The United Kingdom attracts more than 30 million tourists a year, making it one of the most popular countries to visit in the world.
American tourism to the United Kingdom is growing particularly fast, and for Americans who have never been there before, it’s important to learn some basic facts and cultural norms of the UK. Otherwise, you risk offending locals and possibly embarrassing yourself – something no traveller wants to do on their vacation.
Read on for seven things Americans definitely want to avoid doing on their trip to the UK:
Thinking Ireland is part of the UK
Americans might find it confusing that Ireland and Northern Ireland are two separate countries, and that only Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.
While the stereotype that Irish people and British people hate each other may be a thing of the past, you should still avoid sounding ignorant by recognising the distinction.
Calling football soccer
There are hundreds of examples of words that have different meanings in British English and American English.
When you order chips in a restaurant, for example, you’ll receive what Americans know as French fries. And in the UK, biscuits aren’t the fluffy pastries you’ll find in the Southern US, but what Americans would call a cookie.
While confusing those terms aren’t the worst offenses, Brits will likely roll their eyes if they hear an American talk about “soccer” instead of football.
Not knowing the difference between the United Kingdom and Great Britain
Americans are perpetually confused between how to distinguish between the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and the countries comprising both places.
To put it simply, the United Kingdom is a nation comprising four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Great Britain is the name of the island where three of those countries lie: England, Scotland, and Wales. (It helps to know that the official name of the UK is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.)
Mispronouncing place names like Leicester, Norwich, and Berkshire
Some places in the UK have names that aren’t pronounced in the most intuitive way.
The city of Leicester, for example, only has two syllables, and is pronounced Lester. Norwich is pronounced more like “Norridge,” and Berkshire is pronounced BARK-sure.
Mispronouncing someone’s hometown isn’t a great way to make a good impression on them, so make sure you learn your names before you visit the UK.
Expressing measurements in American units
America remains one of just three countries to resist the metric system, and in the UK you’ll get some blank stares if you refer to pounds and other US measurements. Similarly, the UK does use gallons and pints, but they are different quantities than in the US.
Along those lines, make sure you’re converting your American Fahrenheit temperatures to Celsius.
Writing the date the American way
Americans are used to writing out the date starting with the month and then the day, like February 5.
People from the UK, and most other countries in the world, for that matter, would write it with the day first: 5 February.
Writing in the wrong format can cause confusion for a date like 9/7, which could be interpreted as either September 7 or July 9 depending on where you are. Save yourself the embarrassment and stick to the local custom.
Tipping your bartender
Tipping culture varies from country to country, and you can avoid an awkward situation by learning the tipping customs of the UK.
Unlike in the United States, where tipping your bartender for each drink you order is expected, tipping at a British pub isn’t the norm.
You’re still expected to tip in restaurants, but not as much as in the US – 10% should be fine.
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