Ever noticed how Dundonians are permanently moaning about Dundee but equally are the first to defend it? They’ll also probably live here for the rest of their lives. People who live in Dundee for any length of time tend to adapt to this schizophrenic relationship with the city.
Dundee is an anomaly. It’s not obviously beautiful and prestigious like Edinburgh, it lacks the middle-class financial district that Glasgow boasts, and it doesn’t have distinguishing features like Aberdeen’s perma-grey sky. But it does have a unique charm. Take a step back for a second and truly think about it. The student bubble is concentrated in a tiny area of the westend surrounded by iconic pubs like the Speedwell (known as Menies to the locals). If you visit Speedwell’s facebook page it has fans from places as far afield as Vancouver. Dundee is a city that infects you deep down. I’m sure everyone thinks fondly of the city they studied in but there’s something magical that lights the eyes of Dundee alumni when you mention our grotty little city. The problem is I can never pin down exactly what it is that makes us feel this way. It seems simplistic to say it’s the student night life. The Union is great but there must be something more.
A friend has just this second changed her facebook status to ‘just watched the sun going down over the River Tay this evening. That’s why I go to uni in Dundee (the only reason)’. Maybe that’s it. Dundee is in a beautiful geographic position with the city rising from the banks of the Tay and the sunsets are enough to put everything into perspective – even if it lasts merely seconds. There’s also something different about the kind of people that come to Dundee to study. Something a bit more real, down to earth, and rebellious. Like the city, the University has a unique character. We’re not like the other ancients but we’re not one of the new kids about town either.
To me Dundee embodies modern Scotland. It has a plethora of ‘old man bars’, dwindling industries and the scars of those that have already left. Pulling in the other direction is a Scotland embodied by the cultural quarter (by that they mean the DCA) but also investment in the water-front project, the Victoria and Albert Museum and a burgeoning biotechnology industry. Look at the city’s politics: a microcosm of the trends in Scottish politics, where we see Labour gripping on to one MP – the only bulwark to total SNP domination over the city. To me this is what Dundee is all about. It doesn’t hide itself away like St. Andrews or Edinburgh, it doesn’t have localised concerns like Glasgow but instead has all facets of Scotland and unashamedly presents them.
The mentality of Dundonians is also a representation of Scotland. We harken to the past but there is a confident, forward looking and progressive beast that is slowly awakening. Dundee is an exciting place to live and study – I just hope it can retain its charm as it strides forward into the unknown.