13 Aug Differences Between Living in the US and the UK
This post is written by Victoria Brewood of Pommie Travels.
I’m from Manchester in the UK, but somehow always grew up with a desire to live in the US. I’m not sure what gave me this crisis of national identity, but it could be all those American movies and episodes of The OC I watched growing up. You see, the US is the centre of the movie industry, and so throughout the world, we’re all very familiar with American culture. Anyway, over the years I’ve therefore spent a lot of time visiting the US, and here are some of the main differences between living in the US and the UK:
Groceries are way more expensive in the US
The UK has plenty of budget supermarkets, from no-frills stores like Lidl and Aldi to superstore giants such as Tesco and Asda. Supermarket food is cheap and affordable, making it far more economical to cook at home than it is to eat out in a restaurant. In the US I’ve found the price of groceries to be a lot more expensive – the only place I’ve discovered so far that’s super reasonable is Trader Joes.
And don’t get me started on Whole Foods prices…almost enough to give me a heart attack. Particularly if you go to that self serve deli counter where you’re charged by the weight.
There isn’t the same tipping culture in the UK
Go out for a meal in the US and you have to tip around 20%, unless you want the server to chase after you and ask you why you haven’t. The argument is that wages are low for restaurant staff in the US, so customers must tip for the service. The problem is that it’s become almost compulsory to tip, whether the service is actually good or bad. So when you go out for a meal you have to factor in not only the tax, but also the tip, which gets pretty expensive. This means I’m more inclined to want to cook at home, or only choose fast food restaurants where I can get something to take away.
In the UK, however, tipping is less of a “thing”. You might leave a few quid on the dinner table in a nice, fancy restaurant. But on the whole there’s no pressure to tip after the meal. Having said that, I have noticed some restaurants (particularly in London) are starting to add on a discretionary 12% service charge automatically to the bill. If you’re not too ashamed of doing it you can ask to have this removed and nobody would really argue with you about it. They may hate you a little bit inside (or spit in your food), but they’ll be super British and polite about it.
In the UK, the price is the price. In the US it’s a surprise.
The tax thing in the US drives me slightly insane, because in many states tax isn’t included in the advertised price. You could go to buy a burger with the exact cash and see it is $5, but really it’s $5.80. In the UK, the price is just the price. No surprises.
People are smilier in the US
Whenever I touch down in the US I just love how positive and smiley everyone is, even at the immigration desks. Brits often see it as fake, but I can’t help but love the positivity. It’s infectious.
Dogs roam free in the UK
If you own a dog in the US you have to take it to the dog park to roam “off leash”. In the UK, dogs can roam freely off the “lead” in most green spaces. So in London, for instance, you could go to Hyde Park or Regents Park and let your dog run around to its heart’s content. In New York your dog would have to sit in an enclosed area with a bunch of other dogs. Many pubs in the UK will allow dogs inside – they’ll even offer your pup a water bowl while you sit and eat. In the US restaurant and shop owners seem to be more strict, unless you have a dog with service tags – then it can go anywhere, even on planes. American dog owners, however, will often pay to have their dogs walked or put into daycare while they’re at work. Brits are less likely to do this, preferring to leave their dog at home all day while at work.
Cars and roads are way bigger in the US
In the UK I drive a tiny little Ford KA. London seems to be home of the Mini or the Fiat 500. Our roads are smaller, and so are our cars. In the US it seems to be all about size – the bigger the truck, the better. Since the UK has an excellent public transportation system many people don’t have cars, but in the US there’s much more of a driving culture, particularly in places like LA or Texas where everything is spread out. The UK is also a way smaller country, so driving 300 miles is a huge deal. In the US people seem to think nothing of driving several hours for a day trip.
The US is more competitive
On the whole I’ve found the US to be more competitive. If you’re entrepreneurial in spirit and you want to live the “American Dream”, then the US is a land of endless opportunities. Not that the UK isn’t (London has lots of innovation) it’s just that the US does things on a much larger scale. If you want to be acting in movies then you have Los Angeles or New York. If you want to invent an app ore commerce idea then you have tech hubs like Silicon Valley. Some of the world’s biggest companies like Amazon and Microsoft have originated in the states.
In US schools kids are encouraged to take part more competitively in sports too.
Healthcare systems are different
The UK is known for its NHS and healthcare for all (paid through public taxes). If I get a serious illness or I’m rushed into hospital, then I know I’m not going to have a bill at the end of it and I won’t be turned away for treatment. If I need to go to a doctor then I can see one for free, all I have to pay for is the prescription fee for my medicine. There are of course downsides to our healthcare system (such as long wait times) and politicians have been debating it for years, but our system is very different from the US. Over in the US healthcare is more of a privilege than a basic right, and it is mostly privately funded through medical insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.
The UK has more holidays
In the UK the average amount of paid annual leave from work is roughly 28 days, plus all the UK bank holidays.In stark contrast, US workers get around 10 to 14 days per year.
Would you agree with my thoughts? Are there any other differences you’ve noticed between life in the US vs the UK? Leave a comment below!