As a Brit who spent years living in America, here are 10 things that are better across the pond

America is far from perfect. It is extremely insular and has many chronic problems that feel almost unfixable: broken political systems, lack of free health care, homelessness and drug abuse in cities, shootings and high rates of suicide and depression that believe his “have a nice day” image…

But these are mostly problems that affect residents, not tourists, and there are also many plus points. As a Brit who spent years living there, these are the things I appreciate the most.


The sheer scale of the country means you won’t find anywhere with the same mind-boggling variety of natural features, topographies, climate, sense of space or urban ambition. Each state can feel like a different country, making it endlessly interesting, and can be explored without getting on a plane, or (helpfully for the 60 percent of Americans who fall into this category) a they have a passport.

National Parks

There is probably no better national park system anywhere in the world. The country showcases those incredible natural wonders, from the great canyons in the southwest to the glacier-filled islands of Alaska, in the most spectacular way, with strict but sensible rules, helpful, uniformed staff and beautifully designed trails, scenic drives and locations camping to offer an experience in the desert that is a true creation of character.

Arches National Park Utah

Amazing Arches National Park in Utah – Getty

The little-known parks are wild to the point of embarrassment, so they offer unparalleled opportunities for uniqueness and self-reliance. For me, summer in the western desert, with hiking, endless blue skies and sunshine, millions of acres of forest, freshwater lakes and rivers to swim in, and campfires at sunset, is the American dream.

It can be done

Directly effort to do things in America and you will find yourself supported, whether it is driving for hours to try to see Big Bend National Park in half a day or pushing yourself to climb a tricky mountain route in Oregon, survive the pioneering spirit.

Ask for help – “reach out” – and you won’t be shut down half as quickly as in the UK, where people seem to fail too often on the negative, with lukewarm encouragement and a list of reasons why. things could fail. In America strangers have pushed me harder than I push myself, and with a kindness and lightness that is disarming.

Freedom and privacy

Partly due to the luxury of space, there is not the same atmosphere of gossip, snitching and interference in Britain, where people are crammed together cheek by jowl and get used to personal harassment and constant judgment. And, depending on where you live, the federal government in Washington DC seems like a long way away too.

You don’t get constant letters threatening to fine you if you don’t register to vote, or if you don’t pay for a TV licence. Even in big towns and cities, there are far fewer CCTV cameras, police and very few speed traps. Your neighbors don’t interfere with your business and there is a much greater culture of trust in the shops, which often leave goods out on the street overnight.

It would be a different story if you were lucky enough to get caught up in the justice system, and immigration officials are still so hostile, but everyday life seems to be freer.


A road trip offers the most unusual window into most of the country: I saw black bears across the road in New Mexico, drove through a tornado in Georgia, followed the Rio Grande on the southern border of Texas… being longer, the lack traffic and the size of the roads a real joy to drive. A trip to the outdoors is much more doable for people on a budget, with free camping available on any national forest or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land and much cheaper gasoline.

More practically, far fewer traffic lights and the “right on red” rule mean traffic flows, and parking is rarely too much of a problem. Even as a pedestrian, in suburban areas where every street corner is a crosswalk, I was surprised by the politeness of the drivers, who will usually stop 50 feet back and wait until you are all the way to the side another before continuing. on their way.

Urban methods

In general, people behave better on the street and in parks, and are often better patrolled than in Britain. Smoking is banned in most parks and in front of many buildings, and most people seem to have given up. There is less litter (parks have longer lists of rules than in the UK) and dog owners always pick up their animals, keep them on a lead, and apologize and step aside if they are on the way.

Bug screens and air conditioning

Hotels, Airbnbs, buses and trains are well ventilated and much more comfortable in the summer, because you don’t have to sweat it out, like in Britain, or spend time every day trying to get rid of huge blue bottles, like bug screens in windows. come as standard.


When I came back to the UK after several years in America, I opened my eyes to the much better range of products available there, especially in gadgets, outdoor equipment and food. Where many supermarkets in Britain only have a few peanut butter options, Americans have half an aisle of every possible combination you could imagine, and a much larger range of the organic stuff.


Americans seem to decorate lavishly for every season, but Halloween is the best of the lot. Choose a historically rich area for the best show, where homes will use their front gardens and large porches to showcase animated figures, lighting, sound effects and a whole season of fun.

On October 31 itself, you can join or just watch the terrifying groups of people dressed up as sasquatches, ghosts, Godzilla or whatever else takes their fancy. The pumpkin displays at shops are also incredible.

children on Halloweenchildren on Halloween

Americans splurge for Halloween, dressing up their front porches with sophisticated decorations – Getty


Barbecued meat and all of the delicious accompaniments – beans, corn, fries, collard greens – are not like the United States. Maybe it’s a waste, but this is the land of strength and the decadence nights I had in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Marfa and Savannah, to name just a few, have been remembered. Get invited to a neighborhood “potluck” and you’ll be there for hours, swinging from delicious cold beer mugs and piles of ribs, mac and cheese, cornbread, salads and chips and dips for days. There is a reason this country is a world leader in obesity.

This story was first published in July 2023 and has been revised and updated.

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