Bantering over cultural differences between Brits and Americans is a tradition as old as the Revolutionary War. With a common heritage, maybe it’s only natural that these English-speaking cousins have diverged so much over the last 240 years. Brits have a long history of boxing Americans in as thoughtless buffoons – Neanderthals with the intellectual capacity of a monkey’s thumb. Maybe the British still can’t get over the fact that the US had the audacity to split off from the mother country. Whatever the reason, the British love to criticize American culture for all its worth. When it comes to going out to dinner, getting through the workday or making friends at the office, the US and the UK are still worlds apart.
Fork It Over
When did using a fork for everything become a crime? In Britain, eating a meal is like a dance with the eater seamlessly switching back and forth between the knife and the fork. In America, we usually cut up everything in sight and then push our knives aside for the remainder of the meal. In America, we like to be untethered when we eat, uninhibited by endless utensils and conventional mannerisms. A British person would likely scoff at an American scarfing down a meal with nothing but a stick with four metal tines on the end.
We all know that tea is a sacred tradition in the United Kingdom. Delicate and pure, an herbal blend is the perfect way to relax during the day. The idea of chugging a prepackaged bottle of iced tea filled with all sorts of refined sugars and high fructose corn syrup is enough to make any Brit drop dead. Americans usually think of tea as the drink of choice in a nursing home, or as the fastest way to induce a sugar rush. It’s a shame that such a sophisticated beverage is wasted on us poor American blokes. We’ll just have to drink coffee instead.
No Drinking on the Job
Why such a rule exists in the US is beyond me. Most Brits would be peeved at the idea of just drinking water over lunch with their colleagues. In Britain, beer is a constant way of life. Everyone is encouraged to grab a pint with their fish and chips. Even employers expect their subordinates to drink up midway through the workday. Going to the pub is also considered a place for discussing business. Granted, Americans have their fair share of alcohol, but drinking on the job is still widely considered a no-no.
May I Please…
“Please” is a commonly used phrase in the UK, but it goes widely unused in the States. In America, if a customer in a restaurant finished a request with a “please,” the waiter would probably feel as if something was wrong. Adding a “please” can seem condescending, overbearing or impatient. In Britain, using the word “please” is a sign of respect and consideration for the person filling your order. British people are often amazed at Americans’ lack of politeness in a customer service setting. Maybe it’s true what they say: Americans are immune to manners.
Small Talk or Just “Small” Talk
The phrase “small talk” comes with a slew of hidden connotations. In the US, we prefer to talk about the weather, our favorite sports team, or the state of things at home. In Britain, people actually take the time to inform themselves about what’s going in the world. Striking up a casual conversation in the UK usually overlaps with what’s in the news. Talking about current events over a few drinks is considered taboo in America. Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that most political discussions in America end in a shouting match. When did voicing your opinion become a dangerous act in the land of the free?
Dreams of Success
The British love to mock America’s obsession with money and wealth. It continues to amaze the British people that the majority of business meetings in the US are all about how to maximize profits. Success in the UK is defined by position and respect. A person’s title says a lot more about their value to a company than how many zeros are on their paycheck. Furthermore, the corporate world in Britain is fueled by genuine relationships, not the backstabbing, who-are-you-what-do-you-want mentality that populates America’s networking culture. Imagine taking a genuine interest in one of you colleagues instead of using them to get ahead. Crazy, right?