made about the influence of media and the forces that control the information that is being presented. 

Although I have stressed that democracy is an imperfect system and not without its challenges, it is well worth the effort and rewards.  My focus, when discussing such matters, has been to set out the principles I deem to be best for a prosperous nation; the retaining of socialist elements such as free education and healthcare whilst allowing free open elections to ensure that those that have a position of power and influence are always accountable.

This however was all blown out the water by the recent images that have been beamed across the globe.  It has led to a confusion and distrust in what I tentatively call 'my' students.  Questions have been raised as to how and when the Royal Family were elected and how this fits in with a modern democracy. 

Many are fans of British fantasy, shows such as Merlin that conjure up a mystical ancient land but they realise that the practice of unelected kings is anarchic and not a system that should be in place today.  "How does this fit into a democratic system?", one enquiring mind asked me yesterday. 

As a committed republican I know of course it doesn't and shouldn't.  My attempts at answering were largely pathetic and easily stripped bare by the 30 plus adults eagerly waiting my response.  I half-heartedly tried to wax lyrical about how the power of the monarchy was dormant.  None-the-less I felt like a fraud, a charlatan and a hypocrite.  The notions that I had been attempting to convey now seemed like a deliberate attempt to mislead and obfuscate.  As I'm sure you are aware China has its fair share of individuals with these characteristics already and I felt no better than any other of these low grade proselytisers.

My saviour, as pathetic as that term may sound, was what may happen next year.  I fell back on what I hoped we would achieve with an independent Scotland.  I stressed that the notion of a free and fare Scotland was not yet accomplished and was a far from a completed process that would hopefully take another vital step over the next fourteen months.  I think I just about won the students over.

As a Scot living abroad is seems obvious that independence, from first the outdated stagnant Westminster parliament then the logical next step of becoming a fully fledged republic, is the only way we can have any credibility in the eyes of others abroad.  I am tired of explaining on an almost daily basis that I am not English and that Scotland does not belong to England. 

In China, and no doubt other countries around the world, there is no clear definition of Scotland.  It is simply known as a region of England.  In fact whilst every other country in Europe is recognised as simply that, Scotland is not. 

There is not a word for Scotland's people in the Chinese language in the way that we would understand.   The suffix that is added to most country names simply does not apply in describing oneself as Scottish.  I have been informed it would be far easier if I said I was English from Scotland. 

This indignity goes further when applying for any legal documents.  My work permit for example labels me as English, not British and certainly not Scottish.  To the average Chinese person there is no real nation of Scotland apart from the little they have seen in Hollywood films. 

It exists in part as a fantasy as much as the Loch Ness monster, bigfoot or King Arthur.  My hope is that when I come back next year for the referendum we together can put this sad state of affairs to an end and give Scotland its proper place in the minds of other peoples. 

It would also allow the thousands of others like me working abroad to have a far more positive dignified experience.

Comments  

 
# elmuzzerino 2013-07-29 23:48
Brilliant. It reflects my own experience in many ways. www.muzzerino.com/

I wish we could transplant 5 million Scots to go and live abroad for a year, then return. I'd expect a 99% yes vote if that happened.
 
 
# Jo Bloggs 2013-07-30 15:41
I was thinking something similar, elmuzzerino. all the crap people spout about being 'patriotic Scots' but 'proud to be British' would soon dry up when confronted with the widespread perception that Scotland doesn't exist. i've lived in Finland now for 26 years and have got used to it, although admittedly it's not as bad as it was. I remember sometime asround 1990, when Scotland were to play Finland in a world cup qualifier, the Tartan Army gathered across the sea in Tallinn to parry before the game. I went over for the fun and I was in a shop with a pal in his kilt and his Estonian girlfriend. the shop assistant asked why the town was full of men in 'skirts'. When told they were from Scotland, she enquired "What's that?". Not even where's that – What's that? Invisibility is no fun. Nor is always having to explain your not English. There's many reasons I'm praying for YES vote next year, and this is definitely one of them.
 
 
# Angus Baird 2013-07-30 16:09
I completely agree, it would make a huge difference.

Nice blog.
 
 
# graememcallan 2013-07-30 00:44
Angus, I'm like you but am now unemployed in Florida - cannae even get a minimum wage job, Wife works part-time and we've taken in a student to help pay the mortgage and scrape by on Food Stamps :(
 
 
# creigs1707repeal 2013-07-30 00:44
Bravo! Reminds me of my own time working in Beijing many years ago.

We can regain our voice and be heard once more.

YES Scotland.
 
 
# Breeks 2013-07-30 06:26
Sorry for the phonetic spelling, but I was told to say "Maw Sugalan ran". I think they understood me, would say something else in Chinese which I would have to shake my head and "Ting bu tong" virtually every time.
So, with hindsight, I was running around China on a motorbike telling everybody I was from Scotland and I didn't understand anything...
 
 
# truth 2013-07-30 11:23
The author is no doubt correct for mainland China, however, in Hong Kong Scotland is recognised to an extent.

Again apologies for phonetic spellings, but in Cantonese we would say "Ngaw hai so gat lan yan" - I am Scottish. And Scotland is "So gat lan".

England is "Ying got", and there's no surprise that the UK is "Ying got" also.

The perception there is generally UK, London, nothing else matters.
 
 
# Angus Baird 2013-07-30 16:25
It's a nice image.

I much prefer phonetic spelling to pinyin. Cheers, just ashame it wasn't a bit easier just to say Scottish.
 
 
# Ben Power 2013-07-30 06:34
Fascinating.
I can recall a heated exchange with the OZ Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs years ago about Scots not being recognised as a distinct ethnic group for public funding purposes in Australia.
Generally they are recognised officially as a distinct ethnic group in OZ now, finally.
Prior to that meeting and subsequent lobbying elsewhere we were deemed to be "Anglo Celts" and not eligible for public funding as a cultural group.

"Anglo" !!!!!! Celt perhaps, even though historically there was and is evidence that we go back to neolithic times and predate the celtic migrations. Then of course there are the many other incomers from elsewhere who are also Scots.

So not so surprising that China has difficulty defining us separate from English in official linguistic dialogue.

It is about time we change all that.
Vote Yes in 2014
 
 
# RTP 2013-07-30 08:07
In my long ago younger years I travelled abroad and it was amazing how I had to correct people when they thought I was from England I was proud to say I was from Scotland and was always welcomed with open arms,even today if you speak English abroad everyone assumes you are from England its just the way Britain is portrayed.I have no disrespect for the English just the establishment.
 
 
# mackdee 2013-07-30 13:31
Yea i hear you my friend.

The normal reply to Im from 'Schotlandia' now is 'Ahh Mel Gibson'.....
Dont take it personally brother, the intention is always kind.

I personally believe that the majority of Scots would be somewhat ignorant to Chinese culture's aswell. Not in a mean spirited way, its just that cliche's tend to stick in the mind a little more i guess.

Oh and,There is nothing more Scottish than a Scotsman who does'nt live in Scotland.
 
 
# Steafan34 2013-07-30 17:52
I lived in Japan for just short of a decade. In Japan, if you are foreign and speak English as your first language, then strangers first assume you to be American, English, or maybe Australian - usually in that order, and until they find out otherwise.
During the 2002 World Cup in Japan, the media actually did make an effort to explain to the Japanese public how Britain is made up. Scotland weren't involved, but they referred to the English football team as "Ingurando" rather than "Igirisu" or "Eikoku" which are their other names for the UK. "Igirisu" comes from the portuguese for England, but the native japanese for the UK - Eikoku (英国)- also means, well frankly, England, just as - Eigo (英語) - refers to the English language.
I'm sure Scots teaching English abroad will continue to be assumed as English for a long time to come by strangers.....just as many other first language English-speaking people are assumed to be american first in countries with close ties to the US.
 
 
# zorbathejock 2013-07-30 18:05
When we moved to Cyprus we had to exchange our driving licence for a Cypriot one. Stamped on it is "Issued in exchange for a driving licence returned to England". This for a licence obtained from Swansea issued to an address in Scotland.
 
 
# schawaldowris 2013-08-01 12:20
So what is new
In extensive foreign travel, I have lost count of the number of times I have had to explain at passport controls I carried a British passport not an English one. On one occasion in Morocco I was told that unless I admitted I was English I would be refused entry.

Even a casual glance at the foreign press before the birth of the new baby will show that the Queen and her family are all referred to as the English Royal family. The Spanish press are usually exact when talking about Reino Unido, even so the Queen is always named as Isobel de Ingleterra.

It has always been the responsibility of the Foreign Office to advise on diplomatic niceties.. for three hundred years they have been a dismal failure.

So much for the benefits of Scots identity in the Union
 
 
# Northesk 2013-08-07 02:43
I can relate to those above in the annoying quest to assert one's Scottish identity abroad. Strangely, I have rarely had a problem with this, over a lifetime of travel and work overseas. From Scandinavian countries south to France and all over Europe, to China and America and wherever in between.

When filling in my immigration documents for Hong Kong and Chinese border control I unfailingly state "Scottish" before "British" in the nationality space. It has never been questioned.

My friends in Hong Kong and China know full well where I come from and they are educated enough to know the historical difference between the Scots and the English. For all the many years I've spent in China I'm known unquestioningly as Sugelanren, never ever to be confused with Yingwenren.
 

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