Brit tips on US/UK differences (Mid-west version!)

After almost 5 years, here are a few observations that may prove helpful to both Brits and Americans.

Never tell an American you 'tooted' at someone, they will think you rude, obnoxious and very uncouth! On the other hand, if an American tells you they 'tooted' there was no vehicle involved and you may want to move a few feet from them!

In the US if you want to really throw a group of kids into confusion, tell them you left a 'parcel in the car park'!

If someone waves two fingers at you in the US resist the urge to abuse them, they are not being aggressive or rude. You however, can freely use your two fingers with Americans and they'll be none the wiser to what you really mean!

Never use the 'f' word in general conversation with an American, the nice ones will be horrified, they just don't use it as an adjective like Brits born after the 1960's often do.

Avoid all serious conversations about religion: how you view it, act upon it and attend to it, is not your own private business as it is in the UK and you may be judged.

Brits should forget the theory that if someone is wearing a cowboy hat they are either gay or part of a Bachelor Party!

In the US jeans are perfectly acceptable as smart and even work attire, as long as they're not ripped or dirty.

A purse in the US is not your wallet, it's your handbag.

If someone refers to their pants in the US, they're not discussing their underwear with you!

If an American tells you "I don't care" in response to being asked if they want to do something, they are not being rude it just means they don't mind either way. This however is infuriating to a Brit and you may have to resist the urge to slap them!

In the US don't even bother trying to ask for "Water", just tell the person with you and get them to ask for you. This word is THE most mis-understood pronunciation!

In the US before you know it you will find yourself telling all and sundry to "have a nice day", don't even try to resist it's futile.

Don't be insulted when a US man calls you Ma'am (if you're a woman of course). He's not taking the pee, he doesn't think you're the Queen, he's just being polite.

In the US never eat Calf Fries, you'll thank me for this! If in the UK never eat Haggis for similar reasons.

If you're in the US and ask for Tea it WILL be iced. If you're in the UK and ask for Tea, it WILL be hot!

Don't be surprised to see TV adverts for Viagra in the US. In the UK be prepared for alot more nudity and swearing on TV, especially after the 9pm watershed.

If you're in the US and don't want to pay for a cup of ice and very little drink, ask for 'easy ice'. Also beware of the dreaded ice slide, where it all suddenly slides and the drink goes down your front, I have been a victim of this many times. In the UK if you don't ask for ice, your drink will come without any at all.

A yard is a garden, a garden is where you just grow produce in the US.

The UK has a strong drinking culture, the US does not, this could cause discomfort on both sides. Most Brits are not alcoholics, despite evidence that may be seen to the contrary. But I would advise Americans against drinking competitions with a Brit, you'll lose!

In the US a Mars Bar is a Snickers and a Milky Way is a Mars Bar, in the UK the reverse applies - confused?!

Don't be surprised if whilst in the UK you never see a Pickup.

In the US get used to being asked if you're an Aussie, try not be insulted or get mad!

In the UK don't ask for a restroom, you'll just get a blank look, ask for a loo. The reverse applies here!

If you're a Brit you will need to talk more slowly to be completely understood and misunderstandings will happen. Be aware the American may be too polite to ask you to explain yourself, so these can quickly escalate!

Americans don't do sarcasm, Brits overdo it. Everyone needs to beware of this important cultural difference in the interests of the 'special relationship'!

Americans are highly patriotic, Brits are not.

Americans love football, Brits worship football, but neither understands the others game!

Americans generally have a positive outlook, Brits can be very 'woe is me and the world in general'.

Indian = Native American in the US and Asian Indian in the UK.

In the mid-west US most people will say "hello" as they pass someone. In the UK everyone tends to ignore everyone they don't actually know. This can be disconcerting for both!

It's not uncommon for a rurally based American to say they either know or are related to someone in the UK and wonder if you might know them. Be polite, don't burst out laughing, they just don't understand there are 60+ million Brits in an area the size of one average state!

When in the UK make sure you eat a 'Bacon Butty', you'll thank me!

Unless you're a very confident driver in the US used to big city traffic, I would strongly advise against driving in the UK. Read up on roundabouts before you get there and be prepared for road rage aimed at you!

Brits and Americans both love to discuss the weather.

We are two nations divided by much more than a common language!


Yogi♪♪♪ said...

I love it. Based on my very brief experience in the UK, you have just scratched the tip of the iceberg.

Anonymous said...

I especially agree with:

Don't use the F-word around "nice" Americans (like me)!

Don't say the word "water" in either country!

Disagree about tea: In Chinese restaurants in the USA, tea is usually served hot, not iced!

Great post, Sarah!

A Brit in Tennessee said...

Well, slap my thigh and call me Nancy, I'm still chuckling at these, only because they are 'spot on'....
I have laughed many a time at the differences in both customs, and languages between the UK and the US. Oftentimes I have found myself explaining these very same differences, albeit at the end of the day, I've always taken the 'When in Rome' approach.
The longer you are in the US you will find yourself thinking completely the way of the locals, and what used to be the proper English way, no longer makes sense.
One exception remains, tea....
HOT is without a doubt the correct way ;)
I loved this post, I'm still laughing my frock off ;0

Brit Gal Sarah said...

Thanks chaps glad you enjoyed this and 'touche' on the chinese tea Gigi :-)

Expat mum said...

Fabulous. (Are you after my job?)
I would add a few things though -

I used to say I wasn't "bothered" much in the same way as you say Americans say "I don't care". It used to really upset Americans too. All I meant was I would do anything that was suggested, whereas they thought I really didn't care for something at all.

Asking for water - Rather than avoiding the English pronunciation, if you're in the mood, say it in the strongest English accent you possibly can and listen to the waiter say it back to you in their best English accent - without even realising they're doing it. (You know they do.)

Easy Ice - That proves that OK is in the South West. It just isn't said up here in Chicagay - the real mid-west!!!

Drinking culture - you obviously haven't been in my house at 5,30am when the bar across the road lets out. Seriously. Chicago = drinking. I think it's a generational thing personally. No offence Brit Gal!! (Wink.)

Oooh and how about the use of the word "freakin". Isn't that just a bit close to Friggin' which in turn, is a bit close to the F word? Everyone says freakin here.

Brit Gal Sarah said...

Toni - very good points too.

But I have to differ on freakin/friggin, a few Americans might not like those words, but you & I both know if I used the 'f' word here as I do with my Brit friends they would be truly shocked and that's the difference.

Pam said...

Girl, you haven't been back in a while, so do not be surprised how many pick up trucks you might see on the roads in England. I'm telling you, they are there. It was new and noticeable to me this summer.

Gaelyn said...

This is great insight Sarah.

I wonder if I should ask, what is a Bacon Butty?

Kay said...

This was such a fun and fabulous post, Sarah! I loved reading it. I guess it was even more fun because our neighbor in Illinois was from London and yes... I did get used to the sarcasm. A little disconcerting at first and then very, very funny! Sarcasm isn't used much in Hawaii.

Anonymous said...

Very good, but just the tip of the iceberg - there are so many differences.

Iota said...

Your finger is on lots of buttons here!

I've not come across the "parcel". I'll have to ask my children.

Limey said...

You've hit the nail on the head with so many things here — especially the endless round of misunderstanding when you want a glass of water. I've never had a problem in Boston, but in Oklahoma it was an issue every single time. And there's only so many times you can politely put up with it.

Daryl said...

"In the US jeans are perfectly acceptable as smart and even work attire, as long as they're not ripped or dirty."

Dirty really is the only reason not to wear jeans just about anywhere here ... ripped usually means they cost more.

And I use the F word all the time .. all the time .. sigh.. and ice, well, if you want hot tea all you need to do is ask for it ... but be careful in the South, when you ask for iced tea make sure to ask if its 'sweet' because Southerners like their sugar with some tea ...

And if you get to NYC .. be sure to order your coffee black unless you want it with a lot of milk .. 'regular' coffee is coffee with milk AND sugar ...

Jo, a retired teacher said...

This was fun, but I'm a bit confused about "water." Just how many ways can one say it? It's just a short, 2-syllable word.

I've never heard the expression "easy ice" so maybe that's more localized. I also cringe when hearing the "f-word"--in fact one of my more recent blogs was about that and its euphemisms (freakin, flippin, etc).

I've long thought that we don't really speak English here; we speak American. You have just reinforced my belief. Good post.

Amy said...

I had an American friend marry a Brit and move to England. She learned the hard way that although fanny is a harmless old-fashioned Southern term for bottom over here, it is an offensive term in Britain.

I agree with the F-word. I think this is even more true if you don't live in a big city.

And in the south we don't say "easy ice." We just say "light on the ice." Interesting.

Still confused as well about the "water" thing.

richies said...

Very informative and entertaining. I was on a conference call with a customer and their insurance company. The insurance representative had a strong British accent. My customer had a hard time understanding him. When the insurance representative exited the phone, my customer exclaimed why can't they hire someone who speaks English.

Brit Gal Sarah said...

richies lol, that's a classic!

George said...

I've been to the U.K. a couple of times and wish I had had this available before my trips. Thanks for the information and the smiles.

NFAH said...

As an American I totally object to the generalization, "Americans don't do sarcasm"

And the number of pick-up trucks in the UK has indeed been increasing, I always take note when I do see them. More interesting to me is that there are so many mini-vans in the US and so few in the UK.

Vickie said...

Sarah: Thank you for the snort laugh so early on a Thursday morning.
And thank you for checking on me and mine. The Fourmmile Canyon fire has destroyed a lot of buildings, to include 139 homes and an elementary school. The haze of smoke is dissipating, but it will take a while to get the fire completely out. The people affected are in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

The problem with sarcasm is there is no sarcasm font so you have to do a "baer" and then everyone is asking, what is that? Ruins the effect.

Al said...

Being an expat Brit myself, I had to laugh at these - they're all true. Also, stay away from those Rocky Mountain Oysters unless you know what they are...

Mare said...

I just loved this post! It's fun to look at these differences.

Anonymous said...

i totally TOTALLY enjoyed this blog entry. :) Very true all of them.