I, a German Scot, have a wee, random, personal anecdote for you. HIMNS – How I met Nicola Sturgeon.
It was a dreich day. In non-Scottish words: it was raining, the entire air was grey and wet. This is what living in a cloud must really be like. But this is Scotland after all, so I keep telling myself even after three years in Glasgow, it’s part of the package and authentic experience.
I also remember that it was a Thursday because that’s the day when I usually pick up my fruit box. During lockdown number 732 it used to be the only day when I had the rare opportunity to talk to a living, breathing (behind a mask, obvs!) human being.
This is why I was babbling some inanities over the counter of the tiny shop in Strathbungo, standing with my back to the door. To be honest, during the lockdown, I shamelessly savoured and exhausted these weekly five minutes of interpersonal contact. But eventually, I started to feel guilty about blocking the shop with my mere presence. I turned around to check for other customers.
What I saw next wasn’t your ordinary neighbourhood fellow customer.
There, in her party-appropriate yellow coat, stood Scotland’s First Minister. Waiting patiently in the rain until I had finished my ramblings.
I don’t know what I would have expected. But no security guards ushered me out, polite yet semi-forcefully; no cordoning off of the shop for security reasons. (Although judging by the sheer heap of misogynistic crap on Twitter and on Facebook, this would have been more than reasonable. In her place, I probably wouldn’t leave the house without a pack of rather angry and very loyal dogs.)
No, it was just Nicola – ‚oor Nic‘, as some Scots say. Slightly panicky, I picked up my backpack and opened the door. Politicians are notoriously short on time and have things to do that definitely transcend shop-chats. Especially in a global pandemic and before an election. ‚So sorry‘, I said to her, thereby subconsciously demonstrating the extent of my assimilation into a culture that apologises to everyone for everything, all the time. ‚Oh no, not at all’, she replied.
Meanwhile, my brain remarked: ‚Can you imagine bumping into Angela Merkel just like that?‘ I could not.
As I was just about to move on with my life and return to the reign of my to-do list at home, something inside me spontaneously decided otherwise.
So I hastily turned around and said: ‚I don’t want to take up any of your valuable time, but there’s is something I just have to say.‘ I took a breath. ’Thank you. Thank you for making me feel at home and welcome here. I’m from Germany, I made Scotland my home and I just saw your video on Twitter, in which you welcome us EU citizens. This means a lot, it really does. So, thank you. That’s all.’
She looked at me, put the palms of her hands together, bowed her head, and replied: ’No, thank YOU.’
That’s it. That’s the story.
A simple, short encounter that meant a lot to me – as an EU citizen from Germany living in a post-Brexit UK with rather hostile policies.
Here’s the video I was referring to:
We want to support EU citizens to #StayinScotland.— Scottish Government (@scotgov) March 24, 2021
✔️ You can apply even if you don’t have a National Insurance Number
✔️ Adults and children should apply
Help to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme is available at:
? 0800 916 9847 (free helpline) pic.twitter.com/lXl1EoXpOx
I know, I know. One person doth not a political party make. (Here’s a great, extensive piece in the New Yorker about Nicola Sturgeon.)
But if indeed ’the fish smells from the head’ – as Germans say when we want to point out how miserable leadership spoils entire organisations – perhaps the reverse is a bit true, too.
Just open any news website and smash your head against the screen in sheer desperation and disbelief of how low they can actually go, even PT (post-Trump). Kindness, humility, and human decency are qualities that are as rare as they are essential in political leaders nowadays.
Whatever the specific political inclination: as long as these qualities are present, they will impact political leadership and seep into actions and policies – and make life better for a huge range of humans. That’s at least what I think. And my encounter with Nicola Sturgeon reminded me of this.
There are worlds between politicians who have dubious donors sponsoring their fancy-schmancy wallpaper and those who wait in the rain until a chatty German woman is done with her fruit shopping. And frankly, I think this world could do with a few more of the latter.
Here are more posts about Scotland (in German):
- Schottsplainer #1: Warum will Schottland Unabhängigkeit?
- Warum zur Hölle ausgerechnet Schottland?
- Nach Schottland auswandern: meine Erfahrungen
Transparency: I’m no member of any political party. I do, however, support Scotland’s democratic right to hold another independence referendum.
PS: I’m also a freelance journalist, writer, translator, and student and running this wee blog costs – as everything else in this world – a bit of money. Whoever likes to do so can leave me a little tip here. Thank you! <3