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Goodbye New Jersey. Hello World! A record of my journey as I give up my job, my possessions, and life as I know it to go off and see the world!

England vs. America the Little Differences

UNITED KINGDOM | Monday, 3 September 2012 | Views [28824] | Comments [13]

I have had the pleasure of traveling a bit in England the last few weeks as I visit with my boyfriend's family and friends. We are based in Hayling Island, close to Portsmouth on the south coast but during our time we have visited Bath, Chichester, Worcester, Burmingham, York, Newcastle, Oxford, and London. My boyfriend has a lot of hospitable friends that opened their homes and let us stay and visit their nearby cities of interest. In this way, I have been fortunate enough to experience a bit more of English life and culture that I certainly wouldn't get any other time I was here as a tourist. I couldn't help but note the “little differences” I have found between here and the States. Many of these I also noticed in Scotland while I was there.   

Right, let's get on with it then. Let's start with driving.

1. It is much more common for people in the UK to drive manual cars than automatic. I feel like an idiot for not knowing stick shift and have to rely on other people to take me everywhere.

2. I was surprised to see how many cars take diesel instead of just plain petrol.

3. Speaking of petrol....holy crow it is expensive here! I truly thought New Zealand had the most expensive gasoline but it now appears that England is higher. These high prices don't seem to stop everyone from being on the road, though. I would assume these manual cars are hopefully more fuel efficient.

4. Parking spaces are scarily small. It's a good thing that there aren't too many big cars in England. What's with the Range Rovers being the typical larger car of choice?

5. I've found a lot of roads, usually in the residential areas, to be extremely narrow as well. Usually people going in the other direction have to pull over to let the others pass. But cars are also parked on the road? Me being used to my big cars and big roads am constantly nervous we are going to hit someone but it all works out.

6. Massive roundabouts (traffic circles). Apparently there are places that have roundabouts within roundabouts....yikes! But they do seem to make sense and keep the traffic flowing. I would rather deal with them than a crazy intersection.

7. The traffic lights warn you when it's going to turn green again. The light will be red, then the yellow comes on at the same time and then green. Very handy if you are driving stick shift. Fun if you like to gun it and go early. I've noticed even in cities that the traffic light will flash yellow while it's red and supposedly it's okay to go if there aren't people crossing. Well at least I saw cars going, I can't attest as to whether it is legal or not.

8. Zig zag markings on the roads.

As I mentioned before I had the chance to stay in quite a few friend's and family's homes while I was in England. I noticed quite a few slight differences between American ones.

9. The homes are a lot closer together. In many cases they are connected with the place right next door. Sometimes in cities you will see long strips of buildings that are broken up into dozens of housing units. The houses are usually made with brick, which is much less common in the States. Despite these homes being smaller than a typical American one, they are certainly not cheaper. Of course, location is everything but it just seems to me you get a lot more buying a house in the States, if not for the land alone.

10. The “back yard” or garden if you'd like to call it is always fenced off from every other house. It is nice in a way because you've got your own private little spot. I've seen some homes with gorgeous gardens that create a nice atmosphere to relax and read. You could almost forget that you are living directly next to usually two other people.

11. The living rooms or “lounges” as they call it always have doors. So do the kitchens. I find this extremely interesting that it's important to close every room off. This is very different from the usual open floor plan to an American house. Being able to close off your lounge while you are watching TV can be very cozy I must confess but it does feel a bit strange to someone that isn't used to it.

12. Not every home, but a few had a nice little sun room. I definitely love that idea.  

13. Perhaps this is not usual but in many of the homes I visited the doors needed to be locked on the inside with a key. I really don't like this idea because if you don't know where the key is you are literally locked inside of a house.

Despite driving and homes, there are other random differences that I have noticed.

14. The pubs have a different and more preferable atmosphere than a typical “American sports bar” I would say. A lot of them have a large rectangle sign with a picture accompanying the name of the pub. There is always local ale on tap that is often cheaper than the mainstream stuff. I really enjoyed trying different ales.

15. Signs warning of elderly people. I understand that it's the protect them but they look the same as the signs that warn you about deer. All of a sudden an elderly person is going to run out and cause damage to your car.

16. Super cheap pre-made takeaway sandwiches and meal deals at the supermarkets. I love the Tesco meal deals where you can get a sandwich, drink and snack for 2.50 pounds. Very good for those traveling on a budget.

17.The radio is actually decent. I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to BBC radio one. There are not many commercials and you get a signal everywhere in the country. The programming is not as repetitive as the standard radio stations in the States.

18.Obviously the weather is not the same. I am always going to prefer the sunny warm summer days in America. It's not all rain here like people think but its certainly not as sunny. I get why so many people are paler here. At least there's less risk of skin cancer.

19. Less commercials on TV.

20.Everything is a lot older. The cities are ancient. Some buildings are many times older than America. There's so much history to be found.

Of course, I need to mention some of the food I have tried. 

 1. Fish and chips are pretty awesome here.  Especially if they leave the skin on.

 2. Pasties are almost like meat pies except the shape of the pastry is different    and the texture.  I tried 2. One was from that popular Cornwall pasty place.  They were both alright.

 3. Yorkshire pudding is this little bread thing you find often with steak.  Again, just okay.

 4. Full English breakfast:  Eggs, toast, tomato, bacon, sausages, beans.  Leave out the traditional black pudding and it's awesome.

 5. Lots of different sauces accompany meats you get.  Love the mustards and the variety.

 6. Sunday roast dinner involves yummy meat and potatoes together.  So good!

Some of these differences I prefer and others I do not. What's even more interesting is to see which aspects of America and England have combined and carried over to such places as Australia and New Zealand. It's these little differences that makes the trip that much more enjoyable.

Tags: england



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Happy Travels!

  Kate Hoffman Mar 12, 2013 10:00 AM


I'm not quite sure where you visited but I don't think it was London. I highly doubt you can find a house that comes with a front or back yard in the city. It is really compact and houses are miniature. For example: A $600,000 house in London will be an average house, nothing special, Includes 2-3 bedrooms, a bathroom, a small/medium kitchen and a small/medium living room...

The Tesco value offer: One sandwich, a bag of crisps/chips and a drink. This isn't really enough for everyone, I think we call it "a temp meal", so its a meal you have when on the move or at work and need a quick snack/small meal to eat.

The weather in the UK is terrible. It's RARELY sunny, and when the sun comes out it will be accompanied by heavy winds. I mean, It rains a lot in the summer as well as the winter, so I can't really see how England's weather even reaches the "meh" mark.

In regards to traffic, I think I can compare London's traffic with that found in LA... Mornings are always busy and weekends are even worse, it takes me around 30 minutes to get anywhere in the morning.

Overall I would rate the UK at 5/10 and that's me being generous.

  Danny Mar 12, 2014 8:46 AM


I am actually curious about the statement on many doors being required to have an inside key? Seriously an INSIDE key required to physically lock the front door?

American homes have deadbolts or if it's a cheapo rental usually a tumbler lock that can be popped opened quite easily with a credit card if you slide it in between the door frame where the lock spring clicks into place.

A few rentals we have lived in with the landlords permission Dad actually installed his own deadbolts. Deadbolts are pretty cheap to buy and well worth the expense though me and Mom always had trouble opening a deadbolt from the outside.

What are the doors to UK homes made out of and how thick are they? Here in America it is usually hollow wood that is actually some kind of imitation of wood not even made in America. :( It's actually pretty crappy and this is for expensive homes too. The doors may look fancy but the materials are all hollow!

The UK front doors seem to have a different kind of handle where Americans it's round knobs with the deadbolt keyhole on top of the main lock. You turn the round knob to open it while the UK you push down on the handle to let yourself in.

Which do you prefer? UK front doors or Americans?

Now how about garages? I've notice that most garages in the UK from looking at a lot of street view if the detached house or attached home have one it is usually manual.

  Kyle Apr 2, 2014 9:59 PM


I live in Blackpool, North West England, and the weather isn't even that bad. To say it rains all the time is an exaggeration. Granted, it does rain a lot but there's worse places in the rest of Europe. But a good list though :)

  Nick May 21, 2014 11:39 PM


kyle, solid timber and a steel frame which is then covered with fibreglass panels

  rob Sep 3, 2014 8:04 AM


Thanks for answering ONE of my questions. When I watch police videos of British raids I have notice the doors tend to last longer then where in America 2 hits and the door is done.

I have seen up to five hits being required and one video they rammed over and over again until the owner opened it to let the Armed Response Unit in.

Now I want to know about deadbolts. Does British use deadbolts or do any of the houses still use skeleton *bit* keys?

  Kyle Sep 18, 2014 7:37 PM


How are the people there? What is a daily life style like in England?

  Madi Nov 10, 2015 6:14 AM


It is funny how little has been said about the reason behind things in this article. I think I would be a nice addition and would eliminate the impression that UK is indeed a silly place with people doing silly things and living in silly places. I am surprised that you founds some cities in the UK are ancient. Well... Indeed they are! I found amazing that it shoked you... And that is not just the UK but the whole Europe. The fact that streets are narrow and houses are closed together have a reason, also due the age of things. As you well noticed, some places are ancient. In ancient Britain people had no large 4x4s, they were on horses and carts, so it is alright. Because there is a effort in preserving some historic sites, streets cant be enlarged just to acommodate large vehicles. Many of the houses that are now habited by any average people, have previously served as acommodation for low paid workers, or as social living build by the governament. Needs to be met while keeping costs down. Building terraced houses was the best method, plus allow heat to be preserved within the buidings. Heat conservation is also the reason while everyroom has a door. It is a lot more sustainable to heat a smaller room. For a country that requires heating for most of the year it is a way of keeping costs down and enjoying a warm room. I am not frim the UK but live here for a few years. Every country is different. Even parts of the same contry are different overall. But think that behind the differences there are alsways good reasons. And those reasons (and not the plain differences) is what counts. This is how you learn about the place you are visiting. Next time you go somewhere, try to understand why things are done or exist in a different way, and I am pretty sure it will be a lot more interesting. Peace

  James cordeiro May 8, 2016 7:37 AM


"1. Fish and chips are pretty awesome here. Especially if they leave the skin on."
Fish and chips are terrible everywhere, specially with vinegar!

"3. Yorkshire pudding is this little bread thing you find often with steak. Again, just okay."
Nope! Check number 6...

"4. Full English breakfast: Eggs, toast, tomato, bacon, sausages, beans. Leave out the traditional black pudding and it's awesome."
Don't forget thar it comes with English Breakfast tea WITH milk, always. If you don't like milk on your tea, say it in advance.

"6. Sunday roast dinner involves yummy meat and potatoes together. So good!"
And Yorkshire Pudding, that is more like a small fluffy salty cake, not like bread at all, and lots of gravy.

  Rosie May 8, 2016 10:09 PM


I enjoyed it thoroughly. It is how she perceives it. These are not facts! They are opinion based and I think she did a lovely job. Definitely gave my imagination a view.

  Jen Jun 7, 2016 3:45 AM


It's always interesting to know what Americans make of the UK. I always thought we generally have doors for every room as a safety feature, i.e. if there's a fire in the kitchen, you can close it off and have a bit more time to call the fire brigade/grab some things/get out. Also, do people in the US really leave their front doors unlocked? Maybe I've seen too many episodes of Friends, but you guys constantly just let yourselves into each others' houses and it's not weird or inappropriate.

We don't claim to have the best cuisine in the world; it's famously bland looking and strange looking to tourists. And our portions are a great deal smaller, which you don't seem to like. But, when it's done well, it's brilliant and there's always a story behind each meal. Every Briton will tell you their mum does the best roast potatoes.

I still think we have too many adverts (commercials) during programmes. Then I watched American TV and you have them DURING shows - there are little things that pop up while you're watching something!

Anway, it was a fun read. Happy travels!

  Lucy Jul 27, 2016 5:07 AM


There is differences in sunshine between northern and southern UK. Southern UK has a much higher chance of temps above 30C anytime from late May to early September with some years a good string of it leading to critical drought conditions with brush fires especially if the previous winter/spring had low rainfall.

Thanks for not going political like cheering for big government controlling your live and breathing down your neck as both political parties in the US are corrupt and have ties to The Establishment and Agenda 21 issues.

If you say your wanting to either be straight or are thinking about going straight if you woke up to the dangers of being gay then you'll be treated like you just threatened to cut off the head of their first born and they'll never talk to you again.

BTW: Another major difference in terms of weather is UK measures sunshine hours officially which the MET website posts but the UK freaks out after extreme weather like the *wrong kind of sunshine* screwing up trains.

  SortingHat Oct 26, 2016 6:45 PM


I'm from just west of London and really enjoyed your article. Points that really stood out were the narrow roads (nightmare when traffic is heavy, it takes an age) and the Tesco meal deal - in London it's an absolute bargain in comparison to coffee bars and other food outlets. I often get meal deal when I'm in London for work.

  Mel Jan 11, 2017 8:04 AM

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