10 (More) Differences Between Brits and Americans


Awhile back, we talked a bit about some of the differences between Brits and Americans. Of course, we only scratched the surface with that list, so today, we decided to give it another go. Here are 10 more things that are different between British and American people…

10. Tea vs. Coffee

It’s no surprise to anyone that British people drink tea every single day. Well, multiple times a day, actually. It’s appropriate to suggest putting the kettle on in nearly every social situation, and if you don’t, it’s considered to be very rude. Americans, on the other hand, are all about getting their morning cup of coffee. Even today, with tea coming back in style in the US, Starbucks had to close down all 3,300 of their Teavana stores in 2017, because tea simply wasn’t popular enough in the United States.

Just about everyone knows about the Boston Tea Party, and how ultimately Americans made the switch over to coffee. But not everyone knows when and how British people got into their tea drinking habit in the first place. In 1662, a Portuguese woman named Catherine of Braganza became the Queen of England. She drank imported tea every day, and served it to her guests in the royal court. Since so many British people like to copy whatever happens to be in fashion with the royal family, other people started drinking tea, too, and the tradition stuck.

9. The McMansion vs. The Traditional British Home

In the United States, the farther west you go, the newer the houses become. On the East Coast, there are far more houses that have survived from the 1700 to 1800s, but for the vast majority of Americans, owning a brand new house is a status symbol that shows that you have truly “made it” in society.

After the end of World War II, the United States went through a period known as “the baby boom,” and there was a massive amount of houses built in suburban areas throughout the 1950s as people settled down to have a family. It became part of the “American Dream” to buy a house in a new development. Unfortunately, not all of those houses were built to last forever. In fact, they often were put up so quickly that many have since been torn down and replaced with a completely new build.

In England, they don’t exactly have tons of building materials or land at their disposal, so there is a tradition of making due with what they’ve got. There is much more of a practice of reusing and repurposing what’s already there. It’s not at all uncommon for people to live in Victorian or Edwardian homes that have been fixed up or extended with each new generation. Even if they can afford to build a new house or completely modernize a home, many English people actually want to keep original details intact, because it’s part of the property’s history and character.

8. Gym Rats vs. Outdoor Exercise

In America, almost everyone who exercises has a gym membership. If you don’t already have one, every January, people start their New Year’s resolution to get more exercise, and usually pay for a membership… only to slip back into their old habits. You just may be one of the millions of people who paid for a monthly membership fee that you continue to pay for just in case you feel like going to the gym some day. In England, people do go to the gym as well, but there are far more people getting exercise by incorporating long walks or riding a bike into their daily lifestyle.

A study has shown that in the United Kingdom, 80% of people are not getting the recommended daily amount of exercise, and yet the percentage of obese people living in the country is lower, which would seem to indicate that they must have healthier habits overall.

7. Christmas Pudding vs. Apple Pie

In both England and the United States, Christmas Day is usually spent with your family exchanging presents around the Christmas tree. In the UK, though, Christmas dinner includes a cracker (not an edible one like a Ritz cracker, mind you… that would be absurd), which is filled with toys, bad jokes, and a paper crown. Santa Claus is called Father Christmas, and people eat Christmas pudding instead of apple pie (despite the fact apple pie was invented in England). They don’t have the massive lights displays in their front yards, but they do have the Christmas Pantomime, which is an annual play put on by celebrities.

The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day, which is a lot like Black Friday in the US. There are great sales in the shops, and everyone takes time to relax and unbox the presents they received the day before.

6. Plastic Bags vs. Totes

In nearly every store in England, they now charge a few cents for each plastic shopping bag you use, and you always have to bag your own groceries. So it has become far more common to see people carrying reusable totes. In the United States, grocery stores like Shoprite have employees whose sole job is to be a bagger, and plastic bags are given out for free. Items are bagged no matter what, even when it’s totally unnecessary. In fact, Americans often have to go out of their way to insist to employees that they do not want a bag.

Certain cities and states in the US have tried to cut down on using plastic bags to save the environment, but there has been a pushback among people who would rather have the convenience of getting free bags.

5. HVAC vs. Suck it up, it’s weather!

Since it’s generally cooler all year round, British homes almost never have air conditioning or ceiling fans. They simply open a window if they want some fresh air. Heat is different as well, because it comes from radiators and fireplaces or wood stoves, whereas most American homes have central heating and cooling. In the United States, most people keep their houses and apartments at a comfortable 70 degrees no matter what time of the year it is.

The reason for this goes back to #9, and the fact that many British houses are so old they cannot accommodate a modern HVAC system, or it would cost tens of thousands to install and make functional. In America, all newer houses are always built with central heating and cooling installed, so they might as well use it, even if it racks up the energy bills.

4. Small Talk vs. Silence

In America, it’s common to make small talk with people you’re sitting next to you on the train, in the elevator, or with the cashier at the grocery store. And if you go down south, it’s like a Twilight Zone where suddenly everyone is smiling at you and telling you to have a nice day. In the UK, though, it’s very rare for people to talk to one another in public places.

In Great Britain, you’re going to be met with a lot of silence. People don’t generally make eye contact with one another, and will stare at their phones or read the newspaper on public transportation to avoid interacting with other people. According to The Guardian, one third of the total population avoids small talk altogether, because they fear having an awkward interaction, want to be left alone, or they are just honestly not sure what to say.

3. Extremes vs. Moderation

In America, people tend to have an all-or-nothing attitude when it comes to a lot of things, and there is a stereotype that they jump into doing something instead of thinking too hard about it first. For example, people do crash diets without thinking about the health consequences, or jump into buying something simply because they have the impulse. And don’t get us started on the ludicrously huge food portion sizes and eating “challenges.”

There is a stereotype that Brits are generally very sensible people who will think about something long and hard before they do it, because they fear the consequences of something going wrong, and they tend to be much better at living life in moderation. They also tend to follow the rules and carry on traditions. Of course, this isn’t always the case, and plenty of British people are capable of reacting based on their emotions, especially with the recent political debates over Brexit.

2. Mandatory Vacations vs. Obscene Amounts of Overtime

In America, there is a culture of having a lot of pride in working hard, because they are taught that it’s the key to getting everything you want out of life. For some people, taking a break isn’t even an option. Many full-time salary positions offer only one week of paid vacation, and one in four Americans do not get any paid time off at all. That one week off is often used up for family emergencies and sick days, and many people have “stay-cations” because they need the time to get all of their errands done on their days off. Burnout is very common in America, and there is a lot of talk recently about practicing self-care.

In the United Kingdom, no one needs to be told about self-care, because it’s already part of their culture. It is an actual law in the UK that every single person needs to get to get a minimum of five weeks of paid vacation, as well as paid maternity leave. This means that everyone has plenty of time to relax, and even an average person can afford to go on a one or two week international holiday.

1. Large vs. Small Cars

In the UK, roads are usually very narrow, because the streets in villages were often converted from the times when people were riding in horse-drawn carriages. It only makes sense to drive smaller vehicles, because they are often the only kind that will actually fit on the road. You almost never see anyone driving pickup trucks or SUVs, unless they are actually a construction worker of some kind.

In the US, roads are constantly being widened, and there is even a practice of having the government buy up private property just so they can create new highways. So the size of a vehicle is rarely a problem. Since they have so many options, people judge one another for the cars they drive. Many people feel obligated to buy a nice car, even if they’re not rich. To make matters worse, a study has shown that 80% of Americans have some kind of road rage.

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  1. Sridhar Sarnobat on

    Wow. As an expat of the UK living in the US for 15 years I can tell you all of these are true.

    • Boxing day has absolutely nothing to do with a sale and umboxing presents. It’s an old tradition that servants from big houses would have this day off after spending Christmas day catering for employees. alot of this article is ill informed.