Differences from the UK to the US That You Might Need to Know!

We all love America, but it is very different from home, so be prepared! Here are a few things that might be useful to you, taking into account that I am writing about the state of Georgia, in the South, and that every state has different rules and laws, but I will include broader differences also.

Differences from the UK to the US That You Might Need to Know!
My photo from Atlanta!

1. Tip!

Yes, make sure you have plenty of those $1 and $5 dollar notes, because you are going to need those for tipping. Wages in the US are much lower than they are elsewhere, so waitresses, taxi drivers, hotel concierges, usually expect tips. It is a polite thing to do also that is not very common back home, but this is a MUST if you come to the US.

2. Greet others with a handshake.

Most people will greet you with a handshake. They won't hug, kiss or just stand there. So, be polite and offer your hand.

3. Religion (especially in the South) is huge!

Whether you are religious or not you need to be aware of how religious most Americans are. You can't walk down a street without seeing at least 5 churches. Be mindful of what you are saying and make sure that you show respect to people's beliefs.

4. The drinking age is 21. You can't go in a bar unless you are 21.

Just because you can drink in the UK at 19, does not mean you can drink in the US. It is ILLEGAL to drink alcohol or go into a bar. If you do this, you will be in big trouble and the University will usually send you back home, or the police may even hold you in prison. DO NOT DRINK or be in the company of people drinking, or you are asking for trouble.

5. You can get a fine for walking across the road at the wrong time. This is called 'jaywalking.'

Make sure you press that button and wait until it tells you that you can cross. If you happen to cross without this and a police officer is nearby, you will be in trouble and get a fine from $250. It isn't hard to be patient and wait. Considering how big the roads are, you are looking for a death sentence if you cross without clearance.

6. The driving is bad!

Unlike the UK, the US driving test is much easier. It takes 10 minutes for a driving test to be completed here and most people that I have spoken to, says they could barely drive and still passed. You don't have to do reverse parking etc...So, yeah, be careful and mindful of this when you walking across roads.

7. The food portions are huge!

Whilst the food on University campus tends to be average, you can eat out and expect to get a bigger portion that is going to fill you for almost a day. I would advise to use the University gym!

8. Walmart will provide you with all the plastic bags you'll ever need!

When you come out of Walmart, you will have more plastic bags than items. That's because the staff put about two items in one bag. This is obviously awful and we know the harm that this can do, but expect to not have to pay for bags and to be carrying a lot out! I kept the bags though and put them in my trash can to hold rubbish.

9. Words are different.

US:UK - I am sure there are loads of differences but here are a few! I found it difficult when going to Walmart and trying to find certain foods.
  • Chips:Crisps
  • Friends: Chips
  • Biscuit: Sconne
  • Cookie: Biscuit
  • Courgette: Cucumber
  • Ground floor: First floor
  • First floor: Ground Floor
  • Pharmacy: Chemist
  • Blinker: indicator
  • Bathroom: Loo
  • Mall: Shopping Centre/complex
  • Garbage: Rubbish
  • Trash can: Bin
  • Plastic wrap: Cling film
  • Cotton swap: Cotton bud
  • Heavy cream: Double cream
  • Divided highway: Dual carriageway
  • Blue Milk/2% : Green milk in the UK! - I struggled trying to find the green top equivalent but there it is.
  • I can go on forever...

10. Be prepared to buy books.

Over in the US, it is a requirement to buy books and you also have to pay to rent a book from the bookstores on campus, so do your research and be willing to spend money. My books came up to the cost of $100.

11. The tea is not the same!

Iced Tea is basically their Hot Tea and even if you get hot tea, down in the South it doesn't taste the same. So be prepared! I managed to find Tetley tea in Walmart.

12. Their steering wheels are on the left side of the car, and they drive on the right side of the road.

They do drive on the wrong side of the road. The right, instead of the left.

13. Address people as 'Sir' or 'Ma'am.'

ALWAYS address people with that. When I first got here I found some people giving me funny looks because I wasn't. Also, like we might do back home, DO NOT call your professors by their first name. It is DOCTOR....or Sir, not Nick or Joe.

14. EVERYONE drives.

Well, nearly everyone anyway.

15. Sports are very different.

Sports in England is mostly Football, Tennis, Golf and cricket. However, in the US, American football, basketball and baseball is huge. Even Volleyball and softball etc...crowds turn up to matches unlike in the UK. So make sure that you go and experience one. They are definitely more fun and it is strange to see how serious that they take it - but remember lots of them are on scholarships, which pays for their tuition which is why it is so important. In England you are lucky to even have your parents come to watch you play.

16. Try not to talk about politics.

Whilst some will be willing to talk about their political view, some might not, so be careful what you are saying. Don't start talking about how much you might hate Trump, because if you come across someone who voted for him, you will find yourself in a tangled mess because Americans will always respond.

17. Every state is different, but in Georgia, if the traffic light is red and no traffic is coming, the car can go.

Also, if the pedestrian sign is on for you to walk, but no one is coming, the car can go.

18. People can text and be on their phone whilst driving.

People can text and be on their phone whilst driving. Hence, driving is bad along with the rules for it.

19. If you see an army officer/veteran, most usually greet him/her with a handshake and thank them for serving.

Feel free to add any more differences to the comment section!

travel advice
Courtney Gowland
Courtney Gowland
Read next: Camping > Hotels
Courtney Gowland

Welcome to my page! I mostly write about my study abroad experience in the United States of America! I like to give as much as advice as I can so feel free to comment on my posts or ask me any questions!

See all posts by Courtney Gowland