Is it the United States or United Kingdom?



By: Zoe Samuel

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

The United Kingdom and the United States are allies and have been for over 100 years. Between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and simply being on the same side in both World Wars, these two great nations have a considerable amount of shared struggle against common enemies. 

They also enjoy the same language (though some might raise an eyebrow at that characterization) and a shared colonial history going back 400 years. They have had two wars against each other, but those were a long time in the past, and all is forgiven.

A portion of the modern United States' legal setup is borrowed from the UK, and certain ideas about democracy and equality likewise. However, the Enlightenment happened in both places at once, and the US has other influences such as France, Spain, and the Native American residents who were here before it existed. 

That means differences pop up that even the most experienced pond-hopping traveler might not notice. These are often benign, like calling the same food a fry or a chip. Sometimes, they are rather embarrassing, for example, in the UK, an eraser is called a rubber (yes, really). Sometimes they're incredibly confusing, like writing the dates differently. Parsing out these differences is the sign of a true Atlanticist. Let's see if that's you!

The biggest city has a population of 8.7 million.

The largest city in either the US or UK is London. New York comes in at a close second with 8.5 million. Despite America's enormous population, it's far more spread out than its cousins across the pond.


Its tax collecting service is called the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS used to have a counterpart with a very similar name, the Inland Revenue Service. Inland Revenue was later rolled into Customs and Excise to form HM Revenue and Customs.


There are no aristocratic titles in the country.

Contrary to myth, there were lords of a sort in pre-colonial America. These included men like George Calvert, 1st Baron of Baltimore, who was a lord under James I. Other British barons were given enormous estates in the then-colonies. America abolished this system, making it an early rule in the Constitution that the USA would not give out "titles of nobility."


Halloween is a really big deal there.

Halloween is huge in the US. You can't escape it: everything is orange and black, and everyone wears a costume. In Britain, half of the people turn out their lights and pretend they're not home to avoid trick-or-treaters. They have Halloween but on a much smaller scale.


It is traditional to burn effigies of noteworthy traitors.

The Gunpowder Plot was a failed attempt to murder the King during a joint session of Parliament. Religious fanatics including Guy Fawkes tried to bomb the meeting, but were sold out by a co-conspirator and arrested. Since then, it is traditional on November 5th to burn a "Guy" - a figure made of straw stuffed into old clothes - on top of a bonfire. Typically the "Guy" is whoever is hated in the public sphere, from the Prime Minister to famous comedians to foreign dictators. It's all very cathartic.


It is illegal to burn the flag.

The First Amendment protects the right to burn the Stars and Stripes in the US, just as it is likewise considered perfectly legal to burn the Union Jack in the UK. It's not considered very polite in either place, and it might get you uninvited from the best parties - but it's not illegal.


A chip is not the same thing as a fry.

What Americans call fries, the Brits call a chip. What Americans call a chip, the Brits call a crisp. Where both countries are united is that they feel a little bit funny about the "French" part of the label "French fry."


The internet was invented there.

The internet is really too big a concept to have been invented in a single place. The first working model of it is arguably ARPANET, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, is a US Department of Defense creation. As more computers were added to the "net" in the 70's, including English computers in England, and English computers that were in Norway - transfer protocol came along thanks to US scientist Vinton Cerf. The net began to expand through the 80's, but it was still not what we would call the internet now, as it was just computers talking to each other; there were no servers, no browsers, and no "web." Then in 1990, British scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. He was at CERN, which is in Switzerland, but was physically in their French office. So technically, the internet was invented in at least four countries, including the UK and US - and by British, American, and European scientists.


The country is 70.6% Christian.

The US remains predominantly Christian. The UK has a more complicated setup: 43.8% of the country identifies as Christian, and more than half say they have no religion; only 37% believe in God. In the US, the latter figure remains in the high 80s.


The highest peak is at 20,310 ft.

Denali in Alaska is the highest peak in the USA. In the UK, the highest peak is the relatively small, Ben Nevis, which is 4410 ft.


Average temperature in the capital annually is 52F.

London tends to max out around 74F, and only dips as far as 41F in the winter. Thanks to the jet stream, Britain is temperate: by US standards, it is never hot, cold, or sticky. It's rainy, sure, but otherwise, it's just very pleasant.


There is an area called the Lake District.

Not to be confused with America's much bigger and equally stunning Great Lakes, the Lake District is a breathtakingly beautiful area in the north of England. It is a protected national park and only limited building is permitted. In either country, go see the Lakes. Whether it's in the name or not, they are genuinely great.


The median per capita income is $31,099.

The UK median is $27,029. American incomes are almost the highest in the world. Income inequality is also among the highest in the developed world.


The biggest diamond in the country is 40.23 carats.

The Uncle Sam diamond was 40.23 carats uncut, which is pretty darn big. The biggest diamond in Britain is the Second Star of Africa, also known as the Cullinan II. It is a gargantuan 317.4 carats and is part of the Crown Jewels. You can visit it at the Tower of London.


The most notable Christmas tree erected annually is a Norway spruce.

The most notable Christmas tree in America is generally deemed to be the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, which has an amazing 50,000 lights and hails from Oneonta and other locations in upstate New York. Its British counterpart, the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree, makes a longer journey, coming directly from Norway itself. It is the annual gift of the Norwegian people in gratitude for Britain's support and aid during World War Two.


George Washington's statue stands upon Virginia's soil here.

There are lots of statues of Washington in Virginia, of course. There is also a statue of Washington in Trafalgar Square in London. The plinth is filled with the soil of Virginia so that Washington could always keep his vow, and stand upon his native soil.


Every day the country consumes over 165 million cups of tea.

Of course, the Brits win this one! Americans drink 230 million cups of tea a day, which per head, is much lower than the Brits, who have only 1/5th their numbers.


The printing press was invented there.

Technically, the printing press was not invented in either country. It was popularized in Britain by William Caxton in the 1400's, and he is often credited as the inventor. The actual inventor was Johannes Gutenberg.


Andrew Carnegie is a native son of this country.

Carnegie is a Scot, but made his fortune in the US.


A scientist from this country discovered penicillin.

Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin by accident. He didn't think much of it because it took too long to grow. However, thanks to Australian Howard Florey and German-British Ernst Boris Chain, it was commercialized in time to save many Allied troops during WW2.


There are 545 mountains over 3,000 feet high.

Sir Hugh Munro labeled 545 peaks as meeting this height requirement, but it turns out there are actually 283 - in Scotland. There are more in Wales and England. In America, 3,000 feet is pretty small, and there are many hundreds of mountains bigger than this.


They drink 70 million cups of coffee per day.

Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day, which is more than one per head. Brits only drink 70 million, which is about one per head. Considering that many Brits prefer tea over coffee, it is thus statistically proven that some Brits are mainlining coffee from dawn to dusk.


There is a famous stone circle known as Stonehenge.

While the original Stonehenge is 5,000 years old and is located in England, there is a duplicate in Washington. The Maryhill Stonehenge was built out of concrete to honor fallen soldiers 100 years ago. It is not quite clear what the original Stonehenge was for: some say it is a calendar, others a tomb or memorial, and others that it is a meeting place.


Being the leader of the country is a very deadly job!

Technically, the monarchy is way deadlier than the presidency, since the vast majority of monarchs "die in office" - death is, after all, the only way to leave the job without abdicating. Thus, the monarchy arguably has close to a 100% death rate. However, many of these occur in advanced old age. In contrast, the job survival rate of the presidency is truly shocking. Four presidents were murdered in office, and a further four died of illness. That's about one in every eleven people to hold the office.


The tallest building is 1004 feet.

The Shard's 1004 feet isn't considered that high in America, where there are more than 10 buildings taller, with the Freedom Tower being the highest at 1776 feet. London's skyscrapers tend to have whimsical names bestowed on them by the locals, and include the Gherkin, the Cheese-Grater, and the Walkie-Talkie.


There is a town known for being a good place to marry without telling anyone.

In America, it's Las Vegas, where you can get a marriage license any time. In Britain it is Gretna Green, where English couples traditionally fled to get married without the bride's family giving their written consent. Many an ill-advised marriage has been conceived in each town.


It contains 28 million Scottish people.

The entire population of Scotland is only 5.2 million, plus around another 750, 000 in the rest of the UK. However, there are 28 million people of Scottish descent in America!


They have gone to war with Argentina.

Britain went to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands in the 1980's. America has (so far) not had a war with Argentina.


The telephone was invented here.

Bell is a Scot, but he patented the telephone in the US in 1876.


The most popular sport is football.

The Brits call soccer "football" and football "American football." The sport called football in the UK is called soccer in the US, so technically, both countries regard football as their most popular sport.


The government is bicameral.

America has the Senate and the House of Representatives. Britain has the House of Lords and the House of Commons.


The ancestral home of George Washington is here.

The cherry tree at Mount Vernon was famously chopped down. Mount Vernon wasn't Washington's ancestral home just because he lived there. His actual ancestors lived in Washington Old Hall in the north of England, near the modern city of Sunderland.


The Labrador is the most popular dog breed.

The American Labrador is actually smaller than the English Labrador, and has a less boxy head. But both are incredibly beautiful, friendly, loyal, and rightfully very popular in both countries.


The country was divided by a very bloody and terrible Civil War but ultimately remained united afterwards.

The English Civil War took place from 1642 to 1651 and culminated in victory by the Parliamentary forces known as the "Roundheads" - so named for their short haircuts - who fought against the royalist "Cavaliers". King Charles I's head was cut off and Oliver Cromwell took over. The monarchy was later restored, but never again abrogated the sovereignty of the people. Likewise, the American Civil War was fought from 1861-1865 over the issue of another kind of sovereignty: that of a person over their own body. It resulted in a Northern victory and the abolition of slavery.


It is home to the world famous London Bridge.

Aha! Trick question! There is a London Bridge in London, but it is not the most famous or distinct of the bridges across the Thames. That distinction belongs to Tower Bridge, which is the much more recognizable bridge we all know from the movies. The original and far more famous London Bridge was sold to American businessman Robert P. McCulloch and dismantled in 1967. McCulloch had it rebuilt on Lake Havasu City, Arizona, where it stands to this day.


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