8 Situations When Brits Behave Differently from Americans


Brits and Americans have different ordering “styles”. (GFWS)

Those of us who were born and raised in the U.K. have our own special, but not necessarily sensible, way of doing things.

1. When someone knocks into us
If someone bumps into an American, the victim will most likely take issue with his accidental aggressor and expect an apology. If, however, the wounded party happens to be British, their inappropriate “sorry” reflex will kick in, probably before the perpetrator can muster their own apology. The scenario is deeply confusing for anyone who isn’t British.

2. When we order food
As far as Brits are concerned, menus are set in stone. On home turf, we would never ask for changes or substitutions to our plate of restaurant food. We’d rather pick the walnuts out of a salad when it arrives than suggest that people we’re paying to make and deliver us a meal do it for us. Americans, meanwhile, think nothing of asking a waitress to “hold the bread” when they order a sandwich.

3. When we don’t finish our food
Having spent half the meal plucking out the unwanted parts, we wouldn’t think to capitalize on our dining experience by taking the leftovers home. The food is somehow “tainted” once we’ve poked at it with a knife and fork or, worst still, our mouths. In America, wrapping it up to take home (people don’t even pretend it’s for the dog anymore) is standard practice.

4. When someone opens up to us
I suspect a Brit came up with the phrase “uncomfortable silence” so they’d have something to call the dead time between being subjected to someone’s deeply personal revelation and thinking up a way to change the subject. Spill your guts to an American, however, and they’ll handle it like a professional, dabbing at your tears and spewing cushiony sentiment.

5. When a stranger sits next to us
Ever noticed how Brits will only take a seat next to someone as a last resort? Many of us would rather stand on crutches for a 45-minute bus ride than chafe flanks with a fellow citizen. So when someone breaks with this unwritten rule and puts their bottom next to your bottom, it makes you furious. What if they expect us to have a conversation? The only Brits who have comfortably abandoned this revulsion are the over 65s. People raised in the U.S., however, seem comfortable having individuals they’ve never met enter their personal space and talk to them.

6. When we get dressed for dinner
Don’t get me wrong. Brits don’t all change into evening dress for our supper like Lord and Lady Grantham. But we do tend to make an effort when we go out for dinner somewhere nice. Americans, I’ve noticed, aren’t averse to wearing the jumper they bought in Disney Land circa 1993 to a fancy eatery. They’ve probably got the right idea. It is borderline preposterous to don your nicest clothes only to ruin them half an hour later with a misdirected mouthful of bisque.

7. When we get ourselves a hot drink at the office
If you’ve worked in both a British and an American office, you may have noticed the following: Brits will always offer to make a “round” of teas and coffees for their nearest workmates (or risk becoming a pariah), while Americans tend to fetch their own. U.S. workers will, however, take their colleagues’ orders if they’re going out to buy coffee. It’s a subtle but not insignificant difference.

8. When we get into a taxi
Brits traveling by cab will give the driver an address then assume that’s it for interaction until it’s time to pay. Even if it looks like we’re being taken from one bit of London to another via Glasgow, we’re unlikely to interject. In America, however, imparting a destination would merely be phase one of the passenger/driver interaction. Most Americans will think nothing of telling their temporary chauffeur what route to take. Full-on rows can break out if the cabbie and customer don’t see eye to eye on this.

Do  you have any additions to the list? 

See more:
8 Stupid Mistakes Brits Make in America
‘Real Americans’: Five Widely Held Stereotypes Debunked
A British Houseguest’s Guide to the American Home

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.
View all posts by Ruth Margolis.
  • gn

    I have notived that at bars/pubs, “buying a round” seems to be much less common in the US.

    • Diane

      As is offering cigarettes…not that I have smoked in yrs but I remember when I did ,offering pack to everyone!

    • silentnonrev

      yup, you only have to do that once or twice without reciprocation to figure out that you need to adapt, or things are going to be very expensive for you!

    • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Toni Hargis

      Because of that however, I have often found myself landed with an entire bill for a large group of people, half of whom have already left the bar. The thing about putting a credit card behind the bar (as I did, but only for me and my husband as we were the first to arrive) ended up with the waitress putting everyone’s drinks on it.

  • Diane

    Ordering in a restaurant and not saying Please!…as in ” I’ll have the chicken with vegetables on the side!”. Makes my toes curl every time!

    • ProudYankee

      I don’t say “please,” but I say “thank you” as soon as I finish ordering and hand the menu to the server. I don’t see what’s wrong with that.

      I think as long as you’re not barking out orders any way of expressing gratitude is fine.

    • silentnonrev

      “gimme a…” “I wanna…” or just “number 3 with a large Coke” used to grate on me. I’ve come to realize that people don’t notice that lack of the little verbal lubricants that we may have had instilled into us. That doesn’t make them rude people, and the folks on the receiving end don’t perceive them as such–it’s just differing social norms.

      • Momo

        My Canadian hubby says “Give me…” and me, the American, had to remind him to say, “May I have…” Basic manners, people.

    • ProudSouthernYank

      I often say “please” and “thank you” at sit down places. Fast food places just “thank you” because “please” seems to be lost in the midst of chaos. It’s just good manners. Though that seems to be losing in America in general at times.

  • Benighted

    I’ve lived in the US for 17 years now and have finally managed to get with the program on almost all of these. I particularly like the custom in the US of NOT offering to get everyone in the entire office a drink or snack every time I want one myself.

    • Benighted

      No, I lied. I wouldn’t be caught dead going out for dinner in jeans or a scruffy old shirt. But apart from that…

      • Smrk Smrk

        Yeah that offends me too! Some Americans don’t like to dress up for ANYthing – not even Christmas

        • alwayshuntress

          We stay in our PJ’s on Christmas 😀

          My family always stayed in PJ’s until the formal early dinner and then everyone got dressed up (and we didn’t even go anywhere- eating out was reserved for the eve before). I tossed that out when I had my own kids and now we just have a relaxed easy day at home, able to roll right back into bed without changing at the end of it :)

        • Momo

          Maybe it’s part of that liberty and freedom thing that’s going around.

      • frozen01

        I wouldn’t even leave the house in a scruffy old shirt, unless I was going to move house or tend someone’s yard or something. I also think jeans are extremely overrated though. To me, they’re not comfortable, and they don’t look that good, either. No idea why everyone is so obsessed with them.

        • Melissa


    • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Toni Hargis

      Reminds me of a poor young lad I worked with in London. 6 females and him. Every time he stood up we’d say “Mine’s a white without Stu” and the poor thing would have to get tea for us all, whether or not tea had been on his agenda. LOL

      • Kevin Van Houten

        He didn’t have to. He just did because you were taking advantage of him.

        • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Toni Hargis

          Actually, we did it to anyone who stood up (including me). The rest of us were clever enough not to get caught every time. He could easily have said “I’m not going out” or “I have a meeting right now” as others did. So yes, we were taking advantage.

    • silentnonrev

      …and you wrote “program” instead of “programme”…. :)

  • Holly

    I’m American-bred, not born (not British, either), but all of the above (British) mannerisms would be how I’d behave as well. I’m not sure if it’s being British, or just polite to do all those things? I’ve been in the U.S. for more than 20 years and I still cringe at a lot of the behaviours I see here. And, to be honest, it’s become a lot worse with the younger generation (and I’m only in my mid-30s), thanks to tips taken from MTV, reality celebs, pop singers, and the like.

    The ONLY thing I might be more American about is telling a taxi driver which direction to go – especially in New York City, where they will – literally – take you for a “ride” if you don’t know your route!

    • ProudYankee

      Why would it be impolite not to apologize if someone bumps into YOU? I don’t get that at all.

      And why would it be impolite to order the food the way YOU want it? Why is it impolite to want to make your food more healthy, like I do, by asking for less oil in the preparation or sauce on the side so I can control my own portion? I’m the one paying for it and putting it into my body, not the chef and not the server. The much-maligned American tipping system is well worth it to me if other countries are going to give you attitude when you try to eat how you determine is best for you.

      Why is it impolite to take your food home? If anything it’s a compliment to how much you liked the food.

      I do think Americans can dress too casually in fancy situations, but again, I don’t see what this has to do with politeness. I would argue that expecting others to dress as YOU would prefer them to dress is controlling behavior and far more impolite.

      And if it’s the last seat on the train, yes, I’m sitting next to you even if your “manners” dictate that I should stand instead of daring to inconvenience you.

      And unless there’s something wrong with your health that prevents you from making your way down the hall to the break room, get off your butt and get your own coffee! I’ve got work to do! How am I supposed to carry cups for the whole office anyway? The world is not your servant.

      The more I read what other cultures consider “mannerly,” the more respect I have for my fellow Americans, whom in the past I would have considered more uncultured than some other nationalities. I think what some people like to call “manners” is really a need to control other people’s behavior.

      • silentnonrev

        well, of course it’s not really “impolite”, it’s just the way we’re raised (and I’m not even certain this holds true for those born, say, after 1970 or so). Bear in mind that most of us older folks grew up with the idea that we would spontaneously combust into a pathetic little pile of shame-filled Limey ashes if we thought that someone might consider we were Making A Fuss.

      • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Toni Hargis

        I’ve just re-read the paragraph on doggie bags and there’s no mention of “impolite”. She’s merely pointing out a difference.

        • American Anglofile

          …within the context of the article, she is judging the way Americans do things…she is not providing the information to state that Americans do thing the correct way.

        • alwayshuntress

          ProudYankee was responding to Holly not the article. The article was perfectly fine- Holly was the one who implied the British way was the ‘polite’ way while the American one was (by default) rude.

      • Dwight Arthur

        As I understand it, if you are lounging about and someone collides with you, there is at least some chance that you were standing in the way, that if you had been more attentive and considerate you would have noticed this and moved rather than expect people to walk around you. Thus the poor chap who was unsuccessful in navigating around you deserves at least a quick apology.

        • Momo

          So you’re standing and you’re supposed to be looking around you at all times in case someone comes barreling into you who isn’t looking where they’re going? That’s like saying that you should move your parked car to get out of the way of cars on the street. The moving object is the one at fault, not the stationary one. If someone is in the way guess what you’re supposed to do? Say “Excuse me, please.” Then wait for them to move. What is this stuff about it being the stationary person’s problem or fault that the moving person can’t seem to see or navigate properly?

          • Shawn Dunham

            If you park your car in the middle of the freeway, you’re probably gonna get hit. If you stop in the middle of a busy walkway, someone is probably going to bump into you. Especially if its crowded.

          • jrex

            Oh no not at all! You just say ‘sorry’ or ‘oops excuse me’ when it happens. For me at least, it’s just an automatic reaction to feeling another person bump me, regardless of anything. Also, don’t just mill about blocking the flow of traffic, wherever it happens to be flowing. If you’re the odd one out, then you’re at fault when everyone else is trying to get around you. If you’re not, and someone’s gone out of the way and barreled into you, then that’s something else. (I’ll still apologize anyway… don’t know why.)

            Milling about in foot traffic is definitely something we Americans do often. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been trapped behind a group, four or five abreast, who’ve just stopped or slowed way down, and been unable to get around because they’re blocking the entire walkway.

      • DevourerOfTheDivine

        ‘Murica! I apologize for ProudYankee and all who thumbed up him/her. This is the kind of hardheaded, blind patriotism some of us Americans have to deal with every day. Every country has their faults, as most of us will agree. But just point out a difference and you have ProudYankee and the rest of the torch wielding villagers looking for the culprit. I just scrolled down and observed she’s from the south. *shock* Ignore the opinion of anyone from the south and America will make more sense.

        • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Toni Hargis

          Appreciated but we’re used to him/her.

        • alwayshuntress

          There was nothing hard headed or blindly patriotic about ProudYankee’s comment- the comment posted was in response to Holly saying the British was was the polite way.

          The article didn’t imply at any time either way was better than the other- merely a different way of handling things culturally.

          Personally I tend to apologize regardless of who bumped into who (and I get offended when the other bumping participant doesn’t bother with the same courtesy) – but that’s due to time spent in the south where, like Canadians, we automatically apologized for everything. 😛

          • Momo

            Not in Quebec; I am bumped into all over the place and hardly anyone says sorry or excuse me here (in any language.) So not all of Canada. I’m sure people are more polite in other provinces.

          • hezzann

            As a Southern American I can vouch for the fact that I will automatically apologize in most situations. I also will not take a seat if I have to intrude into another person’s personal space to sit there. Every section of the U.S. has it’s different social norms and mores.

          • jrex

            Oh yeah, as a fellow Southerner, I think we tend to share a lot of the social etiquette with the British, insofar as being polite goes. The main difference is that we prefer to strike up a friendly conversation with a complete stranger (and fully expect to be reciprocated) as a gesture of politeness and respect, rather than try to let each other be as a gesture of politeness and respect. Heh. :)

          • Krista Kay Anderson

            I’m a Midwesterner, and we are also big apologizers – often going back and forth w/each person apologizing – “I’m sorry”, “No, no, _I’m sorry_”. Maybe this is why, in some recent map grouping Americans by region, Midwesterners and Southerners were grouped together as “nice”. : )

        • MichaelH

          “Ignore the opinion from anyone from the south? Really? That’s a pretty close-minded thing to say. A lot of people from the South tend to be nicer people anyway as opposed to city dwellers. Ever heard of Southern hospitality? A lot of people not from the south think we’re all rude because you think we’re all rednecks.

          • Karen Krawczyk

            I’m glad somebody replied to that! Close-minded AND small-minded!

      • MommysaurusRex

        I always apologize when I collide with another person, regardless of who is to blame. If I’m at fault, I’m sorry. If the other person bumped into me, I’m sorry for the embarrassment they must feel. If they don’t feel embarrassed, that’s to be pitied as well.

      • Susan

        I didn’t read it that way. All I saw was the author pointing out the differences in cultural norms.

      • Bob Staab

        different cultures are exactly that,……different. No judgement needed unless you decide to coexist.I have literally been AROUND the globe four times and I’m a kinder more compassionate person from doing this.

      • Sarah

        The author wasn’t talking about ‘manners’ she was simply pointing out the differences. And also at the beginning she mentioned that it wasn’t always the most sensible way. Nobody said that the way Americans do these things is wrong, just different to what a Brit would do.
        It has nothing to do with manners, just that in England we’re all a bit less friendly and comfortable around strangers. (might I add that the only time someone who I didn’t know sat next to me on the bus he was drunk and twice my size)
        In restaurants we don’t want to inconvenience the chef, who are already working hard to provide good food for us so we can sit down and have a good time with friends/family.
        And what’s your problem with someone being nice and offering to make everyone tea or coffee?
        It’s called being considerate. Which obviously you don’t understand, due to your lack of respect for other cultures, just laying into them just because they’re different then what you believe is the right way, refusing to accept what may be offensive to others, just because YOU think it’s wrong. Doesn’t make sense.

    • ProudSouthernYank

      I’m a bit younger than Holly but I understand. Being a Southern/Army raised young lady even the Young “Southern Bells” are a bit more redneck in behavior as we’d call it. And this is very rude for me to say it but it must be recognized. I’d say more but the rest is “sibling squabbles” of Northern vs Southern American. While very American to go on but still not polite to post such things.
      I noted though it is costume for us Americans to eat Pizza with our hands while when I travel abroad fork and knives are used. This is one I am not sure there is a right or wrong but I do have a hard time converting to utensils for eating Pizza. So I just order something besides pizza.

      • Dennis

        Of course, Brits, in general, spell and use proper grammar much more often than we Yanks. I also don’t see anything above that would be considered “sibling squabbles” between Northern and Southern Americans. Grammar-wise, your sentence should read, “I’d say more, but the rest are (not is).,,” . Then your other sentence, “I noted it is costume for us Americans…”, the word is not costume, but rather custom. I’m not sure where pizza was ever in the conversation, but if you’ve never eaten pizza with a knife and fork, you’ve obviously never eaten Chicago deep-dish pizza.

        • Karl Hindle

          check out Brit text messages and you’ll soon learn they are anything but grammatically correct YOLO 😉

          • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Toni Hargis

            You beat me to it Karl. Brits are just as bad at saying “could of” instead of “could have” and “seen” where it should be “saw” etc. We are definitely equal on that score.

          • Karl Hindle

            yeh – sick – innit 😉

        • Gabrial Canada

          Which is the ultimate form of Pizza. Its a meal not some unholy taco you fold and eat on your way to a subway as a snack!

          • alwayshuntress

            My mother was rather…proper (to put it nicely). Finger food was NEVER
            finger food (except fried chicken). We always used a knife and fork to
            eat pizza- I have never adjusted to doing it any other way lol.

      • Guest

        (comment deleted because it was in the wrong spot)

    • Maureen

      Actually the ‘American’ actions in here sound like my dad (in his 60’s) than me (early 20’s) or any of my high school age friends. I am from a small college town and most of my friends are self proclaimed geeks, which isolates us a bit, but that doesn’t stop my point from being valid.
      We are dealing with sweeping generalizations already, so its understandable to continue that in the comments. However it might be a good idea to look at where your perception of ‘young people’ comes from. And try not to sound like your parents. I’m sorry but I hate when people complain about my generation without a good sample size (I’m guessing).

  • Irené Colthurst

    Cabbies in Washington, DC, (the city I’ve ridden cabs in) will ask if their passengers prefer a certain route if there are multiple possibilities, but it *is* possible to either chat up your cabbie or sit in absentminded silence during a ride in an American cab.

    • Irené Colthurst

      Oh, and I was raised to take menus at face value, as well. Substituting *anything* just comes across as picky to me.

      • Christine

        I generally agree with the menu thing except when it comes to food-related allergies or diseases. Most people just avoid the items altogether, but accidents happen. I’d rather have those allergic be 100% sure and be picky ordering than watch them stab their thigh with an EpiPen, IMHO.

      • Dennis

        I have to disagree with you Ms. Colthurst. Thanks to a loving, but stubborn grandmother, I have, over the years, developed a strong distaste for salads. When a menu shows that a salad (or side salad) is offered with the meal I desire, I will ask if I can substitute something for the salad. Usually they allow me to pick another side dish (corn, green beans, etc.). It’s much appreciated on my side, and probably cheaper for them.

    • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Toni Hargis

      Ha ha ha ha. Big US/UK difference here. In the UK, if you chat someone up you’re hitting on them. Unless that’s what you meant….. 😉

      • Irené Colthurst

        “Chat someone up” is very colloquial American English, but as far as I know it has no flirty connotations. If a cabbie was hitting on me I would not be chatting them up in response. 😉

        • Anon Y. Mous

          I’m American and the only time I have ever encountered “chat up” is in a British context.

  • PeterTx52

    “Most Americans will think nothing of telling their temporary chauffeur
    what route to take. Full-on rows can break out if the cabbie and
    customer don’t see eye to eye on this.”
    we do that because in most cases we know the city better than cab-driver who is usually a new immigrant to the area. They don’t have to take tests like the cabbies in London.

    • Christine

      That, and a shorter route typically means a cheaper fare. Some cabbies can take longer, unnecessary routes to up the fare a tad.

    • Smrk Smrk

      Sometimes you have to interrupt the conversation they’re having in another language on a phone you can’t see

    • frozen01

      And if I would have known better at the time, I would’ve done the same to my London cabbie, as well. He certainly “took us for a ride”, alright! It’s amazing how many London landmarks happened to be exactly on our route from the airport to the hotel! Ah, well, you live, you learn :)

      • MisterDavid

        Was he a cabbie (ie. black cab), or a minicab driver?
        Important difference…

        • frozen01

          Black cab. And it’s a difference I well know now, but not fresh off the plane on my first international trip, nor after a redeye flight and 20 minutes of sleep. *lol*

  • Guest

    hmmmm I should be British then…these all describe me. Except the “doggie” bag. I’ll always take food home for leftovers. I think people believe what they see on TV about others countries and I haven’t found that to be true at all in my experience.

  • dvwolf

    hmmmm I should be British then…these all but describe me. Except the “doggie” bag. I’ll always take food home for leftovers. I think people believe what they see on TV about others countries and I haven’t found that to be true at all in my experience.

    • MommysaurusRex

      I have a feeling British restaurants do not serve American sized portions to their patrons. When my leftovers are sufficient to serve as another meal, I hear my mother’s voice saying, “Think of all the starving children in Africa.”

      • Melanisia

        Unless I have a long day still ahead of me, and it’s something that will spoil before I get it home.

  • Terry

    “Ever noticed how Brits will only take a seat next to someone as a last resort? ”

    I think the exception to this is a tea/coffee shop or cafe. In my experience, people in the UK are much more likely to ask to share my table than people in the US are.

    • Melanisia

      Sit down next to someone I don’t know in an eatery? I wouldn’t dream of it! (American here)

  • Joanne

    I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone I’ve accidentally bumped into become aggressive and demand an apology. Generally, my experience is that both people will sort of absentmindedly murmur “‘scuse me” and go on their merry way.

    • John H Harris

      In a large city like New York or Chicago, it’s not unusual to get a “Hey, watch it, Buddy!”, but even that tends to be said in a friendly way. It’s only when you bump somebody who’s had a monumentally rotten day that the belligerence comes out. Even then, it’s most often simple curtness than outright hostility.

      • Lindy

        Yeah, I’m thinking this is a city thing. I can’t see the average Midwesterner getting belligerent because of an accidental clumsy moment, not unless they were drunk. In my experience there may be slightly less abject apology for our very existence than the average Brit, but there would be an “Oops, sorry about that.” “No problem” as both parties continue on their way in most cases.

        • John H Harris

          Agreed. And even in New York, which was once typecast as the rudest city on Earth, people are a lot more laid back than they used to be. Of course, I can only speak as a tourist from the western part of the state…

          • jadekitty

            New Yorker here, though I grew up in the Midwest. Usually we murmur “sorry”, though once an old lady hit me on the subway when I didn’t issue a proper apology. It was packed, I couldn’t reach anyplace to hold on to, and I nipped her toe when the train lurched. I was really glad that my stop was next because she smacked me on the arm and started yelling at me.

            Also, I have no problem plopping my butt down in the first available seat no matter who I may be squeezing between.

      • maggie

        As a lifelong New Yorker, I don’t ever remember anyone ever saying “Hey, watch it, Buddy” when we have bumped into each other. The norm is for both of us to say “sorry” no matter who was at fault.

        • John H Harris

          I was using it more as a generality. It’s one of those things that’s common enough that most people don’t even notice it.

          • frozen01

            Been bumped into, and bumped into others, several times in Chicago. Never, not once, has anyone said “hey, watch it buddy!” or anything close to that. If they did, I sure would notice, because that’s pretty rude!
            Usually, the worst you’ll get is a surprised “hey!” which will quickly turn to apologies or “no harm done” once the shock is over.

    • BryanCooper

      wait. You are saying New York City USA?!? WTF! :-) Out here on the west coast, afaik, we both say ‘sorry’ and smile!

      • silentnonrev

        difference between LA & NYC:
        in LA, they say “have a nice day” and mean “FU”
        in NYC, they say “FU” and mean “have a nice day”

        • Melanisia

          That sounds like the difference between the English and the Irish.

  • Moonpoppy

    Wow, for a country as big of a population as the States, I find this to be very generalized and limited, and does not represent the majority of the people I know. Manners are a must, I even say thank you to the ATM machine, which is a tad ridiculous, but it is engrained on me to be polite.

    • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Toni Hargis

      Any commentary like this has to be generalized; even if it were written by an American it would be generalized unless the writer knew 90% of the people in the US. And – if it’s generalized then, by default, it usually represents a majority even if it’s not the group you know.
      And, if you re-read the post, there isn’t one point in which the author uses the word “better” or even “impolite”. She even starts by making fun of Brits.

  • aly

    I’m not even “officially” British but I can absolutely sympathise with all of these! I have been told by all my American bosses to stop apologising.

  • John H Harris

    As an American, I can say that, while most of this is true, there are those of us who were properly raised. I always apologize when bumped into, and say “please and thank you” (though they influence of Disney’s “Kim Possible” has led me to turn it into a single phrase) when dealing with the food service industry.

    One definite exception I found was #5. As I’ve stated in previous comments on this blog, I visited friends in Southern Wales back in 2007. While I was there, I had a wonderful conversation with a gentleman on the train from Trehaford to Cardiff one morning. I’m not quite sure how it began (though I think it was the simple fact that even the way I said “Good Morning” made it glaringly obvious that I was a Yank, and I’d heard him and a coworker speaking Welsh on the same train, going the other direction, the previous afternoon).

    Of course, the pub/B&B where I stayed (specifically, “The Bertie” in Trehaford – I highly recommend it for the budget-conscious traveler) was a delightfully friendly place, where pretty much all of the situations listed above were ignored.

  • Tiffany Sears

    Seems generally right. The main idea I’m coming away with is that Americans converse and interact more with each other than the British, which is seen as good for some but jarring to others.

  • gamermomd

    While I agree with most of this, I do indeed say “excuse me” or “sorry” when I bump into someone, and I definitely dress up when I go out for a nice meal.:)

  • Niki

    I find most of these “American vs Brit” articles ridiculous. As an American, I wonder where most of the American habits/customs were observed. Nowhere near where I live, for sure. We were taught to be polite and the American South is known for its hospitality.

    • Matt

      I’ve lived in southern NC for 3 years now… your “polite south” isn’t as polite as it was made to seem a decade (and older) ago. Friendly and chatty does not translate to politeness.

      • DevourerOfTheDivine

        Especially that “Oh, bless your heart”, which is really southern talk for “F*#@! you yankee go back to whatever liberal swamp you crawled out of” lol

    • jadekitty

      Have you been to the UK or outside of the US at all? I find this blog really fun because I’ve been in the UK and discovered just how different being American can be, but in a good way. My visit also made British comedies so much more funny! I really think you learn so much more about what it means to be an American when you visit another country.

  • Robert Sparkman

    I would disagree with the first point. If someone bumps into me, I will say sorry, often before they do. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone get angry with someone who bumps into them accidentally.

  • Patty123

    Brits will ask if anyone wants tea because they usually make it in a pot. In the US, tea is made individually, with a teabag in a mug.

  • kglnyc

    These comments are hilarious! These are quibbling differences between two extremely similar cultures — one is not more “polite” or “impolite” than the other, it’s very simple shades of differences. As an American, I think the author/British commentators suggest we’re friendly but demanding, whereas they seem to view themselves as stand-offish but accommodating. Don’t think we need a repeat of the War of 1812 over whether I plunk myself next to you on a crowded train or remain standing and eyeing you the whole time! (Here’s where I hear the British “rubbish!!” going off in my head….)

    • BryanCooper

      I didn’t read it that way – I thought some of the ‘Merican’ customs were shown as making more sense. Of course, as an American, I must be dense….

  • Sharon Wolfe

    This sounds a lot like Southern folks in the U.S. The only thing I don’t hesitate to do is ask for something prepared a certain way and rarely I take a box of leftover food home with me. The rest just seems to be a matter of good manners. :)

  • Josh

    Think there’s a regional twist to much of this. As a born and raised New Englander, 1, 2, 4, 5, and 8 are things I naturally do the British way. Maybe old English and new English still have a fair amount of commonalities.

    • Ballyhip

      Agree but then my parents were born in Ireland and I went to a Dominican grammar/hs. Again, it may be generational also. One thing that absolutely galls me is men wearing caps in a restaurant or indoors even in the most casual fast food joint. Don’t know how it started.

  • Gar1eth

    #1 is wrong. You are more likely in most parts of the United States to see both parties apologizing. Stereotypically places where I think you might see what you describe would be the NE USA-New York, New Jersey, prisons, and lower socioeconomic neighborhoods.

  • Jennifer Clark

    As far as the seat on the train thing goes, I ask before sitting next to someone. I think it’s good manners to ask first, because they might be having bad day and want to be left alone.

    • Anon Y. Mous

      I’m sure they’d rather you just plop your butt down than open your mouth.

  • Gar1eth

    Also I see nothing wrong in asking for changes within reason from a restaurant menu.

  • Meaghan Walsh Gerard

    Regarding #8, I think Americans are used to cab drivers taking advantage of them y going bizarre routes that take longer and run up the tab. In my experience while visiting Britain, the cab services were well-run and regulated. My guess is that the average citizen doesn’t have to worry as much about being “taken for a ride.”

    • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Toni Hargis

      I know a few Americans who have been “taken round the houses” in London cabs because the cab driver thought they were tourists, but on the whole they are honest. It costs them so much to take the Knowledge test that presumably, they can’t risk losing business or their license. It’s also great that you can get into a black cab with only an address (ie. no clue where it might be in London) and they know exactly where you need to be.

      • jadekitty

        I wish there were similar tests in NYC to get your license. I live in Brooklyn, and I always have to tell the cabbie how to get to my apartment. It’s the rare driver who knows where he’s going outside of Manhattan. You wouldn’t believe the attitude I get sometimes when they find out they have to drive to Brooklyn!

  • Smrk Smrk

    Bingo on the coffee rounds. If someone is going out for coffee, they’ll offer to get something for the co-workers in their immediate vicinity. But if they’re just going into the kitchen, forget it! You can do that yourself!

  • Nermal146

    Ms Margolis, you really need to meet some Americans. I realize it is fun trashing Americans, so I’ll assume that is the point of the article. I just spent 10 days in London, and thought I didn’t offend anyone. I didn’t feel the need to accost anyone as I walked down St Martin Place or Fleet street. But, I will remember to bring my gown and my husband’s tux for the next visit to the pub.

    • Kate

      She wasn’t trashing us. Calm yourself.

  • http://www.timbagwell.com Tim Bagwell

    Seems like we Americans are always saying we are sorry for bumping or nearly bumping into anyone almost anywhere. If not “sorry” then “excuse me” with sincerity.

  • Karen Frenchy

    Are you sure you’re not also describing the French in the USA? I might be British without knowing it. I keep saying “sorry” and which cracks my American coworkers up :)

  • Michelle Hunt

    guess I’m British because all this is standard practice for myself…

  • Alli Hogan

    The author of this article is kidding right?

  • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Toni Hargis

    Not sure what everyone else is reading but the post I read began with –

    “Those of us who were born and raised in the U.K. have our own special, but not necessarily sensible, way of doing things.”

    Loosely translated – she’s making fun of Brits, not Americans. Note the tongue in cheek use of the word “Special” too.

    • John H Harris

      True, but one must remember that, despite being aimed at British Expats, most of the blog’s (and channel’s) viewers are Americans. And if there’s one thing we can’t resist, it’s giving our opinions on everything under the sun… :)

  • Lindy

    I think #5 is not so much a British/American thing as an Introvert/Extrovert thing. However,as the US is, as a whole, a nation of extroverts and the UK seems to have a MUCH higher percentage of introverts,this is one of those places where that shows in cultural norms. As a deeply introverted American I prefer not to sit right next to strangers and do the small talk thing either.

    I am now wondering, however, if I was perceived as very rude when my hubby and I visited London. I am quite sure I made all kinds of substitutions at pubs and restaurants. I was dealing with severe all day morning sickness (the trip was planned as a one last trip before babies,and hey, maybe we’ll make a baby while we’re there thing- found out I was already pregnant about 2 weeks after booking tickets) and the list of foods I could keep down was small. In the US, so long as you are polite and reasonable in your requests (i.e. not insisting on something a restaurant doesn’t even have, not insisting on removing the onions from a pre-made sauce, or the shredded carrots from a pre-made salad) the view is that you are paying for it, you should have it the way you will enjoy it. I say this as a waitress who has accommodated many many special requests without blinking, it is just expected over here.

  • Shell Germann

    I think a lot of these, save for the dressing for dinner, are also very MIdwest in a lot of ways.

  • Shannon Breen

    I think so much depends on where and how you were raised. I come from the midwest (Ohio) and I can relate to almost all the actions that are considered typically British. I avoid sitting next to strangers, don’t tell the person in line behind me all about my latest gynecological exam, and tend to say “excuse me” when I collide with someone whether it’s my fault or not. The U.S. is so big I think there are relatively few generalizations you can make (with the exception of the restaurant bits — I don’t know of anyone who wouldn’t say “mayo on the side” or ask for a box for leftovers.

    • Melanisia

      I’m from Missouri, and it’s perfectly normal in my area to ask for dressing on the side, or a box for left overs. For some people it’s just individual. When I’m nervous, I blabber. I will tell a total stranger about my C-section. I’ll be embarrassed afterwards, but at the time seem to have no control over what comes out of my mouth.

  • LawSuth

    I’m from Dallas (Texas) and enjoyed all of it, but please don’t stop dressing well for dinner. In a few years, It may nearly the only thing left of good manners and propriety. In a general respect, we’ve already lost it.

    • silentnonrev

      I stayed recently at the Brown Hotel in Denver, oldest continuously operating hotel there, very nice. At their restaurant, they have a sign “proper attire required”. I thought hmm, better wear a nice shirt to breakfast, but I’m going to wear jeans as going straight to airport thereafter. Once sat, I look around: shorts…baseball caps…thought, why did I even bother ironing my shirt?

  • Rebecca Elizabeth Hunt

    It’s funny, after reading this I really had a “We’re not that different after all’ kind of moment heh.

    Now, lets all get together and watch some Blackadder 😀

  • Lacy

    I think the behavior in these different situations vary from region to region. To knock into someone in America, usually both parties apologize or say a quick “excuse me”. I noticed in Miami that this is out of the question from both parties. New York tends to be a hit or miss depending on both parties’ moods. The Southern, Western and Mid-Western states tend to apologize no matter what (Well, In most cases).
    Ordering food and requesting a change is definitely normal in America. Like the Brits, I do have friends that refuse to modify their meal.
    As for dressing up for dinner. I guess it depends on where you live if you get dressed up or not. I live in a metropolitan area, so one wouldn’t be caught dead looking shabby at dinner.

  • Zaidi

    This writer, obviously, has too much time on his hands.

  • Reece Bennett

    I’m an American, but I agree mostly with the British side of this list with exception to #2 & #3, those seem wasteful.

  • jumbybird

    In America, unless you’re a pig, a doggy bag is necessary, the portions are huge. So in our family (depending on the size of the party), we order one or more dishes less than the number of persons, and share. Even so there are usually leftovers to be schleped home for lunch the next day. Wasting food is terrible on the conscience when so many people are starving in the world.

    • jumbybird

      PS.. I think it’s rude to ask a chef to change his dish to suit you… If you want it prepared “just so” then stay the heck home and cook it yourself.

      • JR48

        Normally I would say that this is true, but in my case, my husband is a diabetic and a small change like ‘sauce on the side’ allows him to eat at restaurants.

      • maggie

        People with special diets would never be able to eat at a restaurant if they didn’t ask for changes/substitutions. My brother is allergic to gluten, and asks that salads not include croutons. He can’t just pick them out of a salad, because he can’t eat anything that they’ve been in. He also asks if they have gluten-free pasta or bread, which most do. Pizza parlors even serve gluten-free pizza. But you have to ask for these substitutions, as they aren’t always listed on their menus, despite being available. Restaurants expect that a certain percentage of customers will ask for special dietary restrictions. Restaurants want to encourage people to eat at their establishments, and not limit their customer base.

      • Cyn2

        Also, in most American restaurants, there’s not a chef as we would think it. There’s a cook who cooks to order from a menu chosen by a corporation or an owner and it’s basically the same menu every day. The cook has no personal investment in the menu. I have no qualms requesting something special, such as a sauce substitution (for something else also on the menu) or for items to be left off or on the side, as I have a number of food restrictions. If I were to go to a high-end restaurant, I would notify the restaurant ahead of time of my food restrictions so that the chef could be prepared.

  • Keith P. DeWeese

    This is all so much nonsense. If these observations were true, then I–a U.S. native–must be British, and a helluva lot of Brits I know must be from the U.S. For example, my family hosted a British exchange student some years ago. Couldn’t get her to dress for ANYTHING yet alone for dinner out, which was always a must in our house. I guess I should assume, then, that all Brits have issues with dressing for dinner out. I suppose this arm-chair sociology is necessary to fill up so much BBC space.

  • Shawn Dunham

    I think there are big differences even within the US with the items listed. I was brought up in Massachusetts. I act British half of the time, mostly based on context. For example, if there is space I would expect someone to not sit right next to me, however when riding the subway it’s usually crowded and I understand that they don’t have any more choice than I do in how close we have to be. I might give a smile or polite hello, but don’t find a need to give that person my life story.

  • CarolEme

    American – born/bred. 49 year old female. Here goes: I apologize when I am bumped into (AND when I bump into another person)…last time I was in London (1 year ago) EVERY person who bumped into me (or I them) walked away without saying a word. I see some people offering to get others coffee/tea but not always. Then again, I worked in an office of 45 people..offering (and getting) this many people a drink is ridiculous. I’ve seen both Americans and Brits sit in silence while someone emotes AND I know both who are picky orderers at restaurants and who only order as written on the menu. Dressing for dinner – depends where you live in the US. Sitting next to someone…well, didn’t seem to be a problem in London (and I’ve both lived there 25 years ago and visit pretty often) either on the underground OR the bus. The taxi thing – gotta be careful in NYC, Boston and other cities as they WILL scam you. I love me some London taxis!!! As far as the doggie bag thing…don’t know, don’t care.

  • aintyomomma

    I am an American and do not think half of this is true what is stated about fellow citizens. I guess that depends on who you have kept company with.

  • NousAsylum

    I live in Iowa, which is apparently the Brit-West because we are much more polite than the Americans described here.

  • Lizabeth S. Tucker

    I have to disagree with your generalizations. I’ve seen Brits act like the Americans you listed and Yanks act like your Brits. That is the problem with generalizations, you usually have no idea what you’re talking about and your pool of experience is very tiny.

  • Christian Farmer

    I’ve mostly seen assholes get pissed off if you bump into them. Usually both parties say ‘sorry’ or ‘excuse me’ or some variant, ad keep moving.

  • Ruth

    The author is actually biased towards the Americans, so I’m not entirely sure why some Americans on here are getting their knickers in a twist… Also, of course it’s a generalisation- you could never do a country vs a country without making stereotypical assumptions, but they’re stereotypes for a reason…
    However, for those saying that they visited Britain, lived here, etc, the author also said “born and raised”, which is quite rare these days and in addition, what with globalisation and ‘coolness’, the old ‘British upper lip and stand-offishness’ is just that. Old… Most people are a bit of both =)
    Besides, neither way is perfect nor sensible. The best way is always the middle – the best from both cultures.

  • ZeaL

    Not all Americans are comfortable with the invasion of personal space, don’t apologize, or take a sobbing confession well. Some of us DO stand rather than submit to sitting 4 inches from a stranger. Some of us stand rather than sit 4 inches next to a FRIEND. I’m from the Southwest, and I apologize for everything. I also pick out stuff I hate than bother sending it back. These stereotypes seem really narrow and not really all that on point. Except for the restaurant stuff, which, even so, I’ve seen Brits in questionable jumpers at restaurants.

  • Sherrie

    Actually all of the situations listed are also Southern USA behaviors. The cities mentioned in the article were Northern, or as we say…Yankees. British born expats or visitors fit right in down here south of the Mason Dixon line.

  • Stannyboy

    I’m an American who’s lived half of my life in the UK. I love it when I take leftovers back home from a restaurant. People think I’m insane. I’ve developed the “sorry” reflex though. My Slovak gf things it’s the stupidest thing in the world. I personally would feel weird if I didn’t say sorry even if they knocked into me.

  • xtina

    I think one yall missed is the not always talking about entertainment. Example: I go into the british store in the southwest where I am from (TX to be exact) and ask to see if they have Jennifer Saunders’ autobiography. I talk about how cool “Absolutely Fabulous” is but not that much with the clerks.

  • Payton

    I”m an American born and bred.I have to disagree slightly. The idea of someone sitting next to me that I don’t know sounds like a nightmare. They might actually talk to me and then what would I do? Also most people I know and my family will look decent if we’re going to a nice restaurant. I think a lot of things depends on how the people were raised. I was raised to always say sorry and I do even when I really shouldn’t as it wasn’t my fault at all.

  • Crystal

    Wow according to this, I’m British. (Though I’m technically American)

  • Mom2Five

    Must depend on what part of the US that you are in. I am from WV and everyone around here says they’re sorry when someone bumps into them. When you run into someone you both say sorry. Plus if it is clearly one person’s fault and they say nothing then you say it in a snotty voice.