The United Kingdom and United States share many of the same values in common and speak basically the same language. But what are some of the differences that tourists and expatriates notice between the two countries?
Treatment of Foreigners
British visitors to America are often treated with a great deal of curiosity and will be asked a lot of questions about where they are from, how far that is from London and so on. It can be a new experience for many British citizens, who find it strange that they are viewed as so “exotic” and “different”.
That is not something that is seen as much on the other side of The Pond because an increase in immigration and migration from other EU countries has resulted in a melting pot of different cultures and languages, within small towns, as well as in the cities. That means it is not unusual to live in a street with ten or more different nationalities.
In the UK, medical treatment is free under the National Health Service and is available for UK citizens, as well as fellow European Union citizens and legal immigrants who reside in the UK. Free medical treatment is available for people whether they work or are unemployed.
However, some procedures are not provided for free on the NHS, such as cosmetic procedures. Some small prescription charges apply to certain categories of people who live in England. However, in America medical treatment is not universal and free for all, which can come as a huge shock to the British who have been so used to receiving free medical treatment at home.
Schools are run very differently in the UK and in America. In the UK, children usually start school at the age of 5 and leave at either 16 (compulsory school leaving age) or they can complete one or two extra years of schooling and leave at the age of 17 or 18. The school year runs from early September to late July, with short “half term” breaks in between.
Pupils, or students, wear a school uniform to identify the school they attend. Unlike American schools, where children “graduate” at the end of their school career, British school children simply leave. A person is referred to as a “school leaver” rather than as a “high school graduate”. Graduation is reserved for the time when students finish their university course.
The United States has a very diverse landscape. It also has more than one time zone, while the UK just has one that is observed throughout the country. In the UK, there is less variation in climate throughout the year, unless you compare Scotland with southern England or Wales. The north is usually cooler than the southern part of the UK and it is more sparsely populated than the rest of the country.
As the UK is so densely populated (over 60 million) the British tend to be very private and to guard their privacy much more closely. Many mistake this attitude for aloofness and view the British as reserved. The British marvel when they visit America and see the vast open spaces in many parts of the country. It is unheard of in the UK to drive for two or three hours and not see a town or village.
Do the British and Americans really speak the same language? Perhaps they did over two hundred years ago! American English and British English contain the same basic language, but there are many differences. Each country has a lot of regional accents. For example, the New York and Southern accent are very familiar to the British, due in part to American TV shows, but in America people are not always able to tell where someone is from in the UK based on their accent.
Spellings are quite different. For example, in the UK, colour, favour, flavour, defence, enrol and maths, are just a few of the words that are spelled differently. Expressions are also not easy to understand when you have not heard them before. An American “parking lot” is a British “car park”. A car “boot” is a “trunk” and “did you eat?” translates into “have you eaten yet?” The Americans sometimes think British accents sound overly formal and that words are clipped and over emphasised, whereas the British view American English as a language full of slang, with many word endings dropped altogether. But on the whole, the British and Americans can understand one another.
The United Kingdom and United States may only be separated by the North Atlantic Sea, but there remain a lot of cultural differences, that began to develop after both countries went their separate ways in the eighteenth century. It is interesting to look into some of these differences and to learn from one another.
More from this contributor:
Are All British Citizens From England?
What Role Does Queen Elizabeth II Play in the United Kingdom?
“Whereabouts in London Are You From?”: A Brit’s Experience of Living in America