I just came back from a trip to the United Kingdom and wanted to share as an American traveler what I found the major differences are between the USA and the UK. The US owes it roots to the UK, so it’s interesting to see how in the last 200 or so years the 2 countries have evolved different cultures.
1 – Language/Accents:
Many words are identical, but pronounced differently
Listening to a british mom reading a bedtime story to their kid on the plane, reminded me of movie fairytale narrariation.
Tons of different accents.
Chips – Thick French Fries
Fries – Skinny fries – almost only at burger restaurants
UK Crisps = USA Chips (things sealed in foil bag)
2 – Public Transportation
In the US less than 1% of “trips” are on rail
In the UK 10% of trips are by rail
Trains in the US are nationalized under Amtrak
Trains in the UK are privatized, but quite expensive
In the US there are 233,000 miles of railroad track
In the UK there are 21,000 miles of railroad track
US only has 30 million passenger journeys per year
UK has 1.69 passenger journeys
3 – Subway:
London Tube quite similar to NYC subway.
Tube cars are smaller though.
And London stations are deeper underground.
NYC stations often just one flight of steps below ground
4 – Bus:
UK: I really liked the double decker busses in London
US: Busses are usually really lousy
5 – Walking
People walk way more in the UK than the US.
Cars & Roads
6 – Driving on the left vs right
Parking on either side of the street facing any direction
7 -Roundabouts vs Intersections
Yellow to let you know its about time for green at traffic lights
8 – British roads in cities are much curiver
US roads mostly staight in a grid
9 – Taxis in London are black, in NYC taxis are Yellow
UK taxi drivers are way better. To become a London Black Cab driver you have to pass a stringent test, called ‘The Knowledge’; which usually takes at least four years study, with a failure rate of 95%.
10 – Business Suits
British Business Suits are way nicer than American ones
In general I think the UK is more formal than the US
Hotel maids wearing full british attire
Doormen wearing tophats
11 – Breakfast:
Full English – Eggs, Bacon, Sausage, Tomato, Mushrooms, Beans, Hashbrown
Bacon (Streaky Bacon, Ham)
American bacon comes in thin strips with streaks of fat running along them. British bacon is leaner, with a border of fat along one edge, and comes in a rounder shape.
The difference in shape is due to the fact that each style of bacon comes from different cuts of pork. American bacon comes from pork belly, which is a much fattier cut of meat. British bacon, on the other hand, comes from the loin which is a much leaner cut. British bacon is very similar to Canadian bacon. In the UK they call American Bacon “Streaky Bacon”
12 – Scones – way better in the UK. Hard as a rock in the US.
Clotted Cream – Delicious? Why doesn’t this exist in the US?
Butter is way better in the UK.
13 – In the UK “Tea” usually also means snacks — Tea is everywhere, but iced tea isn’t. I only saw Iced Tea at Starbucks and Subway. Not even Mcdonalds has Iced Tea.
14 – Portion Sizes:
Much smaller in the UK than the US. Food, and drinks.
15 – Eating: In the UK, Fork in the left hand, knife in the right. Don’t put them down. Far more elegant in the UK than in the US.
16 – Pubs
Beer in the UK is usually served “cool” but not “ice cold” around 54-57F
Drinkers overflow out on to the street — totally OK to drink outside the pub
And no need tip at a Pub in the UK
17 – Tipping:
Both countries tip, in the UK 10% is considered a tip for good service, taxis round up. Many people don’t tip at all. But in the US 15-25% is almost mandatory.
18 – Grocery Stores: Much smaller in the UK, and with way less choice. In the US you’ll find 30 varieties of peanut butter. But UK grocery stores have many more prepared foods. Also in the UK you’ll be bagging your goods yourself.
Speak of prepared foods — sandwich shops like Pret mostly selling prepared sandwiches.
19 – Power outlets:
In the UK: Different than the rest of europe. And a switch! Don’t forget to turn on the outlet
20 – Royal Family
UK: News/Gossip everywhere. TV, news stands, gift shops.