In some ways Americans and British people would seem very similar at first glance. We look very similar, wear similar clothes, share the same language, and have some shared historical connections (including one that America is celebrating today). However, beyond just the fact that we use a lot of different words to mean the same things, or all the accents you would have to get used to, there are also many cultural differences and quirks that would instill culture shock in anyone who decided to jump across from one side of the pond to the other without doing their research first.
10. British Humor Preferences Are Dry And Indirect, American Humor Is Very Loud And In Your Face
British humor is very much different from American humor, and often goes over the heads of the American audience. This isn’t because Americans aren’t intelligent enough to get the joke, but because Americans are not nearly as used to being subtle with their humor. A good example of British humor is Monty Python, who produced numerous memorable skits and full length comedic movies. The British sense of humor tends to be very sarcastic, often using word play or cleverly insinuating things instead of saying them outright. It tends to be much less direct in general, and often has a rather pessimistic bent.
On the other hand, American humor tends to be very direct and right in your face. Americans like to tell jokes in such a way that you don’t really have to think hard, and generally know right away exactly what is supposed to be funny. Americans also tend to prefer very loud and boisterous humor, whereas British tend to be a lot quieter even while telling jokes and having a laugh. Ricky Gervais has also commented that Americans tend to be a lot more positive in general, and especially with their comedy. For this reason, after the first season of the American Office, Michael Scott became a much more affable guy who really just wanted to be liked by everyone.
9. Gun Ownership is a Huge Difference That Greatly Affects the Different Cultures
One of the most common stereotypes about Americans abroad is that we really, really love our guns. Europeans in general, but also our friends across the pond in Great Britain especially, do not understand why we have so many guns all over the place. While it may not be true that everyone owns a gun, and many people really do only carry them for self-defense, it is true that America has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world, and we tend to be very big on defending it. You may hear some people advocating for stricter gun control laws, but there are only a tiny portion of people who would actually advocate banning guns entirely. Many people still consider the Constitution practically sacred, and it gives us the right to keep and bear arms. Along with our history of violent revolution, Americans are pretty attached to that right.
However, in Great Britain, people simply do not own guns or walk about with them. Even the police actually don’t have guns, which is something that surprises a lot of tourists who go across the pond to visit. Naturally, this means a much different relationship with the police. People tend not to fear them so much as they do here, because they are not going to be shot. However, there is also more of a relationship of trust that they are able to build up, due to said lack of fear. On the other hand, police in the United States basically have to keep guns around for self-protection and be prepared for the worst, because any citizen they are dealing with could legally be packing heat.
8. Americans Hate Dynasties, Whereas the British Still Love Their Royal Family and its Rich History
British people may not worship their royal leaders, and they are certainly fine with criticizing them if they feel it is needed, or sharing gossip about them. However, they also have a certain sense of respect for the office itself, if nothing else than as a rich part of their countries’ history and traditions. People have a certain love for the queen as well, and it is certainly deserved. She has served as monarch for many decades while avoiding controversy and attending hundreds of engagements every year. However, Americans on the other hand simply do not abide by the idea of royalty – it is the reason they struck out for America in the first place.
For this reason, Americans tend to be very wary of anything that can be considered a political dynasty. That means that when you see another Bush, or Clinton, or Kennedy, people tend to groan and express their distaste for what they feel is hearkening back to the days of royals, even if they would normally tend to vote for someone with that person’s beliefs. Now, Americans aren’t entirely unreasonable. If that turns out to be the candidate closest to their values they will often still vote for them regardless, but it is with great reservations. Americans value having a feeling of freedom, and anything that seems like a political legacy reminds them of the days when they were under the control of a monarch.
7. Teeth in Britain Aren’t Unhealthy – They Just Aren’t as Worried about Straightening or Whitening
The most common and ugly stereotype about British people that you will see in American media is that the British have really horrible teeth. This is mocked especially hard in some of the early episodes of Family Guy, where British teeth are shown to be horrifically misshapen. This ugly stereotype has spread all over the internet and is hard to squash at this point, but we will try to squash it again anyway. The truth is that Americans tend to be obsessed, often driven by media, to always look as perfect as possible. Americans tend to have straighter teeth, because even lower middle class American parents will go to great lengths to make sure their teens’ teeth are perfectly straight.
On the other hand in Great Britain, people tend to not be worried so much about the cosmetic appearance of their teeth. While it is starting to catch on a bit more as a trend, as American media is seen more across the pond, and more British actors emerge, it is still not the norm to worry as much about having a perfectly straight or white smile. However, this doesn’t mean that the British don’t care about the health of their teeth. The idea that their teeth are bad or that there is anything wrong with them is completely false. In fact, a recent study shows British people actually slightly edging out Americans when it comes to the overall health of their teeth – Americans are just better at making their smile look shiny for the camera.
6. Eggs are Left Out Unrefrigerated When Sold in Great Britain – This Would Greatly Alarm Americans
One of the biggest culture shocks for an American visiting Great Britain, or someone from Britain coming to visit here, would be how we store our eggs. British people actually store their eggs out in the open without any refrigeration, which would make an American think that they were intentionally trying to spoil them. And in a way, they would be right if the British processed their eggs the same way they do in America. In America the natural coating known as the cuticle is removed while washing it, in order to ensure that any harmful bacterial buildup is removed. They are then kept refrigerated to avoid spoilage, because they no longer have their coating to protect them.
On the other hand, Britain and most European countries actually do not remove the cuticle when processing the egg. They believe that removing the natural layer makes it more porous and vulnerable to bacteria, so they prefer keeping the natural shell on, and then washing it immediately before use. Because the natural coating is not removed, refrigeration is completely unnecessary and a waste of electricity. There are pros and cons to both methods, and in their own way, both methods run the risk of causing salmonella outbreaks. No matter what country you live in, it would be a good idea to rinse off any egg before use, and make sure to cook it all the way through to the appropriate temperature.
5. More Than Half of Households in the United Kingdom Don’t Own Clothes Dryers
In the United States, nearly 80% of households own a dryer for their clothes to go with their washer, while in the UK, most people own a washer, but less than half of households actually use an electric clothes dryer. Of course some Americans are probably wondering how so many people dry their clothes, and the answer is that many people actually still hang a lot of their clothes out to dry. It can actually be quite energy efficient, and while it may rain a lot in Great Britain, the weather is usually not particularly intemperate.
On the other hand, in the United States, almost no one hangs their clothes out to dry anymore, and most who would like to try simply do not live in the right climate for it. And in many cases, it is considered so much against social norms in the United States, that you might get some pretty weird looks for it. And while many in Britain don’t use dryers to save on energy costs, many Americans know that it is one of the two highest energy sinks in their home, but continue to use it anyway. It is very much a part of the fabric of American life, and most people would not be caught without them. Even the few people who don’t own them generally tend to just take their clothes to a laundromat, which has ones that they can pay to use. Hanging up your clothes to dry is practically unheard of.
4. Drinks in the UK are Very Rarely Served With Ice, Whereas in America it’s Expected
In the United States of America, you can bet that almost every drink you buy will be full of ice – if it was meant to be cold in the first place. Beers are always served cold (though without ice), and it’s a common American joke to make fun of British people for drinking beer that isn’t chilled straight to the bone. Many people would be honestly offended in America if their soda or other cold drink wasn’t chock full of ice. In fact, the ice obsession is so crazy that some have even accused Starbucks of putting too much ice in their iced drinks and ripping people off. However, for most people it is a non-issue, as they want the experience of it being cold, and understand the laws of physics.
However in Great Britain, chilling every single drink and filling it full of ice is not nearly such a widespread practice. In fact, in the hospitality industry where you would expect it to be common, ice is actually fairly rare. Most soda is served with little ice, if any at all. This is partly because soda tends to be more expensive than in the USA, and they don’t usually offer free refills, so people do not want to feel ripped off. In general, ice is not seen as all that important to the experience of drinking anything, nor is chilling it. Some beers are actually meant to be drunk at a reasonable temperature, and don’t need the bottles to have been chilled in ice or a refrigerator first. An American would find all of this hard to understand, as proper temperature is something Americans tend to make a big deal about when eating or drinking, especially when paying for meals out.
3. In the USA, Television Programming is Much More Loud and Boisterous
In the USA, television programming tends to be much more direct, sort of like how American comedy is much more direct. In general, we like our TV programs to constantly have some sort of drama going on. Commercial breaks will often set up a cliffhanger even in cooking shows, and always have dramatic music to amp up the drama. The reality shows, especially, will go to great lengths to turn everything into the most insane thing that has ever happened, even if that moment just turned out to be people arguing over where to go to dinner, or something similarly petty.
However, TV in the UK tends to be much less in your face, and much quieter and more subtle. A really good example of the contrast is the show Kitchen Nightmares, hosted by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. It’s the same show and the same exact guy in both the United States and UK versions, but despite having the same structure, they might as well be different shows altogether. The tone is completely different, and the way he approaches things on the two versions of the show could not be more night and day. On the UK version of Kitchen Nightmares he is calm, reserved, and almost indirect while explaining things to people – the music is low key and the announcer sounds like he is hosting a nature documentary. On the other hand, the American version has dramatic cuts, intros and outros, with Gordon constantly yelling various insults. When Gordon talks to people on the American version, he is constantly yelling, swearing, and throwing insults, being incredibly direct to the point of being rude – and American audiences loved it. Ramsay fully understood the different audiences, and tailored his show perfectly to match each one.
2. Americans are Positive and Idealistic, British People are More Pessimistic but Down to Earth
One stereotype about Americans that they might not find particularly negative, which is held by many in Europe, is that Americans are extremely positive. Europeans tend to be surprised at how Americans will always find the good in situations, and always seem to think that things are going to get better, and that eventually they will be extremely successful and have everything going for them. This is an attitude cultivated by the American entrepreneurial spirit, where everyone believes they could be a millionaire. America was basically founded on runaway optimism even when that optimism didn’t make any sense at all.
On the other hand, British people tend to be much more pessimistic about the world and how things work. They, on the whole, often have an attitude of believing that a lot of the bad things are simply bad, and things may not really get that much better; that you may have to settle for incremental change at best. However, this attitude should not be mistaken as entirely negative, either. After a lot of hardship, British people have developed a strong stiff upper-lippedness, an attitude to keep calm and carry on even when trying situations make it difficult for anyone to cope with the situation. Born out of trials like World War II, they gained a quiet but dignified resolve, and the ability to dryly make light of even the worst situations in order to keep up their spirits.
1. People in the UK are Much Less Religious Than Those in the United States
The United States is known for being one of the more religious countries in the world, especially compared to our friends in the UK. Gallup has long tracked the US numbers for how many people identify as various Christian denominations, how many people identify as other religions, and how many are not religious at all. In the United States, roughly 75% of people identify as some kind of Christian denomination, and about 5% identify as another type of religion. The other 20% are not necessarily full blown atheists, but are not particularly religious. These are rather high numbers and show that the vast majority of people in the United States believe in the Abrahamic religions to some extent or another and it shows that faith is a big part of American life.
However, in the United Kingdom, faith is not nearly as important and many people are simply not religious at all. In a recent survey of dozens of countries, it turns out that the UK ranked near the very bottom when it came to their religiosity. Only 35% of people actually identified as particularly religious at all, which is a tiny number compared to those in the United States. There are simply far fewer people in the UK who care as deeply about religion, and it’s not as important a part of the daily life or culture.