From language usage and social etiquette, to racism and politics, you will find there are stark differences between the United Kingdom and the United States despite our common language. It is important to study these differences, not only so that you do not make a fool of yourself, but also so that you can have a better idea of how daily life will operate upon your arrival.
Language One of the first things you may notice upon moving to the United Kingdom is the difference in vocabulary and other areas of language. You shouldn’t have too many issues understanding the people of the UK, but to make sure you are communicating accurately, here are a few difference not to forget: In the UK, if you wants french fries, order chips. If you want chips, order crisps. If you want a cookie, ask for a biscuit. When you’re talking about your apartment, refer to it as a flat. When you’re in line, you are in a queue. If you need to get your bags out of the trunk of the taxi, ask the cabbie to open the boot. When you request vacation time, ask your new boss for holiday time. There are of course, many other differences. Too many, in fact, to list here. However, it is important to also realize that some of the words that we use regularly in the United States are considered “naughty” in the United Kingdom, and vice versa. When you say pants in the United Kingdom, natives will understand that to mean underwear, for example. Also, refrain from using the word fanny. It does not mean your rear end once you move to the UK. Do a bit more research on this topic, not only because it is important to know, but also because it can be quite interesting and humorous. (Or should I say, humourous?)
Social Etiquette Upon arrival in the United Kingdom, you may find that people are generally more standoffish. Don’t worry, it (probably) isn’t because you stink. People in the UK are known for taking some time to warm up to new people in their midst. It is important to take this into consideration and to not try too hard to be liked. When in Rome act like the Romans, and when in the United Kingdom, allow others around you to get used to interacting with you at their own pace. In business life, the people of the United Kingdom tend to dress more professionally than their United States counterparts. Pocket squares, well shined shoes, perfectly coiffed hair, and a clean shave are key when meeting with important business contacts. Speaking of business contacts, unless you’ve already lined yourself up a job before moving, you will need to find a job. In the United States, especially when job seeking, we tend to talk ourselves up. We really are selling ourselves when we write resumes and go to interviews in the United States. Be aware, the opposite is true in the United Kingdom, and you will want to adjust your job seeking skills if you want to land your dream job. In general, people in the United Kingdom are self deprecating, and even if they are given a compliment, they will play it down. When writing your resume for applying to jobs in the United Kingdom, be careful not to exaggerate your accomplishments; list them exactly as they are with no self-marketing language. The same goes for behavior during interviews. There are so many differences in social etiquette between the United Kingdom and the United States, and it is important that you do quite a bit of research on the topic, but the above information should get you started off on the right foot.
Racism and Politics While racism may exist in both the United States and the United Kingdom, there are some very interesting difference in how it plays out in either country. For starters, black people in the United States are typically descendents of those involved in the slave trade, and so racism here tends to be a bit about black people being inferior. In the UK, black people were initially migrants from the West Indies, so racism across the pond tends to come from a more xenophobic feeling. The resulting racism against black people in the UK is more similar to how less educated or tolerant Americans refer to immigrants now as people who “steal our jobs.” But with so few black people in the UK, racism has turned towards more abundant migrants, such as those from the middle east and areas in and around India. No matter which country you are in, it is important to be tolerant of every race, but be aware of these differences, lest you experience culture shock. Because of differences in the political system, geography, and general social climate between the United States and the UK, the political culture is vastly different between the two English speaking countries. First, a quick lesson in where people generally fall politically in the United Kingdom: “Blue collar,” or laborers, tend to vote for the left, or Labour party. Middle class voters tend to vote for the right, or Conservative party. Interestingly enough, labourers in the United Kingdom believe that the elite class should in fact be ruling over them, which is in stark contrast with the United States. In general, avoid discussing politics until you have pored over modern political history. There are a lot of differences in how the people of the UK discuss politics, and how people from the US do, and you don’t want to offend too many people in your first few weeks.
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