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Some British dental tools (Pic: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Some British dental tools (Pic: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Some British dental tools (Pic: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Everyone is good at something, whether it’s playing the tuba or standing on one leg. And it’s the same with countries. Iceland, for example, are not so great at coconuts but marvelous with puffins. So many league tables are published that pit nation against nation in so many different disciplines that it’s the work of moments to compile a list that effectively thumbs a nose across the Atlantic from Britain to America.

This despite clear evidence that an equally damning list could be compiled pointing the other way. The interesting bit, once you’ve decided who is going to beat whom, is finding out what the categories are. Here’s what we discovered:

Dentistry
Yep. Make the Austin Powers joke all you like, but the stats appear to be on the side of the British. A recent article by the BBC examined a World Health Organisation report of the dental status of children—known as the DFMT index—which said that British youths had fewer decayed, missing or filled teeth than those in France, Spain and Sweden, or the U.S. It also found that seven out of 10 British people visit the dentist regularly, compared to four out of 10 Americans.

However, we do run into some data problems. British dental health has improved over the past 10 years, so much so that there’s an average 0.6 teeth lost per 12-year-old, which is half the figure for a comparable American child. But the U.S. figures were gathered before the British ones by some years, so American dental health may well have improved too. And as for the dentist, people might be visiting them because they have bad teeth.

Still, after all the jokes, we’ll take our revenge where we can.

Shopping capital
The figures published by the Centre for Retail Research in 2010 suggest that London is the place to be if you wish to be among expert shoppers. Whether through tourism or just a keen eye for a bargain, London showed itself to have the largest retail market, $142.70 billion (all retail) or $99.61 billion (not including food). It also boasted the largest online sales at $15.37 billion.

By comparison New York managed $102.79 billion (all retail), $72.33 billion (non-food retail) and $9,804.22 million (online).

Note: figures converted from GBP to USD.

Indoor Rainforestry

The Eden Project in Cornwall is home to two biomes; climate controlled environments which replicate the conditions certain plants thrive in, all over the word. The rainforest biome is the largest indoor rainforest in the world, playing host to over 1,000 plants and maintaining a temperature of 59-95°F. Which is not easy to do in Cornwall.

Look, you can even go on a tour using Google maps:

Element Discovery
The scientist Jamie Gallagher produced a version of the Periodic Table that places a flag underneath the location in which scientists were working when they discovered each element. Granted, some of them–like iron and gold–were known to ancient civilizations, and some were discovered in more than one place at once. But even bearing that in mind, of the unequivocal results, Britain wins with a score of 23, Sweden and Germany are in equal second place with 19 each, and the U.S. trails behind with 17.

Mind you, American scientists had significantly fewer centuries in which to make these discoveries, so that has to count for something.

Winning Grands Prix
In Formula 1 car racing, no nation comes close to beating the record set by the UK, whose drivers have won over 240 races, compared to Germany’s 150. American drivers have won the grand prix 33 times, a feat achieved by 15 drivers. By contrast, it took just 19 British drivers to win all of their races.

Publishing Books
As our two nations are so radically different in size it would not be fair to compare like for like. Or rather, it might be fair, but the British would not win. America publishes more new books per year than any other nation. However, if you adjust the figures to reflect the relative size of population, and produce a per capita chart of books published per year, the Brits come out on top.

Drinking Tea
A shocker, I am sure you agree. But according to this data, compiled by Euromonitor for the World Bank, the citizens of the U.K. drink more tea per person than the citizens of the U.S. Quite a lot more, actually. While Americans average 0.503 pounds of tea per person per year, the Brits put away eight times as much, scoring an average of 4.281 pounds per person per year. But even they have to bow before the people of Turkey, who manage to down 6.961 pounds per person per year.

However, you may like to know that Euromonitor also reports that the U.S. is the fourth largest tea market in the world (ie. in wholesale terms) after China, Russia and Japan. The U.K. is only eighth on that list. All those half-pounds really do add up.

And while we’re on unexpected results…

Eating Chocolate
Once again, that per capita result shows up some surprising behavioral results. Euromonitor’s figures for 2013 suggest that while the Swiss are still the biggest consumers of chocolate in the world—each person getting through an average of 20 pounds per year, on average—the U.K. isn’t that far behind, on a healthy (note: unhealthy) 16.53 pounds. By contrast, people in the U.S. eat a relatively slimming 9.47 pounds.

Which all goes to prove that it’s not always in your best interests to make chocolate that tastes nice.

Making Soap Operas Last
The Archers is BBC Radio 4’s pride and joy. Originally billed as “an everyday tale of farming folk,” it is the world’s longest-running radio soap opera production, having started broadcasting on January 1, 1951.

For the TV equivalent, we have to fast forward some nine years to 1960, and the beginning of Coronation Street. Sadly, Corrie is not quite the longest running soap yet, having to last another two years in order to beat the record set by America’s now-defunct Guiding Light (57 years, not counting its time on radio). That said, Coronation Street remains a staple of British TV so there’s little doubt they’ll get there in the end.

Making Science Fiction Last

Doctor Who started in 1963, and its nearest rival for longevity in the TV science fiction stakes—America’s Star Trek—didn’t start its first five-year mission until 1966. And while both franchises have had their ups and downs, they’ve both been very real in the minds of their fans ever since. It’s just that Doctor Who manages the feat of following a 50-year linear timeline while constantly rebooting itself every few years. Beat that, Kirk!

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By Fraser McAlpine