London by Michael Flatt

What's Different

Do Britons and Americans really speak the same language? While British English and American English have the same central language, there are major differences between the countries, including: genetic makeup, lifestyle, communication, law, accents and spelling. Life in London will most likely be significantly different from what you’re accustomed to back home, so I have created this page to help you better acclimate into the British life. The chart below describes some of the fundamental differences between the UK and the US.

UK / US Differences

Full Name
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
United States of America
North America
Large land mass
Type of Government
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional republic
Important People
Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II
Prime Minister: Gordon Brown
President: Barack Obama
Pound (£1 = 100 pence)
Dollar ($1 = 100 cents)
British English
American English
Washington, D.C.
Total Land Area
~94,000 sq miles
~3,500,000 sq miles
Time Zone
PST (8 hours behind GMT), MST (7 hours), CST (6 hours), EST (5 hours)
Celsius (°C)
Fahrenheit (°F)
System of Measurement
Metric System
American System
Higher Level of Education
University (Uni)
Daylight Saving Time (DST)
2009: Begins 29 March,
ends 25 October
2010: 28 March,
31 October
2009: Begins March 8,
ends November 1
2010: March 14,
November 7
Medical Treatment
Free (For UK Citizens)
Not Universal
Driving (side of the road)

The chart is a summary of some of the important differences between the UK and the US. However, the disparity between the two countries goes further than just their genetic makeup. To help you out in everyday London life, I’ve created a comprehensive list of common words and phrases you will come across while living in the city. See below:

Everyday British Terms and What They Mean In American English

Rubbish = Garbage
Hiya = Hi
Queue = Line
Quid = Bucks (e.g., $20)
Postal Code = Zip Code
Toilet, loo = Bathroom, Restroom
Lift = Elevator
Biscuit = Cookie
Flat (week-to-week) = Apartment (month-to-month)
Petrol = Gas
Tube = Subway, Metro
Motorway = Highway
Post = Mail
Snog = Kiss
Cinema = Movie Theatre
Holiday = Vacation
Return ticket = Round-trip Ticket
Pissed = Drunk
Take-away = Take Out, To Go
Cheers = Thanks, Thank You
Mate = Friend
Pavement = Sidewalk
Chips = French Fries
Crisps = Potato Chips
Trousers = Pants, Jeans
Ace = Excellent
Marking = Grading
Frosh = Freshman (in college)
Half past, quarter past, quarter to = 8:30, 8:15, 8:45

The British way of spelling is also quite different. In American English, words are spelled the way they sound, which is not the case in British English. For example, the words Mum (Mom), defence, colour, favour, theatre, flavour, centre, fulfil, cheque, ageing, analyse, and memorise are just a few of the many spelling differences you will notice in class.

The US has an extremely diverse landscape, from the east to the west coast and from the north to south. However, in the UK there is only one time zone which accounts for less climate and temperature variation among its Kingdoms. Since both countries parted ways in the late eighteenth century, the cultural differences have become more glaring.

Although the main system of measurement in the UK is the metric system, they do use non-metric units for certain purposes. For instance, the distance on roads is measured in miles and drinks at pubs are poured in pints. I am not sure how this came about (if you know, shoot me an email). Lastly, there are a few final UK nuances I would like to mention. They are: 1) establishments and businesses close earlier, 2) food comes in smaller portions (US Big Mac > UK Big Mac), 3) don’t tip taxi drivers (if you insist, no more than £1), 4) don’t say the phrase “quite pleased” (according to my professor, it means “rather mediocre”), and 5) cars are smaller (heavy taxes on gas promote public transportation).

If you find any other interesting differences on your trip, send me an email and I will add it to the page.