I’ve been in England for just over a month now and one of the first things I’ve noticed are the subtle differences between the average American person and what I’ve seen of the British since I’ve been here. I feel like I’ve got some extra insight because I’m not your average tourist, I actually live here. I go to the gym, I go to the grocery store, I see the side of the city and people that isn’t always available to a tourist in town for a week. This list isn’t about the obvious differences that everyone American knows about upon arrival in England like they have different words for things, or use the metric system. This list highlights the subtle differences in everyday life that I’ve noted in my time here. Also I live in Oxford so this might be ore tailored to how life is here and could be super different than other areas of England. So without further ado, here is my top ten list of differences between Americans and the British.
10) British people can’t re rack weights
I know Americans aren’t the best at this either, but every gym I’ve been to in America people at least get the weights close to where they’re supposed to go. It’s total anarchy at Pure Gym in Oxford. the free weights range for about 5 kilograms to about 40, which, roughly, is 10 pounds to 90 pounds. Their is no order here. You can find any weight in any slot along the spectrum here and it’s just fine. I’ve hunted for similar weights before and have come up empty because they are either lost, being used, or most likely in the heavy section (which I definitely don’t use).
Pubs ares tiny. Normally in America you have your local sports bars with a huge bar, plenty of TVs and 50 tables/booths for seating, not so fast in England. Most local pubs here have maybe seating for about 20 people. The kicker too is you have to order your food and drinks at the bar here instead of having a waiter or waitress come to every table and take your order. Good luck getting a party of 8 or more a table at anything that’s not a chain. But at least in England you get to leave when you’re done eating and not whenever you waiter/waitress processes your bill.
8) Customer Service/ servers
Speaking of servers, they aren’t working for tips so don’t expect any special treatment just because you came into their restaurant. Overall England certainly lacks for customer service in many businesses.
7) x’s after texts
Everybody sends somewhere between one and one billion random x’s after every text they send. just don’t get it. How did it start? Why x’s and not p’s? Do they not have emojis? It’s just one of those weird things that maybe will never be explained.
6) Mexican food
The next one has a much more straightforward answer behind it. There is NO GOOD MEXICAN FOOD IN OXFORD! There are some Chipotles in London, but they are a watered down version, and that’s about it for the entire country. Now that I’ve got my frustrations out, it’s pretty obvious why that’s the case. England doesn’t share a border with Mexico like the United States, and is 5,000 miles away, why the hell would there be a good burrito place here. While it’s sad, they do make up for it in having just about everything else you could want from all over the world.
5) Cards against humanity
This one should be obvious too, but you wouldn’t really thing about it until you play it with people from all over the United Kingdom. Instead making fun of Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin and Five Dollar Foot-Longs, the English are making fun of Ed Balls, the Welsh, and Pudsey Bear, whatever that is. It’s still the same fun game, sometimes you just might have to ask who or what someone is referring to.
4) Grocery stores
The basic premise of grocery stores is the same; you go in, buy food and walk out. The main difference is in America most grover stores have about 10-15 checkout lanes where you put you items on a conveyor belt as an employee checks you out, while there are maybe four self checkout lanes. In England it’s the opposite, most have several self checkout lanes with one or two traditional checkout lanes. This is very helpful if you only have a few items as the lines for the self checkout lanes move very quickly. Also something I find funny is the American section of the store.
There are tourists everywhere I’ve been so far. Oxford, tourists, Bath, tourists, London, surprisingly not swarming with tourists, but we were there in the middle of the week. The United States obviously have plenty of tourism, but a lot of that is kept to the major cities. Here it seems like everything is a tourist attraction. I can’t even begin to count how many random people’s pictures that they snapped on the street I’m probably in. I get it, things here are old and cool and theres a lot of history. But it’s not even the places that are know tourists attractions that are swarming. I’ve seen people take countless pictures of a tree on a non-historic side street in front of a forgettable building like it’s the Mona Lisa. People are just stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture of H&M like it’s the University. Speaking of the University, tourists go crazy for students at Oxford. My girlfriend is a student and for Matriculation, there were hundreds of people just taking pictures of her and her friends in their uniforms like they were at a zoo. I get it, there’s a lot to see and do, but people get excited over the weirdest things here.
Jaywalking happens in the United States all the time, but it is frowned upon and you at least have to give the police the decency to look and see if a squad car is near before you go. It’s fair game in England. If there are no cars coming, or one’s far away, feel free to cross that highway like a modern day Moses. Many times people don’t even look for traffic and step out near busses and cars assuming they’ll stop. I’ve seen people flood the middle of a street in front of a cop even, no big deal. Just a way of life and the longer I live here, the more entitled to crossing the street whenever I please I become.
1) Turning on/off outlets/appliances
And the number one subtle difference between America and the UK is… that in many places in the UK you have to turn on your outlets and appliances in order to have power and use them. In the United States, generally speaking, outlets have power going to them 24/7, just plug in and you’re good to go. In every apartment/hotel I’ve been in so far in the UK, you have to flip a switch to turn on outlets and appliances like the oven, washing machine, and even the shower. I don’t know how many times i’ve gotten in the shower only to find no water coming out, or thought I was cooking only to remember I didn’t flip the switch on the wall to turn on the stove. It truly is maddening until I reach the time when it becomes second nature. Also there are no outlets in the bathroom because Brits can’t be trusted to dry their hair too close to the shower apparently.
Honorable mentions: everyone is late, can’t bring drinks to seats in football stadium
Hopefully the longer I stay here the more interesting little differences I will come across. If you have any other ideas or fun differences you’ve come across, let me know.