Culture Question:

What’s the biggest difference between the English and Americans?

(posted: Sep 2009)

A student first asked me this question in an American Culture class I taught several years ago. Since then other students have asked it as well. I sent the question to many American friends, or people I know who live in the U.S., and some of them sent it to other friends of theirs. Some of the responses are below:

Class consciousness. The English are aware of class, Americans aren't.
                    D – Wisconsin – Midwest U.S.

Britain is a Constitutional Monarchy and the US is a Republic. Oh, and we speak the same language, sort of.
                    D – Minnesota – Midwest U.S.

The English (British) are more socialist than Americans.
                    K – U.S.

We are similar in many ways. When I visited England, I stayed mostly in large cities and the difference I experienced most was traveling by train to get around the city (in England) rather than by car.
                    P – Minnesota – Midwest U.S.

There are many differences between the English and the Americans. Here are some: 

  • The English have a queen, we do not.  
  • The English have almost 1,000 years of history, involving many races and cultures of people who at different times were dominant in the culture but the Americans have history for only about 400 years and have always been a mixture of races and cultures.
  • Our culture is mostly derived from Europe, but is a mix of every culture in the world.  
  • England had a declared empire, making other countries a possession of England.
  • America has an undeclared empire, and dominates other countries with its culture and by giving or withholding foreign aid.
                       K – Minnesota – Midwest U.S.

I have a lot of English friends. Many people remark on the freedom and unfettered joy that Americans have and say it goes back to our "frontier" mentality.

  • I do tend to think of my British friends as more polite by inclination and more inclined to not speak out.  This can be good or bad.  
    • On the one hand, it is polite
    • On the other hand, speaking out passionately when you believe something is wrong can be good.
                        M – Eastern U.S.

There is a joke, heard both in the U.S. and in England, that the difference is this: 

  • the English think 100 miles is a long way, and the Americans think 100 years is a long time.                     E – Minnesota Midwest U.S.

Return to Culture Questions page

   -  top of page -


UK and US flags melded


Further Reading:

Cultural differences between the US and the UK – Written for British people thinking of moving to the U.S.

Potentially Confusing and Embarrassing Difference Between American and British English

Discussion forum from 2002 about cultural differences between Britain and the USA