Everything is a little different in a foreign country. It doesn’t matter where you go or how far you travel, you are always going to find little cultural differences. But isn’t that the fun in travelling? It’s especially surprising when you see big differences between countries that appear seemingly alike. Like the U.S.A and England for example. On the surface, things don’t seem all that different. However, when you go and visit England for the first time as an American, you will definitely spot a few differences. But that’s the part of travelling we love. It’s always interesting to experience new cultures and see how things work in different countries. Some countries vary more than others of course.
England and the U.S. may share the same language, but it seems there is a great deal of things they do not share. Even parts of the language differ. If you have visited the U.K for the first time as an American citizen, you will no doubt relate to these 20 thoughts on here. It will also be useful to Americans planning on visiting England because they will know what to expect. Here are 20 thoughts every American has when they visit England for the first time.
20 Wait...I have to pack my own shopping bags?
If you go grocery shopping in a British supermarket, don’t expect the cashier to pack your shopping bags for you. They’ll expect you to do it yourself. It’s not common in the U.K. for cashiers to pack your bags, so it'll be your responsibility. You’ll also be asked if you want to pay 5p for a bag. In other words, don’t expect to get shopping bags for free. Although it is a good thing as it saves on the immense plastic use. When you bring your own bag and turn down the 5p offer, you are saving the environment in the process.
19 Why are the refrigerators so small?
In comparison to American fridges, yep the British fridges are tiny. But maybe that’s a European thing. If you’ve ever been in someone’s house in the UK, one of the first things that you’ll wonder is how they can fit all their groceries into that little fridge. But it’s not just a British thing. Generally across Europe, you will notice the big size difference with refrigerators. We’re not sure why there’s such a big difference. Maybe Americans just like to buy everything for the month in one go to save time. Whereas in the U.K, shopping once a week is perfectly doable.
18 So, Pubs aren't the same as bars?
Ask any British citizen and they’ll tell you the same: they’re community living rooms. In fact, if you visit any pub in England – especially the local ones – you will work this out for yourself. These pubs do not feel like bars. They really do feel more like community living rooms. Usually that’s because of the locals - most people know each other, so that's the community feeling right there. Whereas with a bar, there’s not really that community spirit. It’s just a amalgamation of people paying for a thirst-quencher. If you want to meet the locals, visiting a neighborhood pub is a great idea.
17 Why are there individual Hot and cold water faucets?
It’s probably been a while since you’ve seen separate hold and cold water faucets. Nowadays, we just have one that we use for whatever temperature we need. In England, you will still find these hot and cold water faucets, although it’s usually in the older houses that haven’t undergone renovation. As for the renovated properties, maybe they just wanted to hold on to the English tradition. We’re not sure if it really is an English tradition or if it’s just something some people haven’t let go of just yet. Nonetheless, it does appear to be a fact that England still has them.
16 Why are Pants called "trousers"?
In English, ''pants'' actually refers to underwear. While both countries use the same language, you would be surprised by how many differences there are between the two. For instance, the Brits call pants ''trousers'' and sweaters ''jumpers.'' It’s virtually like a whole other language when you think about it. If you didn’t know these phrases, you’d be totally baffled. Especially if you asked an English person what pants they’re wearing to the club. They’d think you were being totally inappropriate because it’s a bit of a personal question. You can expect a baffled reaction at the least.
15 The signs are beautiful
In England, signs seem to all be well designed and bearing beautiful typography. It doesn’t look like these signs are rushed. It looks like people made a lot of effort to make these signs look great and they did a good job. They are also written in full sentences with good grammar. Generally, everything seems very well organized in England. They like to make things simple for their citizens and they accomplish their goal well. Signs are much more enjoyable to read and follow if they are nicely designed with pretty typography. If not, they’re just another boring random sign.
14 There aren’t many cops around
That’s a good sign, surely? It’s not like we’re crazy about seeing police cars everywhere. It only re-installs the notion that our towns are dangerous and we all require 24/7 protection.
When you do see cops around, they seem to come in male and female pairs and they are always smiling. That's likely because they’re genuinely happy people who like to install trust in the local citizens. It’s actually pretty smart when you think about it. It also helps that the Brits have a great sense of humor. That probably helps them see the light in everything.
13 Why do people always like to sit by the window in restaurants?
We can understand it when people insist on sitting by the window on airplanes, but in rainy England we’re not always sure what they want to see from the window. It might be pouring down the rain with a lack of views and British people still insist on having the window seat. If we’re in British company we’d happily give it to them. As much as we love England, we’re not so bothered about getting a better view of the rainfall. By now, during our stay here, we have seen enough of the rain and we’ve had quite enough, thank you.
12 Do they eat anything other than fries?
They’re actually called chips in England but still, they seem to come with everything. Order whatever you like in a restaurant and you can guarantee it will either automatically come with French fries or you’ll be asked if you want French fries as an addition. The Brits seem to love their chips, but we know that already. That explains why there’s a ton of Fish and Chip shops everywhere you turn. They also add vinegar to their fries and, believe it or not, it’s a great combination. Salt and vinegar on French fries is the best thing ever. You’ve got to try it to believe it.
11 What’s the deal with curry?
After fish and chips, the second most popular food choice among Brits seems to be curry. You get it from one of the local Indian restaurants and it’s tasty. Some people don’t like the taste, especially if it’s full of hot spices. We guess it’s one of those things that you either love or hate. Even so, if you want to fit in as a Brit, you’ve really got to get used to the nation’s curry obsession. They even cook it at home from a supermarket jar. Some of the fish and chips shops offer curry as a sauce for fries.
10 What language is that?
The U.K. is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. So it makes sense that we would hear a lot of different languages during our stay there. Numerous different languages are spoken throughout England, so don’t be overwhelmed if you hear tongues you do not recognize. This is normal.
On top of that, many of the people dress differently too. With all the different religions and cultural influences within the country, it’s understandable why so many people look, speak and dress differently. It’s one of the things that make England so interesting.
9 The weather is a big topic of conversation
If you ever find yourself stuck for words in the company of a British person, you could always talk about the weather. When you first come to England, one of the first things you will notice is how often people talk about the weather. It’s a regular topic of conversation. Then again, with all the horrific weather they get, we can see why they can make long conversations about it.
If you want to fit in with the crowd and become a true British citizen, you need to learn the art of weather talking. It’s a quality found in British DNA.
8 Why are the cars so small?
Saying that, the roads are pretty small too. Well, seeing that the roads were built first, that probably explains why the cars are so small. On the plus side, small cars are usually a lot more eco-friendly so at least you can say they’re not harming the environment too much. Hatchbacks come in high volume on the English roads. We’re not really sure why Americans need their cars so big, but it seems that pretty much everything comes smaller in England than it does in the states. Fridges, washing machines, cars, and roads. And there’s bound to be more out there.
7 Most people drive a manual car
You know how most people drive an automatic in the U.S.? Well in the U.K., it doesn’t seem so popular. A high number of people in England drive a manual car. That doesn’t mean automatic isn’t common. It certainly is in Britain. But, you will also notice how common it is for people to stick to manual cars. There’s actually a rule in England that you cannot drive a manual if you have a driving licence to drive an automatic. We don’t think it works vice versa though. It wouldn’t make sense to not be allowed to drive an automatic with a traditional, manual driving licence.
6 Listening to The radio is much more popular than I thought
The Brits love their radio. In the U.S., it’s not always so popular to listen to the radio, especially compared to the plethora of TV options. Plus we have our iPhones to listen to music, after all. But in the U.K., people seem to still enjoy switching on the radio – usually in the car or on the pc. They have their favourite DJ’s and they like listening to the news on the radio too. The BBC is one of the favorites. Although it seems pretty old fashioned now, we like the idea of people still listening to the radio. There’s something comforting and traditional about it that we just love.
5 Time is interesting
Although England works by a 24-hour clock, you don’t often hear someone say the exact time. Usually, it’s either ‘quarter to,’ ‘quarter past’ or ‘half past.’ It’s worth getting familiar with those phrases before visiting England so you know what people are talking about when you ask them the time. These terms are only used by the :15, :30 and :45. 'Quarter past' would be, say, 12:15. 'Quarter to' would be 12:45 and half past would be 12:30. You get the idea. It’s not actually complicated once you get used to but it’s still new to Americans who aren’t familiar with these terms of time.
4 Where are the mailboxes?
Mailboxes are generally uncommon in England. Their version of a mailbox is a letter box built within the front door. Usually, you get your mail through the letter box in your front door. At least you can say it’s safe and you will definitely get your mail when it comes straight through your front door. What happens when there's a large delivery?
On the other hand, couldn’t that hole in the front door draw in unwanted things too? We’re just wondering. You don’t want any enemies - that’s for sure.
3 Their tea is wonderful
The British are known for their amazing tea. In case you’re not familiar, the typical ''brew'' is black tea (preferably a brand like Yorkshire or HP Tips) served with milk and one or two teaspoons of sugar. The sugar depends on the individual. Some people don’t take sugar in their tea.
On the other hand, for a the caffeine fiends out there, unless you head to Starbucks or Costa’s, the coffee in England is mediocre. That’s probably because tea is their speciality. So if you visit England, a trip is not complete without tasting a typical cup of tea. It’s just part of the culture. Lots of Brits drink several cups per day.
2 I forgot about the left side driving
Many people forget that Brits drive on the left side of the road. That’s why you need to look twice before crossing the road in England. When you’re used to drivers driving on the right side, it can be hard to get used to the alteration. It’s also worth noting, if you drive in England, that you can never make a turn on red (even if there’s nothing coming). There are a whole load of roundabouts and that's another story all together.
Yep, there are some things you will have to get used to when you visit England for the first time. But you’ll soon get used to the differences.
1 Everything is pudding
In America, there’s a special dessert called pudding, it's kind of like a custard. In England, however, they call virtually everything sweet ''pudding.'' It's essentially a synonym for dessert. That includes cake, ice-cream, and pudding too. So if you order pudding, you’ll need to make sure you know which kind of pudding you are ordering. Pudding isn’t the pudding we know. And just so you know, the puddings are fabulous. They have a wide range of tasty puddings to choose from in their cafes and restaurants. Don’t forget to visit a tea shop.
References: Huffingtonpost, thesun