Living in UK vs US: A Tight Race
The US and UK are two popular destinations for expats and digital nomads alike. Both countries offer a high standard of living, access to healthcare, and a wealth of cultural experiences. But when it comes to choosing between the two, what are the key differences to consider?
From the weather to the food, from the transportation to the culture, there are many factors to take into account. Do you prefer the hustle and bustle of New York City or the historic charm of London? Are you willing to trade in your umbrella for a pair of sunglasses, or vice versa? What about the cost of living, the job market, and visa requirements?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at all the information you need to make an informed decision about your next international move. So, grab a cup of tea or a coffee, and let’s dive in!
Living in the UK vs. Living in the USA: Pros and Cons
Both the UK and the US have advantages and disadvantages for their residents. Here is a pro-con comparison of the two countries:
Pros and Cons of Living in the UK
Pros of Living in the UK
- Healthcare is free and is provided by the National Health Service (NHS)
- A rich history and cultural diversity
- Smaller land mass and easy access to other European countries
- More vacation time and longer maternity/paternity leave
- Higher emphasis on work-life balance
- Access to world-renowned universities and educational institutions
- Comprehensive public transportation systems in major cities
- Low crime rates in many areas
- Stronger social safety net for those in need
Cons of Living in the UK
- High cost of living, particularly in London and other major cities
- Shorter work hours may lead to lower earning potential
- Weather can be damp and gloomy for much of the year
- Limited job opportunities in certain industries or fields
- Crowded and congested urban areas in some cities
- High taxes, especially for higher earners
Pros and Cons of Living in the US
Pros of Living in the US
- Higher earning potential, particularly in certain industries
- Sunny weather in many areas
- Numerous job opportunities in different industries
- More affordable cost of living in many regions
- Diverse geography and landscapes, from beaches to mountains to deserts
- Strong entrepreneurial culture and opportunities for innovation
- Lower taxes, particularly for lower earners
Cons of Living in the UK
- The expensive and often inaccessible healthcare system
- Limited vacation time and often short maternity/paternity leave
- High emphasis on work and long work hours
- Limited public transportation in many regions
- High crime rates in some areas
- High levels of economic and social inequality
- Less comprehensive social safety net for those in need
Cost of Living in the US vs UK
In general, the cost of living in the US is slightly lower than in the UK, but this can vary greatly depending on the city you choose to live in. For example, New York and San Francisco are notoriously expensive, while smaller cities like Tulsa, Oklahoma, or Indianapolis, Indiana can be more affordable.
Housing is one of the biggest expenses in both countries. In the US, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in a city center is around $1,100-3900 per month, while in the UK it’s between £550-2000 (around $650-2500). However, utilities are generally cheaper in the US.
Food and dining out are also important expenses to consider. Eating out in the US tends to be cheaper than in the UK, but groceries can be more expensive. Transportation costs are similar in both countries, although owning a car is more common in the US due to the lack of public transportation in many areas.
Ultimately, the cost of living will depend on your circumstances and lifestyle choices. But whether you choose to live in the US or the UK, both countries offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy a high quality of life.
Here’s a table showing estimated costs of living in the UK and the US, based on Numbeo’s cost of living data as of September 2021:
$1,213/month for a 1 bedroom apartment outside city center (average across major cities)
£1,132/month for a 1 bedroom apartment outside city center (average across major cities)
$153/month (average across major cities)
£157/month (average across major cities)
$349/month for groceries for one person (average across major cities)
£271/month for groceries for one person (average across major cities)
$68/month for a monthly pass (average across major cities)
£66/month for a monthly pass (average across major cities)
$484/month for a mid-range private health insurance plan (family of 4)
Free under the National Health Service (NHS)
$26,820/year for tuition and fees for public universities (out-of-state) or $54,880/year for private universities
Free or heavily subsidized for UK citizens and residents
23.8% average effective tax rate for single filers with no dependents earning $50,000-$75,000/year (federal, state, and FICA taxes combined)
20% income tax rate for those earning £12,571-£50,270/year (excluding National Insurance)
Quality of Life in the UK vs USA
Both countries offer a high standard of living; however, there are numerous differences in what is included in the life standard comparatively.
In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) provides free healthcare to all residents, while in the USA, most people have private health insurance. Education in the UK is mostly free, while in the USA, both private and public education options are available with tuition fees.
Housing costs in the UK tend to be high, while in the USA, it varies by location. In terms of crime rate, the UK has a relatively low rate compared to the USA, which can vary greatly depending on location. Work-life balance tends to be better in the UK, with longer work hours and limited vacation time in the USA.
The UK is more ethnically diverse, while the USA is more racially diverse. Both countries offer a wide range of cultural and outdoor activities to enjoy.
Here’s a chart showing different contributors to the high life quality in the UK and the US:
National Health Service (NHS)
Private health insurance
Free public education
Private and public education with tuition fees
Varies by location
Varies by location
Long work hours and limited vacation time
More ethnically diverse
More racially diverse
Rich and varied
Varied and scenic
Varied and scenic
In the UK, housing tends to be more expensive, particularly in urban areas like London. However, there is a wide range of housing options available, from quaint cottages to modern flats and everything in between. Many UK homes are smaller than those in the US, with less closet space and smaller kitchens.
In the US, housing costs can vary greatly depending on location. Urban areas are usually more expensive, while suburbs and rural areas are generally more affordable. American homes are typically larger than the UK ones, with more closet space, larger kitchens, and often a backyard.
Both the UK and the US have their own unique housing styles and architectural traditions. In the UK, you’ll find everything from Tudor-style homes to Georgian terraces, while the US has a wide range of architectural styles, including Craftsman, Colonial, and Victorian.
Education systems in the UK and the US are structured differently, with distinct curriculums and approaches to teaching and learning.
In the UK, education is divided into four stages: primary, secondary, further education, and higher education. Students in the UK follow a national curriculum focusing on core subjects like English, maths, and science, with additional study fields like history, geography, and art. The education system emphasizes exams, and students typically take national exams around the ages of 16 and 18.
In the US, education is divided into three stages: elementary, middle, and high school. Each state has its own curriculum, with some national standards for certain subjects. The education system in the US tends to focus more on practical skills and critical thinking, with a greater emphasis on extracurricular activities like sports, music, and art. Students in the US also take a range of standardized tests, but there is less emphasis on high-stakes exams.
In terms of higher education, both the UK and the US have renowned universities and institutions. In the UK, higher education tends to be more specialized, with students typically studying a single subject at university. In the US, there is a greater emphasis on a liberal arts education, which provides a well-rounded education across a range of fields.
Public transportation in the UK is more prevalent and widely used compared to the US, which tends to rely more heavily on personal vehicles.
Cities are well-connected by trains, buses, and the iconic London Underground in the UK. Many people choose to use public transportation as their primary mode of travel due to its convenience and affordability. However, public transportation can be limited and less frequent in the suburbs.
The car culture reigns supreme in the USA. Many people own and use their own vehicles to get around, even in urban areas. Public transportation options like buses, trains, and subways exist, but they are often less developed and reliable than in the UK.
Both countries also have their own unique transportation challenges. Road congestion can be a challenge, particularly during rush hour in cities like London in the UK; while in the US, long distances between cities and regions can make travel time-consuming and expensive.
Overall, transportation options and preferences in the UK and the US can greatly impact the quality of life and convenience. While the UK may offer more accessible and affordable public transportation, the US may provide greater flexibility and independence through personal vehicle ownership.
The UK and the USA have very different systems in place. The UK has a publicly funded NHS, while the US has a predominantly private healthcare system. The NHS is free at the point of use for all UK residents, and healthcare costs are funded by general taxation. In contrast, healthcare in the US is generally paid for by insurance, either through employment-based plans or individual health insurance policies.
While the NHS is often praised for providing free and comprehensive healthcare to all, it can also suffer from long waiting times for some procedures and limited resources. In the US, the quality of healthcare can be high, but the cost can be prohibitive for many people. This can result in some individuals forgoing necessary medical treatment or procedures due to financial constraints.
Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between them ultimately comes down to personal preferences and circumstances. However, it is worth noting that many people in the UK consider access to free and universal healthcare to be a significant advantage of living in the country.
Wages & Earnings
In general, the US tends to have higher salaries than the UK, but this can vary depending on the industry and job type.
In the UK, the national minimum wage is currently set at £9.50 per hour for those aged 23 and over, and can vary for younger workers. The average salary in the UK is around £29,600 per year. However, this can vary widely depending on factors such as location, industry, and experience.
In the US, the federal minimum wage is currently set at $7.25 per hour, though many states and cities have their own minimum wage laws that are higher than this. The average salary in the US is around $56,000 per year. Again, it varies widely depending on location, demand, industry, and experience.
One key difference between the two countries is the attitude towards tips. In the US, it is customary to tip service workers such as waiters, bartenders, and hairdressers. The tips significantly boost the earnings for these professions. Whereas in the UK, tipping is not as common and is usually only done for exceptional service.
While the USA tends to have higher salaries than the UK, the cost of living can also be higher, particularly in major cities. It’s important to consider the cost of living and lifestyle factors when comparing wages and earnings in the two countries.
The UK is renowned for its cultural attractions, including iconic landmarks such as Big Ben, the Tower of London, and Buckingham Palace. The country is also home to world-class museums, galleries, and theatres, offering visitors and locals alike a chance to indulge in the arts. In addition, the UK is famous for its vibrant music scene, with festivals such as Glastonbury, Reading, and Leeds drawing thousands of music lovers every year.
On the other hand, the US is known for its entertainment industry, with Hollywood and Broadway producing some of the biggest blockbuster movies and hit musicals worldwide. The country is also home to major sports events such as the Super Bowl and the World Series, as well as a variety of theme parks and amusement parks like Disney World, Universal Studios, and Six Flags.
Culture and Lifestyle
To begin with, British culture is characterized by a long and rich history, with influences from Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and Norman times, as well as the Victorian era. British people have a strong sense of tradition and often take great pride in their history and heritage. On the other hand, American culture is relatively young and has been shaped by various influences, including Native American, European, African, and Asian cultures.
Many Americans see the British as being reserved and polite, with a stiff upper lip, whereas most Americans tend to be more outgoing and expressive in behavior. British people also tend to have a dry sense of humor and a love of sarcasm, which may be less common in the US.
In terms of daily life, British life tends to be more focused on socializing over a cup of tea or pint of beer, while many Americans prioritize their work and family life.
As for sports, the British love their football (or soccer, as Americans call it). Football is a hugely popular sport in the UK and is deeply ingrained in British culture. Americans, on the other hand, tend to be more focused on American football, basketball, and baseball. However, both cultures share a love of competitive sports and the thrill of victory.
When it comes to restaurants, the UK and US have different culinary landscapes. UK restaurants often offer traditional pub fare, including pies, roasts, and stews, while high-end restaurants showcase modern takes on classic British dishes. In the US, restaurants offer a wide range of cuisines, from fast food chains to high-end restaurants serving global cuisine. American portions are often larger than those in the UK, and restaurants may be more casual in their atmosphere.
Overall, while there are certainly similarities between British and American culture and lifestyle, there are also significant differences that reflect the unique histories and values of each country.
Working in the USA vs the UK
Both countries have diverse ranges of industries and job opportunities, but the work culture and employment laws can differ significantly.
In the USA, the work culture is often fast-paced, emphasizing productivity and results. The working hours are longer, and it is common for employees to work on weekends or outside regular business hours. In contrast, the UK has a more laid-back work culture, focusing more on work-life balance and flexible working hours. That leads to the rise of remote working, which has become more prevalent due to the pandemic.
In terms of employment laws, the USA has an “at-will” employment system, which means that either the employer or employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason. In the UK, employees have more protection under employment law, with a notice period required for dismissal, and redundancy pays for those made redundant.
Salary and benefits also differ between the two countries. The USA generally offers higher salaries, but healthcare benefits and paid vacation time are often limited. In the UK, salaries may be lower, but employees have access to convenient healthcare and more generous vacation time.
Taxes in the UK vs the USA
Taxes in the UK are generally higher than in the USA. The basic rate of income tax is currently 20%, but it can go up to 45% for higher earners. National Insurance contributions must also be paid by employees and employers. In addition, there are other taxes such as council tax, value-added tax (VAT), and capital gains tax.
In the USA, federal income tax rates vary depending on income level and marital status, ranging from 10% to 37%. State taxes also apply, with rates varying by state. Social Security and Medicare taxes are also deducted from employee paychecks.
Please note that there are tax treaties between the UK and the USA to prevent double taxation, but navigating these can be complicated. Additionally, tax laws and regulations in both countries are subject to change, so make sure to check up-to-date information from the local authorities.
Expat Life in the US vs the UK
If you’re an expat considering moving to either the US or the UK, it’s important to you weigh your options considering your life circumstances.
In terms of quality of life, both countries have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. The UK is known for its rich history, cultural diversity, and the high-quality healthcare system. On the other hand, the US offers vast opportunities for career growth and a diverse range of entertainment options.
When it comes to housing, the UK tends to have smaller homes and higher property prices, while the US has larger homes and more affordable housing options. Education is treasured in both countries, but the UK places a greater emphasis on standardized testing, while the US has a more flexible approach to education.
In terms of healthcare, the UK has a publicly-funded National Health Service (NHS), while the US promotes the use of a private healthcare system. Transportation options vary between the two countries, with the UK having a more extensive public transportation system, while the US relies more heavily on cars.
Wages and earnings in the US generally offer higher salaries, and the cost of living is proportionally higher. Entertainment prospects also vary, with the UK having a more traditional cultural and artsy landscape, while the US offers modern entertainment options.
Working conditions in both countries can vary depending on the industry and employer. Generally, the UK offers more vacation time and a balanced work-life balance, while the US has a more competitive job market and longer working hours.
Lastly, taxes differ between the two countries. The UK has a higher tax rate overall but also offers a wider range of social welfare programs. The US has a lower tax rate, but healthcare costs and other expenses may offset those savings.
20 Surprising Differences Between the UK and the USA
1.Units of measurement: The UK uses the metric system, while the US uses the imperial system.
2.Spelling: The UK uses British English spelling, while the US uses American English spelling.
3.Driving: In the UK, people drive on the left side of the road, while in the US, people drive on the right side of the road.
4.School uniforms: It is common for students in the UK to wear school uniforms, while it is not as common in the US.
5.Tipping: Tipping is expected in many service industries in the US, while it is not as common in the UK.
6.Day drinking: In the UK, consuming alcoholic beverages during the day is more acceptable than it is in the USA. In the USA, day drinking is often associated with negative connotations, and it is less common to see people drinking during the day.
7.Gun laws: The US has relatively relaxed gun laws compared to the UK, where firearms are heavily regulated.
8.Taxes: The UK has a higher overall tax rate than the US, but the US has a more complex tax system.
9.Public transportation: The means of public transport is more widely used and developed in the UK than in the US.
10.Football vs soccer: In the UK, football refers to soccer, while in the US, football refers to American football.
11.Drinking age: The legal drinking age in the UK is 18, while in the US it is 21.
12.Time zones: The US has multiple time zones, while the UK only has one.
13.Religion: The US is more religiously diverse than the UK.
14.Holidays: The UK celebrates more bank holidays than the US does federal holidays.
15.Food portions: Food portions in the US tend to be larger than in the UK.
16.Social class: In the UK, the concept of social class is deeply ingrained and has a significant impact on people's lives, including their access to education, employment opportunities, and social mobility. In contrast, the US has traditionally had a more fluid social class structure, with a greater emphasis on individual achievement and meritocracy.
17.Electoral system: The US has an electoral college, while the UK uses a parliamentary system.
18.Currency: The UK uses the pound sterling, while the US uses the US dollar.
19.Punctuality: Punctuality is highly valued in the UK, while in the US, it is often more relaxed.
20.Politeness: The British are known for their politeness, while Americans are generally seen as more outgoing and friendly.
The UK vs the US: The Final Round
Living in the UK and the USA both have their unique advantages and challenges. While the UK offers a rich cultural history, quality healthcare and education, and an extensive public transportation system, the USA provides a vibrant entertainment scene, higher wages, and a larger variety of job opportunities.
Social class and humor also play a significant role in both countries, with the UK having a more structured class system and dry sense of humor, while the USA values individuality and a more direct style of humor. The cost of living and taxation also vary between the two countries, and expats should carefully consider these factors before deciding where to settle.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to live in the UK or the USA comes down to personal preferences and priorities. Both countries offer a diverse range of experiences and opportunities, making them attractive destinations for expats seeking new adventures.
What are some differences between living in the UK vs the USA?
Some notable differences include the healthcare system, education system, transportation, housing, and entertainment. For instance, the UK provides universal healthcare while the US operates a predominantly private system. The UK's education system is standardized, whereas the US education system varies by state. Public transportation is more prevalent in the UK, whereas the car is more of a necessity in the US. Housing is generally more affordable in the US, but the quality may vary. Lastly, the entertainment industry and popular culture have distinct differences between the two countries.
Is it better to live in the UK than in the USA?
The answer to this question depends on personal preferences, lifestyle, and priorities. Both countries have their unique advantages and disadvantages, such as quality of life, cost of living, healthcare, education, transportation, and entertainment. Some people may prefer living in the UK due to its free healthcare system, high-quality education, and cultural diversity, while others may prefer the USA for its higher wages, warmer weather, and entrepreneurial spirit.
How does the healthcare system in the UK differ from that in the USA?
The healthcare system in the UK is publicly funded and provides free medical care to all residents regardless of their income or insurance status. The National Health Service (NHS) is the primary healthcare provider, and while there may be some waiting times for non-urgent treatments, the system generally provides high-quality care. In contrast, the healthcare system in the USA is primarily privately funded, and access to medical care is often dependent on insurance coverage. This can result in significant out-of-pocket costs for individuals, and those without insurance may struggle to access medical care altogether. While the US healthcare system is often viewed as having some of the most advanced medical technology and treatment options, it also has some of the highest costs in the world.
What are some cultural differences between the UK and the USA?
The British tend to have a more reserved and polite demeanor, while Americans are often more outgoing and informal. British humor is known for being dry and sarcastic, while American humor tends to be more upbeat and sometimes exaggerated. The class system is also more pronounced in the UK, whereas the US is more egalitarian. Additionally, there are differences in cuisine, sports, and entertainment preferences.
What are the disadvantages of living in the UK?
One major issue is the high cost of living, especially in London and other major UK cities. The weather can also be a drawback, as it can be cold, rainy, and dreary for long periods. Another potential disadvantage is the relatively high taxes used to fund the country's public services such as healthcare and education. Additionally, some expats may struggle with the UK's more reserved and formal social norms, which can make it difficult to make friends and build social connections. Finally, the UK's political landscape can be uncertain and volatile at times, which may make some people uneasy about the future.
Is the UK economy better than the USA?
It's difficult to say whether the UK economy is better than the US economy, as both countries have their own strengths and weaknesses. In terms of GDP, the US has a higher overall GDP than the UK, but the UK has a stronger service sector and a more diverse economy. The UK also has a more extensive social welfare system than the US, which provides a safety net for its citizens. However, the cost of living in the UK can be quite high, and there are concerns about the impact of Brexit on the economy.
Why do people move from the UK to the USA?
There are quite a few reasons, including pursuing better career opportunities, education, or a higher standard of living. The USA is known for offering high-paying jobs and advanced career growth in various industries such as technology, finance, and entertainment. The American education system is also highly regarded, attracting international students to pursue their studies in the country. Additionally, the USA offers diverse cultural experiences and a vast array of natural attractions, making it a popular destination for many. The UK and the USA also have a special relationship, with many people moving between the two for work or personal reasons.
Is the UK healthier than the US?
According to various health indicators, the UK performs better than the US in some aspects of healthcare, but worse in others. For example, the UK has a higher life expectancy and lower rates of obesity and infant mortality compared to the US. Additionally, the UK's National Health Service (NHS) provides free or low-cost healthcare to all residents as well as the UK citizens, while the US relies heavily on a private healthcare system which comes with high medical bills. However, the UK has higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and lower cancer survival rates compared to the US.
Do you get paid more in the UK or the US?
The answer to this question can vary depending on various factors such as the industry, job type, location, and experience. However, in general, wages and salaries tend to be higher in the US than in the UK. According to data from the OECD, the US has a higher average wage than the UK. However, it's important to note that the cost of living in the US is generally higher than in the UK, so the higher wages may not necessarily translate to a higher standard of living. Additionally, both countries have their own unique benefits and drawbacks when it comes to working and earning a living, so it's important to consider all factors when comparing the two.
Is the UK safer than the USA?
The UK has a lower overall crime rate than the US, but the US has a lower rate of certain types of crime, such as property crime. In terms of violent crime, the US has a higher rate than the UK. However, it is important to note that crime rates can vary widely depending on the region and city. Additionally, factors such as poverty, drug use, and access to firearms can affect crime rates in both countries.