27 November 2012

A Social Profile Of Two Countries

For years I've wanted to write this post
which highlights some interesting differences
(and similarities)
between the US and England

I think it shows how culturally different we are

With a bit of research,
here's a look at each country's stand on a handful of issues...


Citizenship At Birth

US - All children born in the US are given American citizenship upon birth

England - Automatic UK citizenship not granted to newborns of foreign parents


Legal Adulthood

US & England - 18 years old


Legal Age To Vote

US & England - 18 years old



US & England - Yes
Remains very controversal in the US


Separation Between Church And State

US - Yes

England - No
The constitutional monarch is also
Supreme Governor of the Church of England
and Defender of the Faith


Particular Religion Observed In State/Public Schools

US - No

England - Yes
1/3 of publicly funded schools are religious in nature


Legal Driving Age

US - 16 years old, with a few state exceptions

England - Age 17


Legal Age To Buy & Smoke Cigarettes

US - 18 years old

England - 16 years old to smoke cigarettes
18 years old to buy them


Legal Age To Drink Alcohol

US - 21 years old

England - 5 years old if at home or on private premises
Age 16 in public establishment if with someone 18 yrs or older
18 years old to buy

Minimum Age To Join Military

US - Age 17 with parental consent; 18 without consent

England - 16 yrs old with parental consent; 18 without consent


Capital Punishment/Death Penalty

US - Legal (and used) in select states

England - No


Right To Bear Arms (Guns)

US - Easily accessible with a background check

England - Very restricted; not carried by many police officers


Trespassing Laws

US - Homeowners can do what is necessary to protect property & home, 
including bodily harm to trespasser with support of the law
Trespassers do so at their own risk, with a real possibility of being shot by homeowner

England - Homeowners have little legal protection for defending home,
as they may be prosecuted for causing bodily harm to trespasser
Some squatters move into homes while owner is away,
and owner has little legal recourse
( both UK topics are being discussed currently )

Although England is softer on crime,
crimes are less violent
with few crimes involving guns

Do you find all this fascinating too?

-  photos by me  -

Source: Citizen Advice Bureau, Army, Wikipedia, National Secular Society


Gillian said...

This is fascinating! I honestly had no idea you could legally give a five year old alcohol - not that any sane person would. That's bonkers! Is that right? Should it be 15? Anyway, really interesting post - we seem to be so similar yet so different all at the same time.

HippieGirl21 said...

This is really fascinating. I love when I read posts about things I never knew before.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Could it be an old law that has yet to be revised? Here's where I found it: http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/healthcare_e/healthcare_young_people_e/young_people_health_and_personal.htm#Alcohol

little macaroon. said...

Don't want to draw any attention to our national chip on the shoulder (!) but most of the 'English' laws and standards go for the whole of the UK :-)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I first wrote UK instead of England, but then found many laws apply to only 3 out 4 constituent countries - the 'odd man out' depends on which law. So to simplify and be 100% correct, I just stuck to England. I appreciate your comment and insight as always, Miss LM :)

Sandra said...

Interesting to read the differences and similarities between the two countries.
I love your two photos: the lovely front door with wreath and surrounded by plants and flowers and the typical horse and rider going past the pub! I can even see some sun on the houses in the distance!

Alyson (New England Living) said...

Oh man, I love your very British photos in this post! Makes me miss my days living there. Very interesting post! I thought, for some reason, that you could drive there at 18, not 17. Perhaps I was totally mistaken, or else laws have changed since I lived there.

Confession time, I totally took advantage of the very relaxed rules on drinking when I lived there as a 16 year old! Pretty awesome for an American kid. ;)

PURA VIDA said...

How very interesting. It's like you're in school only more fun!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Thank you - I had no idea what photos to put with this post, so I just chose two I took recently :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

No question, Europe is definitely a lot of fun for American teenagers!

I thought it was 18 too, but I saw age 17 here: http://www.2pass.co.uk/ages.htm#.ULTsZYd1GSo

Gesci said...

I found it interesting (and sad) that, while the US has official separation of church and state, the UK has a much more open and accepting view on religious freedom. While schools do talk about Christmas, there isn't as much religious propaganda flung around in the name of "law". I've always been a big supporter of the separation of church and state, but after living in England and observing the US from a distance, it sure seems like the UK has a more progressive view on things.

And the squatters' rights in the UK bowled me over, as well- although I much prefer the less violent crime, especially where we lived in North Yorkshire!

Wendy said...

Very interesting on the drinking age at home being 5 yrs. And the trespassing laws are something I would not like, not at all. Thank you for sharing it was interesting to learn the differences and the similarities.

Ali said...

The thing I've never been able to get used to is the alcohol culture of Britain. I think alcohol consumption in general is more widely practiced in Europe than it is in Canada or the U.S. However unlike Britain, it doesn't seem to have the same negative cultural impact in the rest of Europe. It's nothing new though; the invading Normans (French) 1,000 years ago couldn't get over how much the native Brits drank.

The practice of children being allowed in taverns or "pubs" as they are called here is one I can't for the life of me accept. I know it isn't illegal in other European countries either, but England seems to have lost any notion of what drinking responsibly means, therefore the kids aren't being taught what it means.

And considering how soft on crime the U.K. legal system is, (a lot of which has to do with meddling by the EU I might add) its a damn good thing they have strict gun control.


Happy Homemaker UK said...

I know a lot of people in the UK are frustrated with the EU for a variety of reasons. Do you think they will let the people vote as to if they want to stay in it or not? I know Norway did this a few years back...

Rose Fern said...

Very interesting post, once again

Maine Mummy said...

I lived in England for the first twenty three years of my life and have been in the US for almost a decade now. I have never heard of the five year old alcohol thing, although I started going to the pub at 15 and not getting carded. Also marriage is different or was when I was a teenager. 16 has much more leeway in the UK than it does over here in regards to sex and marriage.

Jill from Killeny Glen said...

I read this with much intrigue! I learned a lot!

beetree said...

So many interesting points! Don't you find it silly that a 16 year old is able to smoke, but not buy cigarettes? Doesn't really make sense. Also, as a side note, do you find Brits saying "Happy Christmas", while Americans mostly say "Merry"? Just listening to Wham!'s Christmas song and was thinking about it... ;)

Iota said...

It's interesting that the UK is looking at the provisions for a householder to defend his/her property. That's something that runs very deep in the American psyche isn't it? I can see the point - a trespasser is in the wrong, not the property owner. Why should the property owner take responsibility for the safety of the trespasser? This came to a head in the Tony Martin case, when he was jailed for shooting a teenager who'd broken into his home, but was running away at the time of the shooting (if I remember the details correctly).

Personally, I like the fact that we value life and a person's body above property and possessions. But it's a bit idealistic, perhaps.

Sarah said...

Loved this post! I wonder if foreign parents can easily obtain dual citizenship for their children or if it is a process. Do you know much about the process for citizenship there? Just curious to how it compares to the USA.

Iota said...

What about the "age of consent"? In the UK, it's 16 (I think - unless it's changed). I don't know what it is in the US.

Of course when you're around that age, you think it's so ridiculous that they would legislate about consensual sex. It's only when you get older that you realise the law is there to protect minors, not to give people an age guideline.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I think it is 16 in the UK; 18 yrs old in US.

Did I recently hear the UK has the highest rate of single mom pregnancies in a developed country?Perhaps tied to low drinking age (making bad decisions while under the influence)?

Happy Homemaker UK said...

'Happy Christmas' is really common here. They don't stumble on the PC thing like Americans and do wish everyone a good Christmas - I guess that makes sense being they have an official religion. (Although it is religiously diversity here, especially in London area.)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I find a lot of juxtapositions with religion. The UK has an official religion, yet few seem very religious. They have tolerance for most religions, yet none for the Mormon church (seen in media discussions about Romney).

The US has no official religion, yet people are very passionate about whatever religion they are. Some areas of the country are more outwardly passionate than other areas in the US. And people are passionate about keeping state and church separate, as promised in our constitution...

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I think the harsher laws in the US and the chance of a violent confrontation is a big deterrent for home theft in the US. If the US had the same laws as the UK, crime would be completely out of control.

If I'm not mistaken, home invasions are one of the most common crimes in our area in England. I think there is a lot of trauma if you are a victim of such crime (often at night while owners sleeping). I think if there were more consequences by the court or by owner, this crime would happen less.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I haven't gone through the process, but from what I understand, it is not too difficult for Americans to obtain UK citizenship. There is a test, and you must have lived here for 5 years (with supporting documentation). Typically children cannot become UK citizens without a parent being a citizen too. They can all apply together, however.

Expat mum said...

It's Happy Holidays in the USA rather than Happy Xmas. Got to include Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Expat mum said...

Great post. So many responses I could make but I won't bore you! One thing I always find interesting is that although we are supposed to have stricter drinking laws here (USA), the amount of people who think nothing of getting behind the wheel after a drink still shocks me. In England, my friends and family always plan ahead if they want to have a drink - either deciding on a designated driver or booking a cab. Here, it's not uncommon for friends to take the car on a girls' night out - and have quite a few cocktails too!

High Heeled Life said...

What a fabulous post!! It is interesting to see the similarities and the the areas where each differs. xo HHL

My Garden Diaries said...

I find this very interesting! Less violent and able to drink at a younger age...hmmm. I think guns are too available in the US. I live outside of Chicago and though I love Chi town it is known for its gun issues. Too many on the streets...we could learn a thing or two from England.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I think binge drinking is more widespread in the UK of all ages, but driving drunk is more responsible. Although the consequences my be stiffer in the US, I think the allowed blood/alcohol amount may be lower in the UK. Plus, public transportation is better. Driving in the UK is tricker/more dangerous with so many narrow, windy roads. You are right - people here plan in advance how they are going to get home. That's great!

On a side note, it is not uncommon for people to have long lunches during work with a few drinks - this isn't really done in the US - alcohol on the breath is very unprofessional in America. A few times I've heard that people assume you are a recovering alcoholic if you aren't drinking at social events in England. There is alcohol at some family events at school and at kids football games. I've never seen anything like it before. I'm not saying they get wasted but will have a drink or two. This is definitely a big difference between cultures.

Vintage Sheet Addict said...

Thanks for sharing, I found your last comment quite interesting! :)

Dave D said...

The "squatters rights" law has changed recently, I think mainly due to the fact that quite a few "well off" people were having their million pound mansions invaded by squatters:


Dave D said...

he law on this is also supposed to be changing:

Dave D said...

"It's nothing new though; the invading Normans (French) 1,000 years ago couldn't get over how much the native Brits drank."

I've always wondered if that was due to (and the legacy may still live on) the fact that in the middle ages it was safer to drink beer than water, apparently the fermentation process kills a lot of the nasty bacteria in untreated water.

Inside a British Mum's Kitchen said...

What a great post - as a Brit living in the US I find some customs very surprising. Most of all the gun laws - or lack of them - and the extreme response I receive when I suggest they should be tighter! This was really interesting - we may share a common language (sort of!) but there are such great differences. One of the things I will never get used to is that the States is just SO enormous. I think it's amazing how "united" it really is considering.
Thanks for a thoughtful and interesting post
Mary x

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Our countries are polar opposites on this issue, aren't they? One thing I LOVE about living in England is feeling safer. Although road rage happens here, I don't have to worry about being shot by a driver that I accidentally pulled in front of. And I don't have to worry about my children stumbling upon a gun while at a playdate (there is a real effort to educate children what to do if they find one in the US).

However, guns are a big part of the American culture, and it will not be changing. Many feel the good guys (the 'people') need to have guns to protect themselves from the bad guys. It makes people feel safer. Sounds very Wild West, doesn't it?

Karin / Southern Meadows said...

Interesting comparison. Just thought I would add that my father is British (born & raised) and all his children where born abroad but all have British citizenship. Two live in the UK and three in the US. The three of us in the US have US citizenship as well since we were born here.

Sarah @ Modern Country Style said...

Yes, I do find it completely fascinating. I always think of the US and the UK as extremely similar but, you're right, their are some major differences. I think the whole gun possession mentality is bigger than I give it credit for.


Happy Homemaker UK said...

That's not to say everyone owns a gun, but they have the right to if they pass the background check (mental stability, no criminal history).

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I was having the same thought, Dave. Thanks for verbalizing

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Correction- highest teen pregnancy

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Just to give you an idea, I have 5 friends who have guns in their home (probably more but the topic hasn't come up before). It would also be regional, with some states having more gun owners.

~Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

I am most perplexed by this:
Some squatters move into homes while owner is away,
and owner has little legal recourse.
Really. They're burglars, trespassers. So, you can just go into anyone's home there?
Physically harming someone for trespassing is a bit extreme. I hope you can defend yourself is someone tries to assault you at least.
The squatter thing is so odd.
I always learn something new. Thanks.

Emily said...

VERY fascinating! Especially since my students are just now giving oral presentations on pro/con debates.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I was listening to talk radio about this issue, and a man called in. He said his main home is in the country but since he works in London, he lives in the city during the week. A neighbor called and said tents had been pitched in the man's backyard. A family had squatted in his backyard! While the family was away for the day, the homeowner removed the tents. The following week the neighbor said the lights were on inside the house. The family had moved into his house! As the police had not been 'abled' to get involved (now they can as of a few month ago), the neighbor and homeowner confronted them to get them out of the house. Thankfully it had a peaceful ending, but the neighbor and homeowner could have been prosecuted had they been more aggressive with the squatters.

ann said...

In my Issue in Education course, I had a young woman pose this question: is it okay for teachers to date their students because my friend in England knows a 16 year old who is dating a 39 year old man, her teacher. And the age of consent is 16. So if it is okay in England shouldn't it be okay here? Her question generated much discussion with the class concluding that such a situation was not okay neither here in the states nor in England. On another note, I had to deal with squatters on my dad's small acreage near Denver. He had died and while we had a care-taker, the care taker didn't do much. I had to hire a lawyer, have my 30 seconds in court to get them evicted. Your post has sparked great discussion.

Annie @ knitsofacto said...

I'd have to say I think they mostly assume you're driving if you're not drinking. I'm finding this assumption that we're all boozer's very much at odds with my experience of great tracts of the UK ... in parts of Wales the pubs still shut on Sundays! That's what I find most fascinating about posts like this, the difference between how other's see us and how we see ourselves. The scary part is how influenced those views are by the media. I'm sure we Brits have some odd ideas about Americans for the same reasons.

Annie @ knitsofacto said...

Great post!

I wonder how much regional differences in the UK and the US come into play too. As LM said, in some ways England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales are very different countries. I guess where you live in the UK or the US makes a huge difference to what's tolerated or not, regardless of what the law says.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Goodness, by no means is every Brit a boozer. However I do think that drinking is more a part of everyday living here, and binge drinking is more prevalent - at least what I've observed in my part of England.

Iota said...

My impression (and it really is only an impression), is that most home burglaries take place when the home-owner is out. But yes, there is a lot of trauma for the victim, I agree.

Maybe things have changed, and there are more 'home invasions' when the home-owner is in, which I can see makes a difference. On the other hand, if you had a gun to hand, and shot the burglar, would you experience less trauma after the event?

I think UK laws are a bit out of date, yes.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Of my 4 friends who have been burglarized, 2 were during the day while they were at daytime school events, while the other 2 burglaries were at night while they were sleeping. All violent free, but feeling violated of course.

Tammy Chrzan said...

Fantastic comparisons! I enjoyed this, thanks Laura!

Denise said...

This is SUCH an interesting post, Laura; I really enjoyed reading it. The two things that shocked/amazed me most were the legal drinking ages and trespassing laws. I would hate to think that someone could move into our home while we were away and we would not be protected by the law. That's hard to fathom.

Your photos are just gorgeous -- I love them! Have a great day!

Denise at Forest Manor

Emmy said...

This was very fascinating! I think if I ever lived abroad I would want to live in England or Australia just because of the language. What a great experience for you to be able to live there