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Whether you’re looking for some fun trivia about British things that aren’t common in America, or you’re planning on moving to the UK or making a trip to the UK from the US, these are some of the most interesting things I’ve discovered after 10 years of living in the UK that we don’t see as often in America.
If we haven’t met, hi!
I’m Kalyn and I grew up in America (specifically Florida), but now I live in the UK with my British husband so I’m always on the lookout for the things that make me go, “….wait, what?”.
Some are foods, some are appliances, some are customs rather than tangible items, but they are all British things that you don’t find in America (often) to show you just how different our cultures are.
Let’s get started!
1. Windows that open outwards with a key
All of the windows I had growing up opened upwards, like a sash window, rather than outwards like the windows I’m used to in the UK.
To close my windows in America, you used a little mechanism that sort of just popped back and forth, but it was never fully “locked” from the inside.
In the UK, I quickly realized that for my windows here, not only did they open outwards, but they also have a key so you actually can lock it from the inside and not be able to open it again without turning the key in the window lock.
This was a huge adjustment as I did wonder about what would happen if I needed to get out in a panic and hadn’t unlocked the window or had lost the key, but so far it hasn’t been an issue – just a difference to the design of many of the windows I have come across in America.
2. Combo washer and dryer
Everyone says this about the UK and Europe in general when they move here from North America.
Having one machine that is capable of both washing and drying my clothes seemed incredibly confusing.
How would it switch between the two modes? I had these more when I was in student accommodation – today we have a separate washer and dryer because I’m spoiled, I don’t know, but I do think that there is something to be said for having separate machines as the combo washer/dryer never seemed to dry the clothes as well as a fully dedicated dryer.
But this post isn’t about which is better, it’s about the fact that I had never seen or heard of a combo washer/dryer in America before moving to the UK and now I have seen quite a lot of them!
3. British keyboard
I have an entire video on the differences between UK and US keyboards, so check that out if you’re into nerdy stuff like that!
I hadn’t even taken a second to think that keyboards might be different in different countries, so when I first used a British keyboard in a computer lab in the UK, I was confused by where some of the keys were and why I kept hitting the wrong ones.
4. Using the parking brake
Growing up in Florida, and driving automatic cars, I swear to you no one ever mentioned the parking or emergency brake to me!
Not one time.
When I first moved to the UK and my husband kept putting on his parking brake, I was just like, what are you doing, the car doesn’t need your extra help to park, it’s stopped, it’s parked, we’re all good!
Turns out, no we are not!
Especially in a hilly area, you’ve got to put that parking brake on, which I now do religiously, but I had never given it a second though, much less a first thought, until I moved to the UK.
This could also have to do with the fact that I lived in Florida, where our roads are very, very flat!
5. Electric kettles
People like to fight about kettles on the internet because it’s horrifying to many British people that most Americans don’t have one!
I had never used or seen an electric kettle in the US before moving to the UK, and if I had to heat water, I would just do it in the microwave or in a pot on the stove.
Electric kettles are ubiquitous with the UK – genuinely almost every household has one, with very few exceptions, and because the electric voltage is higher in the UK than in America, they boil water pretty efficiently and quickly.
6. Roast chicken flavored chips
Called “crisps” in the UK, one of the oddest things I’ve seen in the UK that we don’t have in America is roast chicken flavored chips.
It’s one of those flavors that other countries sort of look at and go, “ew,” but really, we all have our weird flavors that we’re used to within our own country (I bet Brits look at everything we have flavored like pizza with a side eye!).
They don’t necessarily taste like chicken to me, but they’re called roast chicken flavored and I’ve never seen a chicken flavored chip in the US yet!
7. Corn as a pizza topping
Before moving to the UK, I had never seen someone suggest that you put corn on pizza (the Brits call it sweetcorn).
It isn’t usually an option on pizza orders in the US, but my husband and many other British people love having corn on their pizza and I guess it’s another one of those “to each their own” thing, as it’s not weirder than having another vegetable on pizza, it’s just not typically done in the US.
8. Flush button for toilet
Everyone loves talking about toilet flushes, obviously – it’s your favorite topic, but one British thing I hadn’t seen in America is this kind of toilet flush button.
I was used to seeing the American flush handle rather than a button, though nowadays I have actually seen a few more buttons pop up on toilets in the USA.
I first arrived in the UK in 2012, though, and at that point I had never seen a button to flush the toilet and definitely was the weirdo taking pictures of a toilet in the Heathrow Airport bathroom!
9. Bathroom light pull cord
It’s a little bit old school, even in the UK, but when I first moved to the UK, there was a pull cord to turn on the light in the bathroom in my in-laws house and this was VERY strange to me.
It has to do with regulations about electric connections in the bathroom in the UK, but I panicked everytime I turned it off or on because you had to pull it hard to get it to work.
Eventually, the cord did snap and they had to tie it back together!
I had never seen a pull cord to turn on a light in the USA before – one of those quirks of across the pond!
While I had heard of “crumpets,” I definitely didn’t know what one looked like and had never seen one in person before moving to the UK because we don’t eat crumpets in America unless it’s from the import aisle.
This is one of the saddest British things that you can’t find in America because crumpets are amazing and taste awesome with butter or jam (you just toast them in the toaster).
The holes in them soak up all of the topping and it sort of infuses itself into every bite in a wonderful way that you need to try for yourself if you’re coming to the UK.
11. Blackcurrant flavor
Did you know that blackcurrant flavored things are not available in the USA?
Blackcurrant bushes were actually banned in 1911 in the US due to a fungus it carried called “white pine blister rust” that threatened the timber industry, and so, most Americans today have never eaten this small, tart berry, whether on its on, in a drink, in a jam, in a sauce – nothing.
The same fungus happened in Europe, but Europe kept the blackcurrants and got rid of the white pine tree while America went the other way.