Things that are socially acceptable in US but 'horrifying' in UK

Brits express their horror over ‘socially acceptable’ behaviors in the US, from chatting to strangers in the elevator and taking home restaurant leftovers to ‘routine circumcisions’

  • Reddit user TownImmediate9060 asked others for things that are totally fine to do and say in the United States but would not go over well across the pond
  • Popular examples included gaps in bathroom stalls, ‘politicians mentioning religion when campaigning,’ and pharmaceutical ads on TV
  • Others included overworking, ‘over-the-top’ customer service, and heating tea in a microwave instead of a kettle, which most Americans don’t have
  • Some offered up vocabulary that is harmless in the US but explicit or offensive in the UK, like ‘fanny,’ ‘rubber,’ and ‘spunk’

Redditors are sharing the things that are totally fine to do and say in the United States but would not go over well across the pond. 

This weekend, Reddit user TownImmediate9060 asked fellow fans of the platform: ‘What is socially acceptable in the U.S. that would be horrifying in the U.K.?’

Thousands of people have replied, sharing the American customs — like taking leftover food home from a restaurant — and American vocabulary — like ‘fanny pack’ — that would earn some raised eyebrows if someone tried them out in the UK.

Differences: Redditors are sharing the things that are totally fine to do and say in the United States but would not go over well in the UK (stock image)

Several people pointed to ways that dining at a restaurant in the US can be different from doing so in the UK. 

‘When my Brit friends were visiting, they were horrified when the waiter took their credit card to swipe back at the terminal. This made them REALLY uncomfortable,’ wrote one.

Another said that taking food home from a restaurant — in a to-go bag or doggie bag — may be commonplace in the US, but is a no-no in the UK. 

‘You scavenge your next meal from the leftovers of your current one? Ask a British restaurant for a box to take your meal home, and you’ll get a look that says you’re difficult and a penny-pinching a**e,’ wrote another. 

Some couldn’t believe that most Americans make their tea by heating up water in a microwave, rather than a kettle. But hot tea is hardly as popular in the US as it is in the the UK: According to Quartz, Brits drink 4.281 pounds of tea per person annually, compared to just .503 pounds per person in the US — meaning Brits drink over eight times as much tea as Americans. 

Coffee is a much more popular beverage, so most US homes have coffee makers, while kettles are rendered an unnecessary appliance. 

And according to the Washington Post, 80 per cent of tea consumed in the US is iced tea.

To that end, some Redditors were baffled by the popularity of iced tea.  

Other things people listed that are normal and acceptable in the US include gaps in bathroom stalls, ‘chatting casually at the lift,’ ‘politicians mentioning religion when campaigning,’ and routine circumcision.

‘It’s pretty rare over here, we quite like our floppy little blankets,’ said one commenter. 

Multiple commenters are amazed that pharmaceutical ads are commonplace in the US — they frequently air on TV and appear in magazines — while one said that  ‘the length and frequency of commercial breaks in general’ was surprising.

‘Always horrified by the ads — both the content and the recurrence! Bloody hell, all your TV has like an ad a minute,’ wrote another.

The tendency to reward and encourage overworking struck others as shocking, with one American writing: ‘During my time in the U.K. my colleagues were horrified by the long hours and lack of holidays that was the norm in the U.S.’

One Brit said the ‘style of customer service’ in the US was commonly ‘way too over the top,’ prompting Americans to reply that British customer service was too gruff.

By that same token, though, one commenter said that American friendliness is a nice thing to encounter. 

Careful! One said that in the US, it doesn’t matter which way you hold a peace sign — but if this woman (stock photo) turned her hands around, it would be offensive in the UK

‘Taking 20+ minutes to help a complete stranger who is struggling with something,’ they wrote. ‘The amount of times a total stranger has stopped to assist me or someone I know? Y’all really make my heart melt!’

Quite a few people also gave examples of vocabulary that has a different meaning in the US and the UK and can make for some awkward interactions. 

While ‘rubber’ refers to a type of elastic substance in the US that is used for car tires and rain boots, in the UK means condom.

Whereas Americans have ‘fanny packs,’ Brits have ‘bum bags’ — since ‘fanny’ doesn’t mean backside in the UK. 

One said that a person would never say someone ‘has a lot of spunk’ in the UK. Though it means guts or determination in the US, in the UK it means semen. 

Naming a child Randy — sometimes short for Randall — is also not uncommon in the US, but would get some odd looks in the UK from those who understand the word to mean sexually excited.

‘I’ve learned from my British friends that you have to be very careful giving peace signs,’ said one more commenter. ‘If you have your hand facing a certain way, it’s like a “f*** you” in the UK basically, whereas in the US it doesn’t matter which way it’s facing really.’  

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