What happens when you live in London for three years as an American expat? You understand there are things the British do better.
When you have had the chance to live on both sides of the pond, you observe differences that are large and subtle. Naturally, you compare the UK vs USA and develop opinions about what happens well (and not well) in both places.
I’ve written about the differences between British vs American schools and what a person could miss from America. However, it seems time for a blog about what the British do better in the great UK vs USA debate.
Is it make great Mexican food? Sell strong plastic freezer or sandwich bags? Certainly not. Those are still things that you need to consume or purchase straight up in the USA.
1. UK vs USA: Driving
Let’s get over the fact that they do it on the
wrong other side of the road. What I mean here is how they maneuver a car and approach other drivers. Living in an environment where nearly everything is smaller in comparison to the USA, British people seem to learn how to move a car in to a shoebox if the situation calls for it.
Aside from this, the proper demeanor they have in conversations and social interactions extends right on to the road. If you listen to the streets of New York City, you’ll be flooded with sounds of horns slamming, people yelling profanity and sirens screaming. Yeah, the sounds of the London emergency teams can really wind you up, but they aren’t against a background of angry people honking and swearing at each other.
British drivers nearly all seem to follow an understood system of giving way to someone who needs it on the road. Making a right turn (which would be against traffic here) isn’t too difficult, because people are fairly quick to stop and let you through. Instead, in the U.S. it’s always gut wrenching to attempt pulling out of somewhere and going the opposite direction.
2. UK vs USA: Policing
While the job isn’t easy on either side of the pond, there’s one clear difference between the job of an American cop versus the job of a British officer.
While listening to several British police officers have conversations with American cops, I’ve heard one consistent question that neither can understand about each other. British police are curious what it’s like to feel the need for a weapon every day. American cops can’t fathom working without the protection of one.
I’m not trying to launch a blog debate on gun control. However, it seems the British like to discuss our gun laws and culture with Americans. The point I want to emphasize is that it appears that policing with just a baton and maybe a taser or horse puts a greater amount of vulnerability on British police officers, which could make their job more difficult. What do you think?
3. UK vs USA: Sending an Email
I find British people send emails that just sound better to the ear. The standard closing of ‘Kind regards,’ in the UK is one of the major differences when comparing writing from the two cultures. Americans generally close professional emails with ‘Sincerely,’ followed by their name. Whether or not that sincere sentiment actually exists could be debatable. However, I appreciate the ‘kind regards’ closing because it seems like a softer expression. Perhaps translating to, ‘whatever the outcome, I wish you no ill will.’
Their spoken and written professional communication just has a friendlier approach than what you find in America.
4. UK vs USA: Eating
I have yet to adopt the ‘fork in the left hand’ and other table etiquette guidelines of the British. That’s not because I don’t think they’re better. Quite the opposite actually. It’s because it is harder for me since I wasn’t raised or trained to eat that way, while growing up in America.
But, every time I eat food at my British in-laws home or attend a new restaurant launch, I am reminded of how different the British eat a meal. Their formal eating manners simply look far more elegant than what we do in the USA.
5. UK vs USA: Tipping
While living in America, I never really understood why we take on the aggravation and extra hindrance of tipping service employees. It makes so much sense to increase their actual wages to a standard equal to other professions and the work they do. When comparing the two cultures in terms of how the British handle gratuity, I have to say there’s no arguing. The British win this one hands down.
After three years of living in London, I feel fully ingrained in the non-tipping culture and love it! It’s so refreshing so order a beer and wine at a pub for Mr. Sunny and I and not try to calculate extra money outside of what the round costs.
UK vs USA: Final Thoughts
Those are a few of the things I find the British do better. If you’ve lived as an expat, what are the differences you have found that you liked more in your new country? Do you agree the British do these things better? Curious about other UK vs USA observations? You can see tons more on the Sunny News YouTube channel. In fact, there’s a video on more things the British Do Better here…
Sunny London says
Thank you 🙂 I appreciate you taking the time to read it.
Rachel Gault (@rachelgault) says
Interesting comparison! I had no idea cops didn’t carry guns in London. Everything just seems more elegant in the UK!
Sunny London says
Thank you for reading. Yes, most of them don’t carry a gun. It’s a tough job on both sides of the pond for sure!
When we were there this past April, we were talking to one of the mounted policemen outside the gate of St. James’ Palace. My dad mentioned to him that two years before they were able to get closer to the building and didn’t have to stand behind the gate. The officer said that it was due to increased security. He then followed up by saying “don’t worry, we have these nice plastic sticks to protect you with”! It was funny to hear him say that and really realize that they don’t have any other protection.
Sunny London says
Thank for for reading, Kristy. Yes, they also are pretty funny here too ;-). However, it’s true, most of them don’t have much more than that when they work.
I think the UK ordinary supermarkets are better too! In the USA, Whole Foods and Trader Joes are great but expensive. The ordinary supermarkets, I am not a fan of the cheese, fish and meat sections. The meat looks grey, the fish colourless etc. The deli counters are the best way to go for cold cuts in the USA. Here even in Tesco, Sainsbury’s etc you can get good quality fish, meat, cold cuts. You don’t need to plump up for Waitrose quality but still get good food on a budget.
Sunny London says
Great point, Shobha! I shopped mostly at Wegmans in Buffalo and really miss it. We had lobster tanks in the store! But, you are right. In the whole, there’s much better quality food here.
I’m a complete Roundabout convert. I love ’em. When I go back now, I get all righteous and find our countrymen don’t know how to operate in them, or how to back into a parking space!
The British also say ‘cheers!’ better. I still cringe as I’m just in the habit of saying it as part of buying something in a shop and when I’m over in the states and I say it, people makes such a big deal of it. It’s an underplayed nicety, which is also something the British do well, underplaying something. Subtlety in general, dry wit…