Slight differences

As Americans look forward to an extra hour of sleep this weekend, we “fell back an hour” last weekend.

I put together a list of things that we’ve noticed so far that are completely different between the two countries.

It is a US versus UK showdown!

1. Doors
For fire safety reasons (correct me if I am wrong), most doors in the US push out from the inside (you must pull on the door handle to enter). Opposite for the UK (pull handle to exit).

2. Light switches
To turn on a light (switch) in the US, you push the top of the switch. Push down to turn off. Opposite for the UK – one pushes down on the switch to turn on the light.

3. Outlets
The ground in a three-prong outlet is on the bottom in the US. Opposite for the UK; the ground is on the top. Also! You must have three prongs in the outlet in order for the device to be able to even plug into the wall in the UK. Additionally, the UK has switches on the outlets. Yes, to turn on the electricity to that device, the outlet must be switched on.

4. Bathroom electricity
The only electrical outlet you will find in a bathroom in the UK is the one for your electric razor. It is also the only place that happens to take 220 V or 120 V plugs. Sometimes, the shower will be electric (no, seriously…I’m not joking!) – it helps with water pressure and in some places it also helps create hot water. In the US, there is at least one electrical outlet in a bathroom. And we do not purposely mix water and electricity, unless it is a dam.

5. Plumbing
In the US, most faucets have two handles/taps that control the water temperature (one for cold, one for hot), and the water comes out of one spigot. Sometimes, there is one lever that goes through a variety of temperatures, ranging from cold to warm to hot – but almost always one spigot. In the UK, even in new houses and buildings, there are two taps each controlling their own spigot. One for boiling hot water, the other for ice cold water. Yes, when washing my hands, I love burning my hands just to cool them off. The only place that doesn’t do this is in the shower. Maybe I’ll just wash my hands in the shower all of the time.

6. Voltage
The voltage is different. 220 V in the UK versus 120 V in the US. I think most people already know that though. We tried to leave all of our appliances in the US before moving here.

7. Lightbulb size
The lightbulbs are a different size. They are slightly smaller in the UK.

8. Window Screens
Almost every window in the US has at least the ability to have a screen on it (if the window opens). Window screens are a luxury item in the UK.

9. Time frames
In the US, we get annoyed when that repair person or delivery person is scheduled to arrived at your residence between a range of hours. And generally speaking, they are always within those time limits. In the UK, they still give you those range in time, but it means nothing. They are never on time. They may call saying that they’ll be there “soon” – and several hours later, they show up.

10. Politeness
Brits are insanely polite. Painfully polite. There is a great list of examples compiled on the web about this (my favorite: “I don’t feel well but I don’t want to disturb my doctor”). They will go out of their way to be polite, even if they aren’t being sincere about it. I am blissfully and completely oblivious to the sarcasm or insincerity.
Exclusion to this: many drivers and bicyclists in Cambridge. Drivers park or drive in the bicycle lane without warning or signaling. And many bicyclists also can’t be bothered to signal when turning. Some bicyclists don’t even look before crossing streets or merging onto a street/bike path. They have a death wish since ~90% of bicyclists in Cambridge do not wear a helmet while bicycling on the street.

Feel free to leave a comment below if you’ve noticed other major differences between the US and the UK that I haven’t mentioned here!

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