10 Differences I noticed living in the UK vs. USA

usuk*Before I even begin, this blog is solely my own observations and opinions and by no way am I trying to state any of this as “facts” – just so I don’t get any weird responses about “well I dont agree with that.. blah blah”.. BUT after living in UK (specifically Cornwall) for a month, I have noticed so many differences in lifestyle than my hometown in South Florida.*

1. Food and Drink portions

  • We all know Americans love their food… but I didn’t really realize just how large our portions are until I spent time outside of it.  For instance: even though McDonalds is the same company in both countries, the “large” size in the UK is equivalent to the “medium” size in the US. There are no massive cups and rarely massive plate sizes.  And I have yet to see anyone ask for a to-go box (besides me).  What’s given to you is meant to be eaten in that sitting I suppose.  But I don’t think that is a bad thing.  American’s have a high obesity rate for a reason.. However, don’t even get me started on the portion of alcohol given in a liquor drink at a bar here in the UK.. it is SIGNIFICANTLY less.  I am used to (and enjoy) the heavy pours of American bars, where my vodka&water ends up basically being 85% vodka with a splash of water.  But when I order any liquor here, it is from a tap that has pre-measured taps of only 25ml so they cannot be overpoured (that’s = .88 ounces, which is less than a 1.5oz single shot in America if it wasn’t overpoured)… meaning my drink was basically all water, no vodka. It’s the law (Seen here) ..Waste of money if you ask me, but I guess that’s why everyone drinks beer here, they love their pints, and they get their moneys worth with that!

2. Green

  • UK is one of the most green places I’ve been… both physically (anywhere outside of London) and culturally/environmentally.  (Ok I’ve only been all over southern England & all of Ireland.. so I can’t speak for northern England.. but I think it’s pretty similar).  There are so many people that use solar panels to power their entire home.  There are massive fields of solar panels to power entire towns.  Every single electrical socket can be turned on and off individually if you’re not using them to conserve energy.  Plastic is becoming very limited (pay extra if you want a plastic bag at any store, straws are almost nonexistent, etc).  They are going to have recycling trucks come more often than garbage trucks.  Farms are absolutely everywhere.  The streets are all lined with luscious greenery and the coasts are protected areas that can’t be built on.  Gardening and horticulture are common hobbies amongst its citizens.  I could go on and on.  I am aware all of these things exist in the states… but nowhere NEAR to the extent as over here.. at least not where I come from in South Florida specifically.  I know recently it is becoming more common, more marketed, and more accepted in the states, but I feel environmentally-friendly ideas are sometimes thrown in peoples faces with the wrong attitude in the states.  In Cornwall, it just seems to be part of everyones beliefs to want to keep their earth clean.. part of society.

3. Tea & Coffee

  • Most people I know at home in the US love their coffee.  They wake up in the morning and can’t function or go to work without a cup or 2 (even if its an extra large one from Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks.. and omg I really miss McDonalds Iced Coffee.. they dont have that in UK, but I digress).  But they got nothing on the UK’s habits. Not only is coffee the first thing they do in the morning.. they also have either it or tea (a LOT of tea) at all other times of day.  Breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, before bed, and probably in their sleep.  It’s offered at friends houses pretty much right away as a welcome.  I hateeeeee tea so I don’t fit in with that custom, but I definitely drink way more coffee in UK than I used to in US.  I don’t think that’s a good thing for me really.. but just stating a fact. OH! And I had no idea how to make coffee with a cafetierre before living in England (I always use a Keurig in the US.. which I now realize is convenient but uses WAY too much plastic).  Anyway, I now know how to make my coffee from boiling water on the stove 🙂

4. Lingo

  • This is one of my favorite differences.. because it’s fun.  Although English is the primary language of both places, there are SO many differences in everyday lingo.  My boyfriend is English and I’m American and I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve had to ask him what the hell he meant by what he said. I never knew 2 people could speak the same language, yet not understand what each other says quite often.
  • Examples (UK=US)…. Lorry=Semi Truck, Bonnet=Car Hood, Boot= Car Trunk, Layby=Rest stop, Fringe=Hair Bangs, Brolly=Umbrella, Lay in=Sleep in, Proper=Really,  Short drink=Mixed drink, Lead=Leash, he didn’t know what a “tailgate” was when I was referring to partying before a sporting event….  And more common ones like Reckon=Think, Fancy=Want, Wee=Pee, Trousers=Pants, Chips=Fries, Crisps=Chips, Futbol=soccer, I honestly can’t even think of all of them off the top of my head, but you get the idea.

5. Dog/Animal Friendly

  • Dogs are welcome nearly everywhere. I remember the first day I walked around Cornwall with Dave’s mom’s dog and we walked right into a bar/restaurant and the first thing I said was “is the dog allowed in here?!” but she sure was… she’s welcome majority of places, and I love that.

6. Public footpaths/Transportation

  • Walking and biking are common forms of transportation in the UK.. and not just in the cities.  Because of this, there are public paths EVERYWHERE.  I’ve walked a lot in Cornwall particularly, and no matter where I was coming from/going to it seemed there was quiet paths to walk on to get there.  In the US, I enjoy running and walking as well.. and the beach is always a beautiful place to do so, but my routes seem to be limited sometimes. In the mountains and state parks there are trails and paths of course… but there are SO many more public paths in UK throughout towns.  You can basically walk from any point A to point B and there will be scenic paths along farms, in the woods, or on the coast.. including through private properties as long as you close the gate behind you as you enter/leave.  The difference is, they don’t have many sidewalks in Cornwall.  So roads aren’t safe to walk along sometimes.. meaning your walk will probably take longer. Whereas in the US, there aren’t half as many walking trails, yet there are sidewalks on almost every single road, which is convenient to walk anywhere that way.

7. Restaurants/Shops

  • This is a semi-broad topic about the service expected and the foods available.  The UK’s restaurants are VERY allergen-friendly.  I am THE pickiest eater in the world, so this is amazing to me.  I don’t eat egg yolks for example, and a lot of places make me things from scratch just to be egg-free (batters, sauces, etc).  I rarely ever find this in the states, as I am always told “sorry it is pre-made or pre-mixed”.  UK’s food is often straight from local farms and easily capable of being cooked to order, which is so good.  However, the service is also different.  I have found it is normal to have to wave down your waiter/waitress when you want something here in England.. they don’t always come to you to ask if you need something, and I almost always have to go up to them to ask for my check or to pay.  I personally think the point of a server being paid is to do just that.. serve you.  So pros and cons of both places while eating out.

8. Types of Cars

  • Everywhere I look in the UK, 90% of the cars on the roads are either hatchbacks or vans.  It took me a long time to understand this..and I’m still trying to.  I understand SUV’s and big trucks (which is what a lot of Americans drive) can have poor gas mileage, and gas is more expensive in the UK than it is in the US… but having a large trunk (“boot”) instead of a hatchback, wouldn’t affect your gas mileage.  I also understand the roads are MUCH more narrow in UK, so having a car that isn’t very wide is also easier… but again, that has nothing to do with the rear side of the car.  WHY are the majority of cars in the UK hatchbacks?? Where are your trunks?? Also, I’ve been living in a van here Europe.  Which blends in with all the other non-hatchbacks on the road.  There are vans EVERYWHERE.  Which is pretty cool.  In Florida “van life” is such a rarity, but in the UK it is so so common!! So, I love the commonality of vans, but I don’t understand the obsession with hatchbacks.

9. Appliances

  • Since I’ve been in England, I have not used a dryer, dishwasher, or any form of electric coffee maker. Yes, some people obviously have all of the above in England, but it is also very common not to have them.  Hand wash all dishes, hang up/line dry all clothes, and wait for water to boil to pour it over your coffee grounds in a cafetierre.  I suppose this goes hand in hand with the environmentally-friendly attitude that they have here as it really conserves energy.  Other than it being more time consuming, it honestly hasn’t been that bad. However, to me, the ease and convenience of electronic appliances is why they were invented, and I prefer it.

10. Size of… everything

  • I think this goes for the entire continent of Europe, not just the UK.. but literally everything is smaller.  Closets, (if they even have one), rooms, roads, parking lots (half the time they don’t even exist), driveways, bars, markets, structure of homes, food, drinks, beds (UK king size=US queen size), I could go on and on.   A lot of this is just because of the age of when things were originally built (a long time ago), and bigger isn’t always better, but it’s just a noticeably huge difference between the 2 places.

There are a lot of similarities that this post obviously did not focus on.  I am proud to be an American first and foremost always and forever, but part of why I love traveling is to experience and learn other cultures, countries, and ways of life.  Everybody is different. And everybody can learn something from somebody.  Nobody is best at everything.  We all need to learn from one another.  – BEAUTIFUL beaches from both places below.





Be sure to follow me and my travels on Instagram @KellyNicoleTravel.  Love ya guys!


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