When you come from the UK, it’s easy to forget just how different you are from our lovely neighbours across the pond. We eat your food, we watch your movies and we listen to your music and, not going to lie, we love it all! You guys seem to quite like us too, if I say so myself. I mean, we birthed One Direction and look how much you love those guys. Sharing a language and history links us together, for sure, but it’s only when a Brit ventures stateside and vice versa, that they see that, actually, there are still some pretty stark differences between us all. I figured that, as a brit and Englishwoman, I probably have a pretty expert level of knowledge about my little country and thought I’d share some interesting facts and comparisons about the UK. For those of you that haven’t visited us over here or for those that are interested in proper, British culture, this one’s for you.
- What are we called?: Are we Britain? The UK? The British Isles? Well, in short, we’re all three. When we talk about the UK, we’re referring to four separate but united places – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (as the Republic of Ireland is independent). In fact, the official title is United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This, therefore, means that Great Britain refers exclusively to
England, Wales and Scotland, as we all share land space, whilst Ireland is a separate island all on its own. The UK is also flanked by a collection of even tinier islands, including the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Man and we, collectively, call ourselves the British Isles. Don’t worry, I know it’s confusing; the best pieces of advice to remember are these: don’t ask an Irish person it they’re British – they’re not, and never, EVER, call a person from Scotland English… it never ends well. We all have our own flags, too, not just the well-known and widely-used Union Jack.
- We can’t drive until we’re seventeen: And that’s just a learner’s permit. I mean, how badly does that suck? Enjoy your freedom, guys, we all wish we could be that lucky. Watching American movies in which high school kids drive themselves to school is still something we just can’t get used to. Most of us don’t pass our tests until we’re eighteen, which is pretty much three years behind you guys.
- Our legal drinking age is eighteen: We have you beat on this one. For us, eighteenth birthdays are a pretty big deal. When we turn eighteen, we basically become a fully fledged adult. From then on, we can do everything from drink, drive (although not at the same time!), vote and see any film at the movies.
- The Royal Family doesn’t actually do all that much: I know all the royalists out there will be wanting me hung, drawn and quartered for high treason, but the truth of it is that the Royal Family are little more than a public figurehead and representation of our little country to the outside world. The Royal Family
has held very little power over our country and hasn’t for centuries. That’s not to diminish their importance and relevance within our history and modern day culture, but you’d be mistaken in thinking that the Royal Family are the ones making the important decisions – that’s a job for our elected parliaments!
- Most of our cars aren’t automatic: Yep, most of us have to drive a stick shift. Automatic cars are harder to come by over in the UK, which is a real shame because they’re so much easier to drive! A good proportion of our driving lessons are spent mastering gear changes and finding your car’s biting point, which is the correct combination of pressure on the gas pedal and release on the clutch to get the big ol’ thing to actually move. To confuse you all the more, upon visiting our lovely little isles, you’ll notice that we drive on the opposite side of the road to you guys. Don’t ask why; I don’t even think we know ourselves.
- We have the best chocolate ever: Sorry, there’s no contest. Cadbury’s beats Hershey’s every time, in my humble but expert opinion. We even have our very own chocolate village – a model village built by the Cadbury family in the latter half of the 1800s which served the purpose of providing good housing and a higher quality of living for the chocolate factory workers. Fun fact: all of the houses are chocolate brown! Even more fun fact: my grandma and her sister worked on the production line at Cadbury’s and were allowed to eat as much chocolate as they wanted off the conveyor belt. Queue visions of Lucy and Ethel…
- Our cost of living is much higher: Like, waaaaay higher! To give you an example, the average cost of a house in the U.S. is $188,900, whilst over in the UK it’s a sweat-inducing £195,000, which is equivalent to approximately $293,000 at the current exchange rate. Crazy, right? And you guys think New York City is expensive; guys, we go to New York to buy the ‘cheap’ clothes and makeup!
- There are lots of other places to see asides from London: I’ll be the first to admit that London is a truly magical city and if you ever come to the UK, you really must go. Having said that, being a non-Londoner, I’ll also say that our country has some other pretty awesome places to see. Brighton, home of beauty blogging sensation, Zoella, is easily one of the nicest and quirkiest beach cities we have. Cities like Edinburgh, Bath, York and Chester are wonderfully quaint and historic (Chester even has a real Roman Amphitheatre!) and I can promise you that our Lake District is some of the loveliest countryside you could ever see. The one awesome thing about
having so much rain is that our countryside is super lush and green.
- We have a wonderfully racially diverse society: We don’t take up a whole lot of room on Planet Earth, but there are a heck of a lot of us. There are, in fact, more than 64 million of us – that’s nearly three times the population of Australia! Whilst the majority of us are white caucasian with European roots, we also have many people with asian heritage living here, whether they be Asian Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Chinese, along with rich Afro-Caribbean and African populations. Basically, we’re from all over the place and, in turn, we have the privilege of being a very culturally-aware and accepting society on the whole.
- We’re big tea drinkers: Whilst we may not take afternoon tea like they do on Downton Abbey, the UK certainly does love a good ol’ cuppa! We love it so much, in fact, that collectively we drink approximately 165 million cups of tea per day…PER DAY! It’s none of that fruit infusion stuff either; a proper, English
breakfast style cup of tea with a splash of milk and sugar (totally optional) is the way we do things here. Here’s a secret for you all – I can’t stand the stuff! Don’t tell the authorities though, I’m pretty sure that kind of confession can get you kicked out…