As a Brit who lived in America for years, these are 10 things that are better across the pond

America is far from perfect. It is laughably isolated and has many chronic problems that seem nearly insoluble: broken political systems, a lack of free health care, widespread homelessness and drug abuse in cities, mass shootings, and high suicide and depression rates that belie its “nice day” image…

But these are largely problems that affect residents, not tourists, and there are also many positives. As a Brit who lived there for many years, these are the things I appreciate most.


The country’s sheer size means that you won’t find anywhere else with the same stunning diversity of natural features, topography, climate, sense of space, or urban ambition. Each state can feel like a different country, which makes it endlessly intriguing, and it can all be explored without boarding a plane or (conveniently for the 60 percent of Americans who fall into that category) without possessing a passport.

National parks

There is probably no better national park system in the world. The country showcases those incredible natural wonders, from the vast canyons of the Southwest to the glacier-fed islands of Alaska, in the most wondrous way, with strict but sensible rules, helpful, uniform staff, and beautifully designed trails, scenic drives, and campgrounds that offer a wilderness experience that is truly character-building.

Arches National Park Utah

Utah’s Spectacular Arches National Park – Getty

The lesser-known parks are wild to the point of desolation and as such offer unparalleled opportunities for solitude and self-reliance. For me, summer in the wilderness of the West, with its 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.

Can do

Just now attempt When you do things in America, you’ll find that you’re supported. Whether you’re driving for hours to see Big Bend National Park in half a day, or challenging yourself to climb a tough mountain route in Oregon, the pioneering spirit lives on.

Ask for help – “reach out” – and you won’t be shut down nearly as quickly as you would be in the UK, where people too often seem to fall back on the negative, with a sullen grimace and a list of reasons why things might go wrong. In America, strangers have pushed me harder than I push myself, and with a kindness and lightness that is disarming.

Freedom and privacy

Partly because of the luxury of space, there is not the same atmosphere of gossip, snitching and intrusion that prevails in Britain, where people are crammed cheek by jowl and become accustomed to personal intrusion and constant judgement. And, depending on where you live, the federal government in Washington DC can seem a long way away too.

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

It would be a different story if you were unfortunate enough to end up in the legal system and immigration officials were still as astonishingly hostile, but daily life seems freer.

The driving

A road trip offers the most extraordinary window into most of the country: I’ve seen black bears cross the road in New Mexico, driven through a tornado in Georgia, followed the Rio Grande along the southern border of Texas… and while the distances may be longer, the lack of traffic and the size of the roads make the driving a real pleasure. A trip into the great outdoors is much more doable for those on a budget, with free camping in every national forest or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, and gas is much cheaper.

More practically, far fewer traffic lights and the “right on red” rule mean that traffic flows freely and parking is rarely a major problem. Even as a pedestrian in suburban areas where every corner is a crosswalk, I am amazed at the courtesy of drivers, who invariably pull over 50 feet back and wait until you’re all the way to the other side before continuing on their way.

Urban manners

In general, people behave better in the streets and in parks, which are often better policed ​​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 rules than in the UK) and dog owners always pick up after their animals, keep them on a lead, apologize and move aside if they are in the way.

Mosquito nets and air conditioning

Hotels, Airbnbs, buses and trains are well ventilated and much more comfortable in the summer. You don’t have to work up a sweat like you do in the UK, and you don’t have to spend time every day fending off giant bluebottles, as fly screens on the windows come as standard.


Returning to the UK after a few years in America has opened my eyes to the vastly superior range of products available there, especially when it comes to gadgets, outdoor gear and food. Where many British supermarkets might only have a few choices of peanut butter, Americans have half an aisle of every combination you can think of, and a much larger range of organic produce.


Americans seem to decorate lavishly for every season, but Halloween is the best of them all. For the best show, choose an affluent historic area, where homes use their expansive front yards and porches to display what are often incredibly sophisticated and expensive animated figures, lights, sound effects, and just a whole season of fun.

On October 31st itself you can join in or just watch the marauding groups of people dressed as sasquatches, ghosts, Godzilla or whatever they fancy. The pumpkin displays in stores are also great.

children on halloweenchildren on halloween

Americans spend big bucks for Halloween, decorating their porches with elaborate decorations – Getty


Nowhere is barbecued meat and all its delicious side dishes—beans, corn, fries, collard greens—as good as in the United States. It may be wasteful, but this is the land of plenty, and the nights of decadence I’ve had in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Marfa, and Savannah, to name a few, are etched in my memory. Get invited to a neighborhood potluck and you’ll be there for hours, guzzling cold barrels of beer and piles of ribs, mac and cheese, cornbread, salads, and chips and dips for days. There’s 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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