39 Ways Americans And Brits See The World DifferentlyBy John P.
The English language seems to be the only common thing between the United States and the United Kingdom. Despite this similarity, there is literally a world of difference between the two countries.
The disparate time zones, currencies, and the location of a car’s steering wheel, are just a few of the major differences. Add in a slew of traditions and customs, and you will see the gap widen even more. If you plan to visit the UK, make sure you know what you are up against. It is best to arm yourself with knowledge. Doing so will save you from being embarrassed, or worse, jailed!
Police officers in America are allowed to carry guns during dangerous circumstances in order to protect innocent people against hardened criminals. The same is not true in the UK.
Though police in the United Kingdom are similarly responsible for protecting the innocent, they do not need to carry firearms. A special group referred to as Authorized Firearms Officers (AFO) are specially trained to handle escalated situations. The AFO are the only ones permitted to carry guns and apply excessive force if needed.
Paid Maternity Leave
Despite being a developed country, the United States lags behind other nations in terms of the maternity leave it provides for new mothers. America does not offer maternity leave to women who have just given birth. Mothers are entitled to 12 weeks of leave, but these weeks are all unpaid.
Meanwhile, mothers in the United Kingdom are given 52 weeks of maternity leave. Most of this time is paid, and their job will be there for them when they return. Specifically, women are allowed 39 weeks of paid leave, and there is a lot of flexibility around the terms of this time off.
Time For Tea
The British love their tea. Indeed, they love the concoction so much that they’ve created a specific time in the day to drink it. They have also been making tea for so long that they can be described as tea connoisseurs.
Despite advances in technology, the Brits insist on making tea in the most traditional way possible. Their American counterparts go for speed, not tradition. They make their tea warm by placing it in a microwave. It’s quick and easy! But the Brits consider such tea-making processes to be blasphemy.
No Hidden Fees
When shopping in the United States, the price tag seen on an item is not the same price customers actually pay. Added fees such as state taxes are included in the cost when it is rung up in the cash register. All prices seen before purchase refer to what an item costs before tax.
Things are different in the UK. The prices shown are the same exact prices that will be paid. There are no hidden fees that will surprise unsuspecting consumers. Tourists who are not familiar with United States rules are usually shocked at the money they need to fork up.
Champions Of The World?
Both the British and the Americans love sports. Both countries enjoy the thrill of victory and cringe at the agony of defeat. Their difference lies in how each country refers to their favorite champion sports teams.
Americans refer to their winning sports teams as “world champions.” However, this detail confuses the Brits because US sports teams only compete in America. An example would be Major League Baseball championships – these are referred to as the World Series. However, apart from one Canadian team, only American teams are allowed to qualify.
America offers students a slew of private and public universities. Any student has the freedom to choose where to study as long as they can afford it. However, going to college in the United Kingdom is a tad different.
Most universities in the UK are public educational institutions. Though there are private institutions, they are comparatively rare. Specifically, there are only two of them in existence – the University of Buckingham and a university college based in London.
Safety Is Guaranteed
The British prioritize safety. For them, being cautious is better than being sorry. This applies to even the smallest details, such as electricity. If you are in the UK and are going to use a hairdryer, look at the electrical plug.
A detail you cannot miss is that UK plugs come with an on/off switch. This feature is extremely useful for those who want to be protected against accidental fires or electrical shortages. Americans might find this over the top because such a device is not the norm in US homes.
No Credit Card Fraud
American customers are used to purchasing anything they want with their credit cards. When eating in restaurants, patrons have no second thoughts about giving their cards to servers when paying their bills.
Things work differently in the United Kingdom. Whenever a Brit hands their credit card to a waiter, they expect them to bring a credit card reader to the table. If not, they immediately become paranoid about their card details being stolen. Americans tend to think this is excessively cautious, while Brits think the American attitude is far too cavalier.
The Cost Of Medical Attention
During a medical emergency, British residents can call on an ambulance and expect it to provide them with immediate support. They also expect to pay little to nothing for the service. On average, they pay around £7 (approximately US$13).
However, Americans experience things differently. An ambulance service can cost them hundreds of dollars. Sometimes, their bill could reach up to US$1,000! At times, the cost is more painful than their medical emergency, leading to the strange trend of Americans catching Ubers to hospital when they’re experiencing an emergency.
Though the United Kingdom and the United States both have a constitution, there are slight differences in how it is implemented. In America, the constitution is considered a codified document. It also functions as the law of the land, filled with rules to which everyone must adhere.
In the UK, the constitution is not regarded as the ultimate legal document because it is generally seen as a collection of common laws. It does not have the highest legal authority.
Start Drinking Young
Alcoholic beverages are consumed in both the United States and the United Kingdom. But the age when one can start chugging them is different for each nation. Americans can legally start drinking when they turn 21.
However, British youngsters can start earlier. They can legally consume alcohol when they are 18 years old. Brits who are touring America might get the shock of their lives when they are not allowed to drink – not even a pint – when in a bar.
Overtipping Is The Norm
Brits who are not used to American tipping norms might be shocked to find out that overtipping seems to be normal. People in the United Kingdom find it odd when Americans want to tip everyone. In the US, doormen, cab drivers, beauty salon attendants, and most service workers expect to receive tips.
However, tipping is different in the UK. People expect to give tips only in selected establishments such as hotels, restaurants, and after having a haircut. After all, Brits believe that all those pounds don’t grow on trees.
Americans are used to getting free refills. Besides the large portions of food available in restaurants, customers are also provided with all-they-can-drink refills. Though this may be the reason why the US has one of the world’s highest obesity rates, Americans are not stopping anytime soon.
Things are different across the pond, though, where refills are almost unheard of. Brits consume what they are given, nothing more, nothing less. They are also not used to getting refills without paying for them.
Cutting In Is A No-No
Social conformity is practiced in both America and Britain. True though this may be, there are plenty of American social norms that the Brits would never dream of practicing.
When standing in a queue, for example, Americans do not mind asking if they can cut in line. Some people are happy to allow it if they are not in a rush. This practice is very much frowned upon in the UK. Never cut in a line when you are in the UK, even if you are buying something small compared to others.
Commercials For Pharmaceuticals
Foreigners who just stepped on US shores might be astonished at the number of television commercials promoting pharmaceuticals. Brits will likely find this detail very odd. But America is not alone. New Zealand also has a slew of pharmaceutical commercials.
America and New Zealand are two of the only countries in the world that legally permit the advertising of prescription drugs directly to consumers. The United Kingdom certainly does not permit this practice. It seems tea is more than enough to soothe even the most pressing ailment – most of the time, anyway!
Americans Love To Drive
People in the United States love their cars. Most of those who live in the suburbs depend on their vehicles to take them everywhere. It is their primary mode of transport. Sometimes, going to a nearby park will prompt Americans to drive instead of walk.
The Brits, by contrast, love to walk. Though they are car owners too, most would rather walk to complete an errand. This could be as simple as going to the grocery store or buying something from the pharmacy.
Pancakes Are Not The Most Important Meal Of The Day
The usual breakfast most Americans love is pancakes. It is the first meal of the day and is especially cherished by children. Pour some delicious syrup on your stack, and many believe it is heaven on a plate. But the British do not feel the same way.
Pancakes for breakfast is quite a rarity in the UK. It is not the usual meal families would eat in the morning. Most only eat them during special events such as Shrove Tuesday. Thus, don’t be surprised if there is no IHOP anywhere on the British isles.
Friends In Need Are Friends Indeed
Most British folk agree on the one trait they find positive in Americans – they are very friendly. The usually tight-lipped Brits admit to the charm of their Stateside counterparts.
Most people in Britain believe that Americans are more than willing to assist anyone who needs it. They also admit that this trait is quite charming. Even if someone is a stranger, Americans do not mind lending a helping hand. This character trait is not as common in the UK.
Ice, Ice, Baby
Enter any American restaurant, and you’d find a mountain of ice in most drinks. People in the United States seem to be a bit obsessed with placing tons of ice in every drink. The same cannot be said for the Brits.
Indeed, most Europeans prefer ice-free beverages. For them, a drink that is served at room temperature is way better tasting than those drowning in ice. They believe drinks are more flavorful when there is no ice to dilute the taste away.
Bathroom Habits Are Hard To Break
The UK is similar to its European cousins in terms of wastefulness – the British do not like using anything excessively. This is shown in the way they utilize toilet water. An average UK bathroom uses around 1.28 gallons of water for each flush. The same cannot be said for American toilets.
In the United States, an average toilet uses as much as 3 to 7 gallons of water for flushing. To the British, that is too much water being unnecessarily wasted. Plus, the Brits cannot seem to get over the fact that there is a space seen between the bathroom floor and the door and walls of the stall in most American public restrooms.
Watch Your Language
Even if the United States and Britain both speak English, there are differences in how they use the language. Specifically, there are slang terms used in America that carry different meanings in the UK. Your understanding of these terms can make or break you.
For instance, if a friend did not show up to a planned event, the appropriate American expression to use is that they “blow off.” But if you use this same phrase in the UK, it means “break wind.”
Never Tease The Guards
American tourists often find it irresistibly tempting to tease the Queen’s Guards when in the UK. Some Americans seem to get a rise out of provoking an officer of royalty. These guards are trained to keep a straight face, regardless of any teasing they may receive from the public.
Try not to go overboard, though, because if you get on their bad side, they possess the right to draw their weapons. Who knows what they might do to you. Don’t be rude, or else!
Money Makes The World Go Around
The pound is the currency used in the United Kingdom. But many Americans do not know that there are many forms of this currency. While England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland use the same currency, it is not the same pound for all.
American tourists who are in Northern Ireland as well as in Scotland will be surprised to know that these two countries utilize alternative pound notes. If you try to use the same currency in Wales or England, expect to receive very surprised looks from locals.
Pay It Forward
Americans are very concerned about getting their own tabs. The usual process is to pay someone back if someone picks up your tab. Paying them right back is done via cash or through Venmo. But things are different in England.
If you pay for a round of drinks for your friends, your friend will simply pay for the round – either this time or the next time you go out. This kind of reciprocity is the fuel of friendships in the UK, so it’s something you’ll have to get used to if you visit.
Many people in Europe are into kissing as a form of greeting. But things are different in Britain. If you are in the United Kingdom and you are going to meet someone for the first time, do not give them a friendly kiss.
Hugging is also a no-no. The best thing to do is to give a handshake. Americans do not mind giving people a friendly peck on the cheek, even upon first meeting. However, the pandemic has changed the way the whole world greets, so wherever you are, it pays to be respectful and hold back a little.
Soccer Is Not Football
Brits and Americans love to play ball. But being specifically correct about the ball game you’re engaging in is important. If you are an American who is into soccer, never ask a Brit to play the sport with you. There is no such sport as soccer in the UK.
However, there is a game called football in Britain. It is precisely the same game as soccer, but only Americans (and Australians) use the s word. The rest of the world refer to the game as football.
Going on a United Kingdom tour may be taxing – literally. Take note that you might need to bring more money than you expect. You might also want to skip the souvenir stores, especially if you are in the nation’s capital.
The sales tax in the UK is an enormous 20%. But if you are touring the US, taxes are not quite so large. When you’re in New York, expect to fork out an additional 8% in sales tax. Either way, it’s important to factor these added costs into your purchasing decisions while traveling.
Do not play around with the stereotype that British people have bad teeth. That is clearly far from the truth. Though you may have been used to seeing English movie and television characters having awful teeth, do not expect to see the same thing when you are actually in the UK.
Do not let the Austin Powers movies make you believe all Brits have bad teeth. It would be incredibly rude to even ask anyone in the UK about their state of dental health.
Britain is famous for its fish and chips. It is a staple UK food that is found in most restaurants. Savory South Asian foods are also common. But if you are in the UK, make sure to go to an establishment that serves affordable and authentic menu items.
Doing so ensures that you will enjoy your meal. You will also save yourself from paying for unnecessary surcharges as well as countless visits to the restroom. Go for real bites and consume real food.
Don’t Play With Accents
The temptation to adopt a British accent is strong. Some cannot help but put on a cockney accent based on what they’ve heard on television or in movies. But many Brits do not take it lightly when someone makes fun of the way they speak.
Even if your Harry Potter accent is perfect, people in the UK do not find it entertaining when you make fun of the way locals talk. Keep it real, and stop pretending you have a British accent.
A Four-In-One Deal
Not many know that there are actually four countries inside the United Kingdom. Indeed, many people wrongly assume that England and the UK are one and the same. In truth, the UK comprises Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, and Wales.
Knowing these details is important if you are in the UK. The worst thing that can happen is to refer to the UK as though it’s all England. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. So, be sure to get your geographical facts straight!
The Queen Does Not Deal With Commoners
Tourists come to the UK with varying degrees of familiarity with English royalty. The Queen and her family are cultural world figures. But many outside the UK believe that all Brits must have at least met the Queen personally. Of course, commoners do not personally know the Queen and her family.
Therefore, asking a local if they are chummy with her royal highness is a big mistake. Doing so will only make you look ignorant, so avoid this error at all costs.
The “Wrong” Side Of The Road
Tourists in the United Kingdom need a lot of time to get used to driving on the wrong side of the road. But Brits believe that they have always been driving on the right side of the street.
The position of the steering wheel is similarly “wrong,” according to Americans. Of course, Brits believe that Americans are the ones who are driving on the wrong side of the road. Which country is correct? It’s all relative if you ask us.
Biscuits Are Not Cookies, Or Are They?
Many details about American and British lifestyles can be confusing. Food-wise, both countries often have two different names for one type of food. If, for instance, you feel the need to dip a fluffy food item into the juices left on your plate, never make the mistake of asking for a biscuit in the UK.
If you do, expect to receive something that is usually eaten by Cookie Monster because you will be handed what Americans think of as a cookie. If you want a biscuit, the closest thing to it in the UK is a scone, but the locals never dip these delicacies in gravy. Get your food facts straight! Your stomach will thank you for it.
It is always best to pack clothes according to what the weather will be like. Contrary to popular belief, the United Kingdom does not always have rainy, cloudy weather. Don’t always expect to have an umbrella with you (but do make sure you have one handy).
Make sure you pack for different weather types because England has five distinct air masses. One moment, the weather can become tropical. The next minute, it can freeze over. Have clothes ready for various situations.
The English are famous for being polite and having many rules of etiquette. It is rare for them to be rude to others (and usually only after several pints of beer). The culture of politeness is so pervasive that locals even joke about it themselves. Many do not have the heart to complain to a manager.
Tourists are, therefore, expected to behave the same way. If you are feeling grouchy, make sure you still respond in a positive manner if you are asked about how your day went.
Patience Is A Virtue
Try not to let your hunger cause you to be hangry, especially if you are in the UK. British dining etiquette dictates that waving your hand or snapping your fingers to call a waiter is a no-no.
Though the gesture might be okay in other European countries, Brits find this kind of behavior rude. If you do not want to end up with something unmentionable in your food, avoid making this gesture as if your life depended on it. Instead, practice patience.
The Metric System
The British are actually used to both the Imperial and the metric system. Try not to be intimidated whenever you see “miles” when you are driving. Most pubs also use pints. This system of measurement was, in fact, created in the UK.
The problem for Americans is that the country also uses the metric system. So, be prepared for liters, meters, and kilometers. Also, take note that if you see their “imperial pint” measurement, it is much bigger than the pints poured in the US.
Don’t Talk To Strangers
Americans – especially those who live in big cities such as New York – take it to heart when they are told not to talk to strangers. This is mostly applicable when riding in public transport, such as buses or the subway.
Pau Casals / UnsplashThe same applies when traveling in the UK. The normal thing to do in Britain is to avoid conversing with people you do not know. It is not about being rude – it is simply not practiced and is actually considered taboo.