Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Five things America does better than Britain

By Anna Jones Buttimore

I love being British. I'm very blessed to live in a country where the weather, while mostly dismal, isn't ever extreme enough to be likely to kill me. I rejoice in free healthcare, my parents' 500-year-old cottage, and the best chocolate in the world.

But I also love America. I've visited six times now, and there's no escaping the fact that there are just some things the USA does better than the UK.

1. Adoption

Adoption law in the UK is decades behind that of the US. If an unwed mother here decides to place her baby for adoption then she signs over the child to the authorities soon after giving birth. Social workers will decide which family her baby is placed with. She may want letters and photographs as her child grows up, but she's not entitled to them, or to any contact at all, if the adoptive family don't want to do this.

The LDS Church encourages unwed parents to place their babies for adoption in the US, where they can select the parents and know that their child can be raised in the Covenant and the birth mother can continue to be part of that child's life. Over here, however, it seems to be preferable for LDS unwed parents to raise their own children.

2. Houses
An American house.

My house.
I LOVE American houses! I love built-in closets, bathrooms off the bedrooms, a family room and a den or living room in so many homes, separate laundry rooms and garages you can actually fit your car into. I love that they are just so much bigger, newer, more attractively designed, and about half the price of anything over here. Most of us are living in homes built when the idea of having a bathroom actually inside the house was quite novel, and a kitchen was considered an optional extra. My house was built in 1968 (the same year I was built) and it's the newest home I've ever lived in. 

I also love that fact that American houses are so much cheaper to buy. My house is a semi-detached (it shares a party wall with next door), has three bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a lounge, kitchen, dining room and utility room. Not open plan, of course - that's an American thing too. With about 1,600 square feet of space it's worth about £220,000. For the same price in Florida I can buy a 3,000 sq ft 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom detached home with a pool and spa. And closets. And a garage you can fit the car into.

3. Laundry

See above - very few Brits get to have separate laundry rooms. For most people the washing machine is in the kitchen, which means that so are the baskets of dirty laundry. Dryers are a relatively new idea - I have one, but many people don't. That's not a bad thing, though: they're so energy-hungry and expensive to run that it is much better, in every way, to hang your washing on the line (even though it rains all the time). I'm still putting my laundry out each morning (and collecting it back in when the clouds turn dark) well into October. I do love American washing machines and dryers though. They are much bigger (they'll take a load about twice the size of a UK machine) and much quicker to run. They're one of the things I missed most when I got back from Florida.

4. Coupons

I've watched Extreme Couponing, and I would love to be able to go to the shop with a folder full of coupons and walk out with a trolley full of food and household items for which I'd paid only a few pounds. Unfortunately coupons are rare here. You occasionally see one for 10p off toothpaste (which costs £2) or a half price offer, but generally they are restricted to one deal per customer, and aren't valid if there's another offer on the product. Probably a good thing too, because British homes don't have basements or any real storage space, so I'd have nowhere to keep my 200 jars of pasta sauce.

5. Mexican food

Our curry is better than American curry, and fish and chips take some beating, but I do miss Mexican food. Yep, booking my next ticket over right now! 


  1. Amanda Henningsen DavisOctober 9, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    You forgot to mention two other things America definitely does better than the UK. One - Customer service, hands down we trump ya! Second, which ties in with the first is that you never have to pay extra to call a doctor's office or a customer service representative. There are calls that charge per minute, but they are purely elective (most of which air commercials in the middle of the night, if you know what I'm saying).

  2. Hi Amanda, I did consider including customer service, but we are definitely getting better at it. Things are better now than they were when I was a child when the checkout person or waiter wouldn't speak to you or make eye contact. Anyway, I gave Britain the benefit of the doubt on that one. Paying extra for calls to customer service is something that infuriates me, so I agree. Yesterday I wanted to phone customer service to ask a simple question about a hotel room, but the call would be 10p a minute, so I did it for free via online chat instead. But the flip side is that in the US you have to pay for incoming calls, even if it's someone trying to sell you something you don't want.

  3. Quite right. American roads are wider and in better condition for the same reason - because there is space to make them wide, and they weren't originally built 200 years ago for horse-drawn carriages. An eighth of an acre of building land in this area costs £200,000, so it's not surprising that they'll try to squeeze as many tiny houses on it as possible.

  4. Brits are better with accents, though! :-) The American accent is sloppy and lazy compared to the British accent. I love it. :-)



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