30 Lessons I Learned As a Brit in America

Being a Brit in the USA can have it’s perks. It’s easy to strike up conversation, as people seem to instantly like you for your “cute” accent. However, it can also be quite interesting to be a Brit in the USA for other reasons. Here is a list of things that I wish someone had told me before I visited America for the first time, as well as some of the downright obvious differences between the two!

Everyday Life

  • Everything is back to front. The doors lock on the opposite way to the U.K. This is a good reminder if you’re fumbling at the door with your keys at 2am whilst slightly inebriated…
  • Washing machines are not in the kitchen, but are in a separate room
  • Only the minority of people hang their washing outside (at least in California). This was very surprising considering California is one of the hottest states, yet everyone uses tumble dryers – even in the Summer. In comparison, there are us Brits who run outside when it’s raining to collect the washing from the line, come Winter or Summer!
  • All cash looks deceivingly similar. Just use your Monzo or Starling card to save the hassle for larger purchases, and save your dollar bills for tipping
  • TV adverts come on (what feels like) every 5 minutes in America
  • Farmer’s Markets are a great way to support local businesses, save money and have an enjoyable evening out
  • Kettles just aren’t a thing in the USA
  • Plug outlets don’t have on and off switches, unlike the U.K.
  • Marijuana is legal in some states
  • Even me (a very positive and optimistic person), fairs slightly cynical in comparison to my American counterparts
  • Despite the same language, the lingo is quite different. My brother’s wife (an American herself), sent me this message me before we travelled and I’m glad she did!
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Driving

  • To rent a car you typically need to be at least 25. If you are younger than this, expect to pay heftier prices!
  • In the U.K. you drive on the left hand side of the road, vs in the States you drive on the right hand side. I did have one scary but short incident, where we accidentally drove on the wrong side of the road. Luckily (or not as it may be) it was dark and there were no other cars around
  • You can turn right on a red light
  • Everyone pretty much drives an automatic car in America vs. “stick” (manual) which Brits learn to drive on!
  • When filling up petrol, prepay first with your card or go into the petrol station and say how many dollars worth, you want to fill up your tank. Proceed to fill up your car’s tank, clicking the button to hold up the pump. If you filled up less than you paid for, go back into the store and collect the change
  • Some streets have cleaning days; remember to read the signs and move your car if necessary to not get fined
  • Read the parking signs everywhere and double check with passers by so your car doesn’t get towed…! (3 guesses what happened to me)
  • You don’t pay for parking in shopping malls unlike the U.K.

Tipping

  • In the U.K. a standard tip is 10% for your meal. Although, I was aware that tipping is a big part of hospitality culture, I learned that (roughly) you should tip 15%= good service, 18% = great service and 20% = excellent service
  • Tip a dollar per beer, but more if you’re ordering (a complex to make) cocktail, like a Mojito
  • What I didn’t know is how to tip. For anyone who hasn’t been to America I’ll state what seems obvious to Americans. If paying by card, when the waiter comes out to collect payment, don’t input your card pin straight away. The restaurant/bar will scan your card first, The waiter will return with a receipt for you to write down how much you are paying plus the tip. The tip will be collected from your account at a later date. In the U.K. just add your tip at the end of the meal either by cash or card, and it will be taken at the same time!

Going Out

  • Baseball fans of opposing teams sit all mixed together in the stadium, rather than on separate sides like they do in the U.K for football matches
  • (As a tourist) if you wish to buy an alcoholic drink at any baseball game etc., take your passport with you. Without it you won’t be served even if you have another form of identification, such as your driving license
  • You need to ask for “ice water”, if you would like some water with ice
  • Expect to pay more at the end of your meal, as tax is added on afterwards
  • The National Parks are huge and amazing! Plan to spend extra time to really explore these beauty spots
  • Be safe and ask for recommendations from locals or hospitality staff, on which areas or streets to avoid on your travels
  • Buy travel insurance to cover any medical costs – unlike the wonderful NHS, health insurance is essential in America
  • There is and never will be an establishment that compares to a British pub!

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