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Language and Cultural Differences Between British English and American English

By Maksim Pisarev

Although English is spoken in both the United Kingdom and the United States, communication styles differ between the two countries. 


UK: focusing on being conservative and evasive


In general, the British tend to be more hierarchical, conservative, and evasive.


In particular, the British style of communication is characterized by a wide use of words and expressions that soften criticisms. 



In many Asian cultures, criticism and suggestions are usually not openly expressed. In the UK, this behavior is not taboo, but it is customary to speak with less directness than in American, German, and Scandinavian cultures. 


For instance, the verb “table” in the United States means “to postpone consideration of the issue”, and in the UK – “to start considering it.” 


In different parts of the UK, as well as in different states of the United States, the communication style varies. 


For example, in Northern Ireland, which is a part of UK, people communicate more easily, and informal words such as “sycophancy” are more common in the vocabulary of local businessmen than in any other parts of the country.


USA: focusing on results and speaking frankly


Independence and personal initiative are characteristics of the American style of communication because the professional culture in this country is focused on results. 


People in a wide variety of positions are empowered to make decisions and have the right to speak out openly.


In the US, people often say, ‘Of course I can do this’. The emphasis on ‘I’ is much stronger here than it is in other countries. 


In addition, in the American style of communication, the main thing is clarity. First, we explain what we want to say, we say it, and then we explain what we just said. In other cultures, this style of communication is often perceived as condescension.


Another example is the assessment of someone else’s work which is in the United States is expressed in its own way. A negative review is often accompanied by several positive ones.