When Graeme Connolly takes Augusta State University students on trips to his native Scotland, there’s an expectation among some that everyone in Glasgow wears kilts, eats haggis and plays the bagpipes.
Connolly is pleased when he can show how Scots really live, but it’s also a reminder of a time when the extent of his knowledge about America came from TV shows such as Cheers and Friends.
Connolly grew up in Ayr (pronounced “Air”) on the west coast, only a few miles from some of Scotland’s finest golf courses. But it was a position as a soccer coach that brought him to ASU in 1998.
As he adjusted to Augusta, he noticed several striking differences from home, most notably the broad distances between destinations. The European custom of walking to the neighborhood pub or grabbing some bread from the corner grocery was replaced with driving to a big-box store in a SUV. He was also struck by the tall, lighted signs for restaurants along Washington Road.
“I thought, ‘This is like Vegas,’ ” he said.
Connolly has since grown accustomed to both America and Southern culture, though he maintains a thick brogue that would make Sean Connery proud. He admits with a smile that the accent helped make friends with American ladies and probably landed him his wife.
After seven years of marriage, “she probably doesn’t notice (the accent) anymore,” Connolly said.
According to U.S. Census estimates from 2006 to 2010, Connolly is one of 21 Scots in Richmond County. Simon Medcalfe, who hails from Manchester, England, is one of 88 Englishmen.
Like Connolly, Medcalfe was surprised by how frequently Americans drove.
“I remember one of the things that amazed me was when I went out for lunch with someone and we drove across the road to the restaurant,” said Medcalfe, who came to the U.S. in 1998.
Medcalfe’s north England accent is smoother than Connolly’s, but his native vocabulary still slips in occasionally. He was teaching a business class recently at ASU when he referenced the “indicator” on a car.
“Is that like a blinker?” someone in the class asked.
“No, a blinker is what you put over a horse’s eyes,” he replied.
“Don’t you mean a blinder?” they countered.
“No, a blinder is good play in sports,” he said.
Vernacular differences notwithstanding, both Connolly and Medcalfe have found plenty of things they love about their adopted homes.
Though not a fan of shrimp and grits or biscuits, Medcalfe loves a good burger. The all-American sport of baseball is a favorite family pastime. Both are fond of the warm, sunny weather.
Connolly has found that folks in Georgia share much in common with Scots in that they are down to earth, hospitable and easy to get along with.
In both his homes, “it doesn’t take long to make friends,” Connolly said.