Living in the UK as an American

Living in the UK as an American

Get to grips with British culture, health and more, with our top tips for Americans moving to the UK.
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InterNations found that ‘many of American expats move abroad to live in their partner’s home country or for love’.  And, ‘over 40% feel they will stay abroad forever’.

Are you an American relocating to the United Kingdom? Here's 6 top tips to help you fit in with the British ways.

The United Kingdom has been growing in popularity as an expatriate destination. The UK has a rich history and some of the most deep-rooted traditions – which is why it’s highly recommended for expats to learn well about the British culture in order to blend in smoothly, and avoid some of the most typical cultural faux pas.

British etiquette

We have gathered this list with the 6 top tips for American expats in the UK, to help you fit in with ease:

  • Use the London Underground correctly

If you are living in London, you may be aware of the particularities of the tube etiquette. If not, be conscious that there are certain rules that visitors are expected to know and respect. There are plenty of articles online to check out some of the golden rules of the London Underground - some of the most important ones: walk on the left and stand on the right when using the escalator, respect the queue, and don’t block the flow of traffic. Being aware of business etiquette will go a long way to helping you settle down in the country.

  • Stick to British etiquette

moving to UK from us

It is customary for friends in the UK to go out and buy rounds of drinks for all friends present. If you go out with a friend and you’re offered a drink, don’t assume that your friend is buying you drinks because he or she is overly kind or rich – bear in mind that you will be expected to buy the next round of drinks. It may be considered rude not to return the favour.

  • British manners: always say please and thanks

Brits are known for their very polite manners. The best way to fit in with the protocol is to ensure you make good use of the expressions ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and using these in conjunction with ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘excuse me’ will be even more appreciated.

  • Watch your hand gestures

While a ‘peace sign’ with your palm facing inwards towards your body is a completely harmless gesture in the US, it does not represent peace in the UK – It is highly offensive and inappropriate.

  • Learn to make tea the British way

Britain has perfected the art of tea-making, so if you are going to make a cup of tea for a British friend, make sure to follow some basic rules: Ask your guest how he or she takes it (with milk and/or sugar), then boil the water – don’t just heat it, and add the boiling water to the tea bag. Most Americans do the last step the other way round; adding the tea bag to the water, but this way does not allow for the tea to properly brew. Finally, let the tea brew in the cup for at least two minutes, or longer for a stronger taste, and add milk if desired. 

  • Be conscious of language alterations

You may have already updated some of your vocabulary and introduced the word ‘trousers’. But apart from that, you may want to take note on the differences in spelling. Many verbs and words are spelled differently in the UK, like ‘centre, ‘colour’, ‘organise’… the list goes on. As a general rule, it is fine to use either US or British spelling, but try to stick to one rather than mixing both.

If you have recently made the big move to the United Kingdom, keep in mind that it may take a bit of time getting used to the new culture, but that over time and through daily life, you will be likely to master culture shock and feel at home very soon in your new country.

Much like any other big life event, becoming an expat can be stressful, so a sense of humour is of paramount importance. Be willing to laugh at the situation when you get things wrong. Settling in a new country is an exciting step in your life, so take it all as it comes and embrace the change.

  • Sports in the UK

One thing you will quickly learn is that sport is very popular in the UK. Some of the most played sports include football, cricket, rugby and tennis.

It helps to have an understanding of these when engaging with new colleagues and friends in the UK. You don’t want to be left asking “what is cricket” or “what is Wimbledon”.

And remember that when discussing football in the UK, try your best not to refer to it as soccer!

  • Have you figured out your health insurance?

As you master the culture in your new location and immerse yourself in the British lifestyle – don’t forget about your health and ensure you have the best cover.

At Cigna Global we specialize in expatriate healthcare, offering a high level of care facilities for expats in over 200 countries and territories, with the flexibility to choose from three levels of cover and optional additional benefits, including outpatient care, medical evacuation, and vision & dental care. 

Take a look at our health insurance plans and find out how you can create a plan specifically tailored to your needs, here.

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