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Wealthy folk in the U.S. and back home in Blighty are a complicated bunch with a rich history and, no doubt, a loaded future. To help distinguish the old money from the new and the stinking rich from the merely whiffy, we’ve broken it down for you.
1. Landed gentry and aristocracy
Who are they? Upper-class Brits, perhaps with some kind of title and/or inherited wodge of land and a Downton Abbey style house. They send their kids to posh schools and play polo.
Where do they live? Probably London, but the inherited family pile—if they’re lucky enough to have hung onto one—is in the countryside. To meet the insane costs of running a stately home and very often stave off bankruptcy, many owners have opened up their homes to the paying public.
Celebrity example: Socialite, reality TV star and all-round D-lister Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, whose parents own the 1,200-acre Dummer Grange estate near Basingstoke, Hampshire and are pals with Prince Charles.
American counterpart: New England/New York old money. While some of these American blue bloods might think of themselves as nobility, their British equivalents would sneer at the very idea.
2. Cotswold retirees
Who are they? Former generals, retired pharmaceutical bosses and the PM. They’re Telegraph readers whose hobbies include walking the Labrador, playing golf and pottering around antique shops.
Where do they live? Chocolate box cottages in quaint Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire towns and villages.
Celebrity example: The Camerons.
American counterpart: Cape cod retirees, though I suspect this set is a little more liberal than the Cotswold crew.
Who are they? Premier League players who draw insane salaries, which they use to renovate their extravagant homes and extravagant WAGs.
Where do they live? The expensive parts of Essex and Cheshire.
Celebrity example: Wayne Rooney
American counterpart: The football, baseball and basketball players who date models and live in vast, mock-period properties. But what with America being so vast, wealthy sporting professionals don’t tend to cluster in a couple of easy-to-mock areas like they do back in the U.K.
4. British investment bankers and hedge fund managers
Who are they? The posh city boys and girls who come from money, but went to Eton then Oxford so they could go on to make pots more of it working for Morgan Stanley. They ferry their kids to school in a Range Rover but have never once driven off road.
Where do they live? All over west and southwest London, but the elite of the elite reside in Kensington and Chelsea.
Celebrity example: Hmm, none really. They’re too dull even for reality TV to touch. Only the corporate crooks tend to get media coverage in the U.K.
American counterpart: Their U.S. equivalents are living it up on the Upper East Side. The major difference? This lot prefer smaller dogs.
5. British new money
Who are they? The rich Brits from humble beginnings who made their millions setting up a business with a start-up fund consisting of a couple of buttons they found under the sofa.
Where do they live? The home counties. Predominantly Essex, Berkshire and Surrey. Or a wealthy suburb close—but not too close—to the city slum or mining village they grew up in.
Celebrity example: The Dragons’ Den cast.
American counterpart: Anyone with a massive house and a rags-to-riches tale. In the U.S., there’s less snobbery attached to making it big from nothing, so they’re possibly a prouder, less chippy bunch on this side of the Pond.
6. Silicon Valley billionaires
Who are they? The speccy kids who studied at (or dropped out of) Ivy League universities then went on to develop a social networking tool or app for something utterly indispensable. Like the gerbil that repeats back what you say in a squeaky voice.
Where do they live? Palo Alto, or Woodside, CA, also home to Buck’s Restaurant where all of the most important tech deals get inked.
Celebrity example: Mark Zuckerberg
British equivalent: Erm… Alan Sugar? (There’s also Britain’s own Sir Jonathan Ive, who has made a pretty penny designing Apple products.) Needless to say, your American tech entrepreneur is generally a cooler cat.
7. The Beverly Hill-Billi(onaires)
Who are they? Film stars, producers, directors, agents, plastic surgeons and entertainment lawyers.
Where do they live? L.A.’s super rich might reside in North Beverly Park. Reachable only via two manned checkpoints, the development is, allegedly, paparazzi proof. Tuscan-style monster mansions abound.
Celebrity example: Sylvester Stallone and British expat Rod Stewart have both been listed as North Beverly Park residents.
British equivalent: Elmbridge, Surrey. A leafy 37 square miles, home to everyone from Elton John to Chris Tarrant. Our British version of Beverly Hills is leafier but a lot less glamorous.
8. Texan oil barons
Who are they? Tycoons who wear cowboy hats and boots to the office and sit with their feet up and crossed on their burr walnut desks. This is a pretty accurate depiction, right? Or is it possible that I’ve been watching too much Dallas?
Where do they live? Dallas, Houston and Fort Worth.
Celebrity example: JR Ewing. Gone but not forgotten. (H.L. Hunt, the late real-life inspiration for the dastardly Dallas oilman, headed up a family that continues to make a fortune on Texas tea.)
British equivalent: That world-famous and extremely glamorous coal-mining dynasty. You know the one. It’s on the tip of my tongue… In truth, British-based tycoons and barons tend to be Russian.
9. American old money
Who are they? WASPs, whose “nouveau riche” ancestors made millions (back when mere millions meant you were mega rich) as industrialists, bankers and builders in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Where do they live? You’ll find pockets of old money all over the U.S., but they’re perhaps best known for inhabiting parts of New England (particularly Maine) and New York City’s Upper East Side.
Celebrity example: Anderson Cooper, the CNN host who’s a member of the Vanderbilt family.
British equivalent: The landed gentry. Curiously, if you compared the bank balances of British and American “nobility,” the Brits would seem hard up. Our lot tend to be asset rich but cash poor.
10. American investment bankers and hedge fund managers
Who are they? Ivy Leaguers who set out to make big corporate cash in the Big Apple working for the big boys. Think Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase.
Where do they live? The Upper East Side, with a second home in the Hamptons.
Celebrity example: George Soros, an extremely rich hedge fund manager who topped the Forbes’ list of highest-earning hedge fund managers and traders in 2013.
British equivalent: Our own city slickers, whose Labradors would eat the Upper East Siders’ Chihuahuas for breakfast.
What are the rules and attitudes about wealth and money in America vs. Britain? Join @MindTheGap_BBCA and etiquette expert Debby Mayne (@DebbyMayne) to discuss using hashtag #MindTheChat for a chance to win a Doctor Who Season 7 DVD!
See more posts by 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.