Two Countries Separated by One Language

For those looking to achieve complete fluency in a foreign language, there really is only one option and that is to move abroad. For some languages this is fairly straight forward; if you’re learning Italian, clearly you’ll be headed to Italy and the choice lies simply in which city to live in. For English, the options are decidedly more complex, with 65 countries and territories across the world having English as an official language, but two of the major options that emerge are the UK and the US. Having been frequently described as ‘two countries separated by one language’, you would do well to consider the relative cultural and linguistic differences between the two when planning a move, and so we have compiled some of the most important ones for you here:

  • Linguistic differences

Color or colour? Sidewalk or pavement? Elevator or lift? The vocabulary, spelling, style of speech, and accent differ greatly between these two countries. Americans tend to see British speech as quaint; conjuring up images of afternoon tea and crumpets with the queen, whereas Brits are fairly used to American English due to the prevalence of US media in the cinemas and on TV. This one will depend more on your personal preferences and what you’re accustomed to.

  • Humour

Differences here lie well beyond the spelling of the word (Americans carelessly omit the u!) with British humour tending to be darker and more sarcastic than its American counterpart, leading many Americans to perceive us as mean-spirited. Honestly, we’re nicer than we seem! American humour, on the other hand, is direct and seems too ‘obvious’ to the British.

  • Positivity

You can expect a lot more outward positivity should you decide to cross the pond, whereas the British like a good moan. This all makes up part of the British humour, which is known for its self-deprecatory nature, so don’t take grumbles about the weather too seriously, we’re actually quite happy with life and this is just a way of making conversation!

  • Openness

Americans are very open to sharing personal details about themselves from the outset, whereas the British are arguably calmer and more reserved on first meeting. Of course you will be able to make close friendships in both countries; just the approach to social situations and relationships varies; the British do open up, just give it a little time.

  • Tipping

Certainly one you should consider if you like eating out; the tipping culture in America is strong, with a tip of around 10% being considered the absolute minimum. Waiting staff depend on these tips due to low wages, whereas in the UK minimum wages are higher, which means that you’re not always obliged to tip, especially as a young person or student.

  • Size

In the US, bigger is better, and that goes for just about everything. Cars, houses, streets, food… Whatever you can think of, it’s probably double the size in the states. This means you’ll have more space at home of course, but it also means that the distance you travel to work or school is likely to be longer… And you can forget walking; it’s just not something you do in America!

It can be difficult to generalise with any country, particularly one as large as the US, where attitudes can vary drastically from one area to the next, but hopefully some of these overriding tendencies can help you to decide which would be a better fit for your personality. Then again, maybe you’ll choose to go for another Anglophone country like Ireland, Australia or even New Zealand! If you enjoyed reading this, you can find more of the same here, and if you’re looking for a job as a bilingual assistant in Paris, take a look at our offers now!

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