Top 5 Differences Between the US and UK

St Edmundsbury Cathedral

St. Edmundsbury Cathedral

We’ve been living in England for a little over two weeks now and sometimes it’s easy to forget that we’re in a foreign country.  Everyone looks like us, speaks the same language, and we’re surrounded by a large American population.  However, a few things have stood out and continue to remind us that we’re no longer back in the states.

Here are the top five differences we’ve observed so far.

  1. Everything is smaller.

From roads to houses to appliances, it seems as if everything has been miniaturized.  This quickly became apparent during our house search.  We previously lived in a 3,200 sq ft house in Texas, which we readily admit was unnecessarily large.  Here we ran into the opposite problem.  Even though we anticipated smaller houses, it was still tough to visualize how our furniture would fit in most of the homes we viewed.  We ended up finding a house that should fit our needs perfectly.  It’s listed at 1,625 sq ft, half the size of our previous house.

You can’t have a small house without small appliances.  More frequent trips to the grocery store are in our future.  There’s no way we’ll be stocking up on groceries anymore.  And to think we used to buy 2-3 gallons of milk at a time!  Now we’ll be lucky to fit a few liters in the fridge.  Same goes with laundry.  We’ll be running the washer much more often.

Getting around has been another adventure.  These roads are tight!  Although we’re becoming fairly comfortable driving around, it’s still a bit scary winding through narrow country roads and having another vehicle speed by in the opposite direction at 50-60 mph.  It feels like we can reach out and touch these passing cars.  I’ll keep my hands inside the vehicle, thank you.

The Nutshell

Britain’s smallest pub, only 15 ft by 7 ft!

  1. We need to reset time and service expectations.

September 30… that’s when our internet service is scheduled to be activated.  We called to set up service on August 25!!!  Whoa, thank goodness we’re being proactive considering we don’t move into our new place for another week.  We expected a delay, but five weeks is a little shocking!  A week would’ve been borderline unacceptable in the states.

 The best example of resetting expectations happened over the weekend.  Check out this message we received on Sunday while attempting to visit a website called Bookoo, a Craigslist-like site here in the UK.  At the time, we were somewhat frustrated that we couldn’t do what we wanted/needed to do that day, especially being that Sundays is one of the two “free” days we have to take care of this kind of stuff.  On the other hand, it was actually kind of cool and really illustrated a cultural difference between the US and UK.

Bookoo Closed Sundays

  1. There are parks everywhere.

This ties in with the last point above.  It seems that around every corner there is a community park, children’s playground, or garden where you can take time away with family to enjoy sunshine (yes, it has actually been sunny here) and life, as mentioned above.  The kids have been in heaven climbing on playsets everywhere we go.  Interestingly, we saw the same thing when we visited Chile in July.  Noticing this in two vastly different countries within a couple months, we feel the US needs to step up their game to encourage outdoor, active lifestyles!

4. Constant mental conversions are the new norm.

No matter what we do, there’s sure to be some type of conversion involved.  Which ATM gives us the best exchange rate?  How many liters are in a gallon?  It’s supposed to be 24°C today, what’s that in degrees Fahrenheit?  If an organic, pasture-raised sirloin steak is selling for £28/kg, how much is that in dollars per pound ($/lb) and is it a good deal?  You get the point.  These conversions are now part of our daily life until we adjust to our new units of measure and currency.

In case you’re wondering, we’ve paid between $1.31 and 1.36 per £1, there are 4.54 liters per gallon, the high temperature will be about 75°F, and the steak is selling for roughly $16.65/lb.

  1. The amount of history is incredible.

Just walking through some of the nearby towns, and seeing homes and other buildings that have been around for over five hundred years is simply amazing.  Aside from a few cities in the United States, you’d be hard-pressed to find many buildings more than a hundred years old.  Up to this point, we’ve been accustomed to living in newer, suburban developments where much of the town is probably less than twenty or thirty years old.

15th Century House

This was built in the fifteenth century!

This doesn’t even begin to mention all the historical figures who once lived, are currently buried, or events that took place in the area.

Mary Tudor Queen of France

Burial site of Mary Tudor, Queen of France and daughter of Henry VII (1495 – 1533)

I’m sure over time we’ll begin to notice other things as well, but in our short time here these things have really stood out.  For those of you who have spent considerable time in both countries, what other differences have you noticed?

24 thoughts on “Top 5 Differences Between the US and UK

  1. Mrs. PIE says:

    Ha Ha! love this – and there’s WAY more than five – keep them coming!
    We get a few funny reminders when we travel back to the UK. How small everything is (including cars!), how green it is, how so many people smoke, how much REALLY good chocolate there is, how we are separated by the same language (which leads to much confusion!), how everyone watches the same TV shows and talks about them the next day, how funny the ‘American style’ restaurants are. All good stuff. Have fun and keep us posted 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ditching the Grind says:

      A super funny thing happened yesterday where two British ladies were telling us how when they go to the US, everyone thinks they’re from Australia. Then, they both started talking in exaggerated Australian accents. It was hilarious!

      And you’re right, there are tons of differences that I’m sure we’ll talk about over the next few years.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mr. PIE says:

    Love that you are getting into the swing of things!

    6. They love their cups of tea in Britain. Lots of them. And served with a nice chocolate biscuit (or six)
    7. Warm ale is expected in pubs. Service in restaurants is not so warm.
    8. Football is correctly played with a round ball. Cricket also. We love these two sports dearly.
    9. EVERYBODY, not half the country, thinks Donald Trump is an utter moron
    10. Sarcasm as a form of humor is found everywhere.
    11. “Cheerio” is something said as a fond farewell. Not a cereal type.

    Oh, I could have some great fun with this today.. ..!!!

    Like

  3. Ellie@frugalitygivesusoptions.com says:

    Loved this post! You stop seeing things after a while. I hadn’t appreciated for example that the place is so full of history, I can’t really imagine it not being like that. Likewise the parks, what would you do with restless kids without them?!

    Enjoy your new life here 🙂

    Like

    • Ditching the Grind says:

      Thanks! As far as history, it is super evident to us and really interesting. Comparatively, the US is so much younger as a country that aside from places like Philadelphia, Boston, and a few others, you don’t get much of the historical perspective on a regular basis.

      And don’t get me wrong, there are parks in the US, but they don’t seem to be nearly as prevalent. Because there is more space, it is probably more common for a US family to have their own pool or playset in the backyard than it is in the UK. Also, lots of kids are glued to tablets, phones, and other electronic devices. I know that’s something we’re always trying to strike a balance on with our kids.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Mrs. FI says:

    Such a fun post. I love reading about cultural differences! Looking forward to more posts about how you and the kids are adjusting to everything (especially things like $16.65/lb steaks after living in a state where steak is basically a food group :P)!

    Like

    • Ditching the Grind says:

      Thanks! It’s been an interesting experience so far. The kids are super adaptable and resilient and seem to be adjusting nicely. They started school this week which is helping us get back into a normal schedule/routine. About food, it’ll take some time to figure out the best place to get certain things and we’ve found a couple farms nearby that seem like they could be good options.

      The next few years should be a lot of fun!

      Like

  5. Investment Hunting says:

    One of my favorite places in the world to visit. Highly intelligent people with fantastic senses of humor. I agree, the history is awesome. It seems everything has a story to tell. Enjoy your time there and make local friends. It makes such a difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mr. SSC says:

    I do wish there were more parks and playgrounds around the US. Like you mentioned, most neighborhoods are big enough that like us, we have a swingset/playset in our backyard. OUr neighborhood/master planned community has a lot of pocket parks with playgrounds scattered around it but that’s not the norm.

    As far as size, I’d noticed that when traveling in France, and it was driven home by a visit from a friend that had moved to Aberdeen. We were showing him our house, and got to the Master bedroom walk-in closet and he remarked that it was about the size of their entore bedroom in Aberdeen. Granted, we also think the TX size houses are way too big, but it’s harder to find a house without a massive walkin closet than with one. What do you do? 🙂

    I bet it would take a little while to get used to the conversions and start thinking in those units. Not difficult, just different. Can’t wait to hear more about the cultural differences.

    Like

    • Ditching the Grind says:

      You nailed it. I’m pretty sure our old closet was bigger than about half the bedrooms we saw! And you’re right, Texas houses are just crazy big.

      We move into our new place tomorrow. I’m sure we’ll have lots of stories to tell in the coming months.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Red Badger says:

    A couple comments. Restaurants across Europe are slower than the US. In the US, even finer places work prompt service to “turn tables.” In most of Europe (that I’ve visited anyway) the table is “yours for the night.” It does take some getting used to. I did some project work there and often would opt for “takeaway” so I could work, read, or watch TV, and not sit in a restaurant for, sometimes literally, hours.

    On a side note… If you are looking for a way to kill a weekend, Bolton (about 20 minutes NW of Manchester) has a hotel that is literally withing the structure of a soccer (football?) stadium. It is home of the mighty Bolton Wanderers. Their mascot is a Meerkat. The stadium is adjacent to a decent size shopping center, and between the hotel and the shopping center, you have several dining options.

    I was delighted one day when I was shopping in NC and a guy spotted my Wanderers shirt because he was from the area. HE was so surprised to see his local team proudly on display thousands of miles away 🙂

    Enjoy your tours of duty. Cheerio!

    Like

    • Ditching the Grind says:

      In the 6 weeks we’ve been here, it seems that not just restaurants but anything service-related is much, much slower than in the US. And you’re right, it is taking some getting used to.

      Thanks for the tip about Bolton. We definitely want to embrace the local culture while we’re here. While Manchester is a decent ways away, I’ll keep it in mind if we’re in the area.

      Like

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