The Drastic Differences Between British and American Ways of Life

As an American, there is something intriguing and captivating about the way the British live their lives. Here in the United States, we have grown very accustomed to certain “luxuries” that we assume every country should integrate into their culture. But the truth is, the British have figured out a way of life that works great for them — and at times, even better than some of the American ways of life. Here are a few of the drastic differences between British and American ways of living. 

1. Health care is free in England

nurse disinfecting male arm
Healthcare is paid for with taxation. | YakobchukOlena/iStock/Getty Images

England’s National Health Service (NHS) hit the ground running back in 1948, and even though it has its challenges, it seems to be working pretty well. As a resident of Great Britain, healthcare comes free by way of taxation. This means that 64.6 million people in the U.K. and 54.3 million in England are reaping the benefits of free healthcare, which includes screenings, treatment for long-term conditions, trips to the emergency room, transplants, and even hospice care. The only out-of-pocket expenses for residents are for prescriptions, dental, and vision.

Next: Vacation time in the U.K. versus vacation time in the U.S. is drastically different.

2. In the U.K., 4 weeks of paid vacation is standard

happy couple on summer vacation in Dubrovnik
The E.U. is required to provide at least 20 days off. | Nadezhda1906/iStock/Getty Images

The United States is not known for its work-life balance. Instead, American employees are lucky if they get two weeks paid time off when they onboard a new job. Employees in the U.K., however, receive a standard 28 days of paid time off. Ever since 1993, any country that is part of the European Union is required to provide at least 20 days off to its employees. France is still leading the pack at 30 vacation days each year.

Next: You will not believe this major difference between British and American police forces. 

3. The British police force rarely carry guns

Police officers on duty
Even the police don’t have guns. | Serge_Bertasius/iStock/Getty Images

Of the entire U.K. police force, only 10 percent of officers are carrying guns. The other 90 percent protect and serve by using batons, pepper spray, sometimes stun guns, and of course, handcuffs. To put this all into perspective, in 2016, only seven bullets were shot by police officers in England and Wales. Of those seven bullets, only five individuals were killed. On the other hand, United States police officers shot and killed 1,092 people in 2016.

Next: Here’s where table etiquette comes into play. 

4. The date is always written day/month/year

They swap the month and the day. | Kwangmoozaa/iStock/Getty Images

This one throws a lot of Americans for a loop, so much that they have missed international flights and appointments due to their misunderstanding. In England, along with the majority of the world, the date is written by first stating the day, then the month, then the year. In fact, the United States in the anomaly.

Next: The school system is quite different than the Americans. 

5. British workers know how to step away

Headache In Office
Americans are addicted to their jobs. | millann/iStock/Getty Images

Sure, we have already established that the Brits receive more vacation time than Americans, but one notable fact is that Americans struggle to completely use their vacation time. As bizarre as it may seem, only 24 percent of U.S. workers take the full vacation time they are given, and it is because getting to the top of the corporate ladder does not come by way of taking time off. Americans fear that the post-vacation workload will be too stressful.

Next: Free parking is a luxury in Great Britain. 

6. Free parking in the U.K. is a rarity

time expired on parking meter
There’s not much free parking. | iStock/Getty Images

In England, free parking in a “car park” is an extreme rarity. In the United States, not all parking is free, but it is certainly more common. Get this, even hospital parking in the United Kingdom comes with a fee — much less whipping into the drug store. Even though America’s street parking normally requires a permit or hourly fee, it should be considered a luxury to park for free.

Next: This daily ritual is everything. 

7. Tea time is a ritual for the English

Pouring tea from vintage teapot to the cup, English Tea Time.
It’s an art. | Artfully79/iStock/Getty Images

Whether it’s first thing in the morning, elevenses, high tea, or afternoon tea, the British truly embrace their affinity for enjoying a cup of tea. With nearly 60 million cups of it consumed every year, it’s Portugal’s Catherine of Braganza who brought tea to England upon marrying King Charles II in 1662. Since then, the Brits take tea time more seriously than the Americans take their coffee breaks.

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