Friday, February 13, 2009


I love this city; this country; the people that populate this furrowed land. And when I first came here in 1999, I knew my love affair with Glasgow was just beginning. I knew that after my year abroad here, I would come back. I HAD to come back. Glasgow was a city in which I felt home.

But by fate, I was born in Canada and when you want a "City Life", there are not many places to go in Canada for one. Montreal, perhaps, if you're bilingual; Vancouver, maybe, if you're already somewhere out west (and a pot head); but if you're where I'm from (Napanee), there's really only one place: Toronto.

As much as I love Toronto, and enjoyed living there, I was always dreaming of what City Life was like back in Glasgow. Were my university friends still drinking in Uisge Breatha and dancing at the god awful Garage? Had the enormous Cineworld on Renfrew Street been completed? Was Insomnia still serving up greasy Scottish breakfasts to students and sketched out pillheads alike at 4.00am? (Sadly, no, because Insomnia Cafe is now closed).

Now that I live in Glasgow, I can appreciate Toronto from afar. I love the plethora of cheap (and excellent) food; the diversity of cultures and people; the cleanliness of the city; the distinct neighbourhoods (Little India, Little Portugal, Little Italy, Parkdale, Rosedale, The (Gay) Village). And perhaps, most noticeably, I love (and miss) the harmony that exists between so many cultures and nations in Toronto.

And perhaps it's naive of me to think that such a harmony exists in Toronto but nevertheless, I believe that multiculturalism is now fundamentally what it means to be a Canadian. As an immigrant myself, I know how foolish it is to think that life as an immigrant is easy in Canada:

Clearly, all of Canada continues to struggle through multiculturalism issues and to define what it means to be a Canadian. Few countries have opened their doors to such a wide cross-section of immigrants as Canada and no city has embraced it more than Toronto.

We can be proud of our diversity, of our willingness to embrace a wide range of cultural and religious differences. Yet many of our recent newcomers still face bigotry, racism and job discrimination.

Instead of questioning multiculturalism, we should reaffirm the inclusiveness and tolerance that has made modern Canada a success.

Our diversity is a source of strength, not weakness. Millions of new Canadians have settled successfully in Canada over the last 100 years. They and their children are proof that multiculturalism works.

I know that I've been lucky in life and realise that having lived in Toronto, one of the safest cities in North America, I've been sheltered somewhat.


I love this city that I chose to make my home in but sometimes, it breaks my heart. Like any riveting love affair, Glasgow and I have our episodic highs and lows. The last time she broke my heart, I started sobbing in front of my boyfriend and his friends. And maybe it wasn't the actual violence itself that upset me, as pointed out by DaviMack (who does a really awesome blog with his partner/girlfriend) but rather, the casual attitude towards such violence. Perhaps it's both elements. Most likely it's because I've never encountered racially or religiously motivated crime in my life before living here.

Glasgow's done it again and this time, I only live about ten minutes away.

I know there will (most likely) always be crime and sadly, violence but come on, aren't we beyond tribalism and Us vs. Them attitudes? Aren't we beyond killing each other because of colours and football? Aren't we beyond attacking asylum seekers and blaming perceived social and economic problems on immigrants? Surely we know better in 2009? Surely Glasgow can only get better?

So, I love this city; this country; the people that populate this furrowed land. But I wish weegies could love each other as much as I love them. I know that's cheesy but hey, it's true.

Anyway, I'll leave it to the talented Chris Rock to break it all down:

9 comments:

DaviMack said...

I find it easier to pretend to be a tourist... that way I get all the smiles & don't have to be so much of a "foreigner trying to move in." Sad, really.

On the other hand ... I think that the per-capita incidents are possibly lower here than they were back home (San Francisco), so ... perhaps it's better? They just scrutinize it harder, here? I don't know.

Phil said...

Glasgow has always been a violent wild west town. So violence didn't really shock me.

Till Kriss Donald that is.

I went to school round there and I just never imagined such brutality existed in that neighbourhood.

There were the occasional punch ups between asians and whites but for the most part relations were civil. Friendly even. We never thought we had a race problem such as they did in London.

But now...sigh...

Jennifer said...

Phil - maybe it's just a few individuals in the area that are...unsavory? I don't know. Nevertheless, it deeply disturbs me. Where do these tensions rise from?

Phil said...

I don't know Jennifer. I'm a little out of touch as I live in London now (though still get my haircut at Victor Vezza from time to time!). I love your blog as it keeps me up to date with the old toon.

I do still talk to a few people in Pollokshields etc some of whom are Asian. They often mention the generational difference. Previously there was a very aspirational group of Asian immigrants arriving, starting businesses and pushing there kids down professional paths.

Many succeeded and bought nice houses, moved upwards, to suburbs etc and left a rump of unsuccessful Asians in certain pockets. These guys seem to be a lot more militant and gang orientated and dont have that keep your head down mentality the previous generation had.

I realise that is a fairly Asian centric view of the problem. I don't know too much about the white end of things.

Anyway keep blogging. I really enjoy it.

ariosa said...

Hey now, not everyone who lives in Vancouver is a pot head :P

I stumbled upon your blog after a google search... I'm thinking of applying for grad school at the U. of Glasgow... I was in Scotland in 2007 and fell in love with it, and distinctly remember wandering around the campus and the west end, and falling in love, thinking 'I could see myself going to school here, living here'.

Here's hoping I can find a way to finance it, and get over there! I'm enjoying what I'm reading so far!

Jennifer said...

Phil - aw, thanks very much. I mainly blog so my Mom know what I'm up to/ thinking. I'm beginning to come round to the idea of living in the Southside, after years of living in the West end, and it just saddens me to think that violence erupts from stupid things like religion and race. I mean, granted, there will always be random violence in Glasgow and enough that, I can't get my head round!

Ariosa - Sorry, that was hyperbole. I know you're not all potheads out there - just the majority. Just kidding! You should totally come back out here. Best of luck with the finance!

Flippin' Yank said...

You're so lucky!

The first time I visited Glasgow was in 2005 and I fell in love with it. The hilly streets reminded me of San Francisco and it was easy to navigate. It's not as aesthetically pleasing as Edinburgh, but Glasgow always stood out to me because of it's menacing undercurrent, a raw grittiness. I liked how the people were down to earth, warm and friendly, a contrast to the indifferent and aloof Edinburghers.

Flippin' Yank said...

Oh btw, I forgot to mention on the downside there is racial tension there unfortunately. I know from the experience my Norn Iron fiance has told me, he was clearly not welcomed in some places because he's Irish, even though technically he's Ulster Scots and they all come from the same lineage. I'm sure it's not just a football thing, it goes way back than that. Weird.

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