UK beats the US at:
- Bread. In England, you can get a lovely, inexpensive, fresh-baked, unsliced granary loaf from just about any corner supermarket (the sort that is a 5 minute walk from your house). In America, any bread other than sliced prepackaged is some kind of speciality item, available only in the European or Jewish section of the store.
- The postal service. While the Royal Mail isn't perfect, most of the time you can rely on whatever you post getting to its destination next day. America has size and lack of rail network working against it here, but also I am waiting for a package which tracking shows has been in a sorting office about 20 minutes away – for two days. Poor effort.
- History. Bit of an obvious one – when I walk down the street in the UK, I immediately see buildings and features a century or more old; with only a little exploration I can find medieval stuff, and if I care to, I can investigate local Roman civilisation without too much effort. In the US, with the exception of a few East-coast historic places, I'm lucky to see anything man made more than 50 years old.
- The driving experience. In England, drivers understand the concept of merging, will generally keep junctions clear, and drive cars that are roadworthy because they have to pass the MOT test. In America, we have potholes that cause double blowouts if you hit them, half a dozen road accidents every morning on the LA freeways, and zero lane discipline.
- Banking. Everything that you see in bank commercials in the US has been standard for years in the UK. Free checking, free cash machine usage, free cheques, online banking. UK doesn't have problems with interstate banking or cheques. In fact cheques are so last millennium – for many young brits, the last resort of payment.
- Broadcasting. For a hundred-and-something pounds a year, brits get the BBC. Americans pay ~$30 a month for cable and get approximately 3 shows worth watching in a given year. Adverts are less intrusive in the UK – a half hour show will have one few-minute advert break in the middle, for instance. The disparity of quality is even larger in radio. US radio is either: play the same 20 songs of a specific genre over and over again; or: talk radio expounding some very right-wing view of the world. Brits get Radio 4. Enough said.
- Public Transport. Outside of a few cities (which have good systems, e.g. New York, Chicago) public transport is fairly non-existant in the US. By contrast, brits can travel from small town A to small town B on the train without fuss, and even without changing more than once or possibly twice. Try getting from e.g. Sheboygan, WI to anywhere on a train and the difference is clear.
US beats the UK at:
- Shopping. Bigger stores with much more choice. Stores open all hours, not just until 5.30pm. As a consequence, I'm never in the same kind of queues that plague Tesco's on a Saturday morning. I don't think much of the ubiquitous mail-in-rebate and loyalty card marketing strategies though.
- Space. Bigger houses, more places to park, and (where it exists) more space to walk. The US is a bigger country; there's more space to go around.
- Recreation. US cities and towns are dotted with tennis courts, baseball diamonds, and other rec grounds which are free to use. Welcome oases in the concrete desert. The UK has some tennis courts and other places but not in the same quantity and never free of charge.
- Consumer electronics. The USA has Fry's. The UK has Dixon's. Something that costs $100 in the US costs £100 in the UK. The newest, fastest, sexiest equipment arrives in the US 6 months before it arrives in the UK. No contest. Of course, both countries are put to shame by the far East.
- Eating out. I'm going to give this one to the US, but it's a narrow decision. Both countries have the high street chains. Both countries have Italian, French, Chinese, etc. restaurants run by real Italian, French, Chinese, etc. people, with excellent fare. The UK puts up a really good showing of Indian restaurants which are sadly lacking in the US. But the US wins out on two points: average quality of service, and quantity of good small independent restaurants.
- Special days. Again a close thing. Both countries have approximately the same number. Christmas is commercialised to approximately the same degree in both places. The UK gives us Boxing Day, but the US counters on the opposite side of the year with Independence Day. The US makes a bigger deal of Halloween, which is probably the most fun day. Britain has Guy Fawkes' night which can be brilliant if it doesn't rain. Sadly it often does. The UK has that wonderful period from Easter to June when practically every week is a 4-day week. But the US clinches it with Thanksgiving – the world's best holiday. Open to all, blind to race, creed, age, etc; and wonderfully uncommercial. They don't even sell cards for it! It's all about celebrating family and eating a lot.
No clear decision:
- The Countryside. On the one hand, you have leafy country lanes, a wonderful public footpath network, and the ability to be in the country after less than an hour's drive. On the other hand, you have spectacular big country (Monument valley, Yellowstone Park) and real wilderness if you want it.
- Weather. UK has the temperate climate; usually a sunny spell in Spring, with a couple of hot weeks in July, and maybe some snow in January. Assuming you're not in a flood zone, there's not much danger of weather destroying your house. But basically boring weather, with many drizzly mornings. US has the whole range of extremes to choose from. -40 degree Winters in WI. Hot and dry (AZ) or hot and wet (FL). Many places have hot summers and cold winters. And let's not forget the hurricanes and tornadoes.
- Latitude. In the UK it's light at 10pm in June. But in the US, it's light at 4pm in December. Take your pick.
- Cinema. US has earlier release dates and stadium seating. UK has ubiquitous assigned seating and absence of fat people sitting in front of you with their stinky nachos.
- The Higher Education system. UK has earlier specialisation. By the end of high school, you're down to 3 subjects, and in university, only one subject. The upshot is that you get a degree in 3 years, and you can get out into the world and start being useful. Also, you are likely to graduate with less of a crippling loan. But you have a narrow education in comparison to the US.
- Crosswords. US has Will Shortz. UK has Araucaria. I prefer cryptics, but I'm calling this a matter of personal taste. Neither crossword is in any quantifiable sense better than the other.
- Broadband Internet availability. Both countries are putting on a poor show driven more by arbitrary marketing decisions than technology availability. Perhaps the US is slightly leading the UK in terms of highest available speeds, but there's not much to choose.