For most Americans, Britain is a place from TV and movies. It could be the bustling activity of Downton Abbey or the delightfully twee atmosphere of The Great British Baking Show. Perhaps it’s the quick-talking gangsters from a Guy Ritchie movie, or the castles and great halls of the Harry Potter franchise. In reality, Britain — or the UK (we’ll get to that) — is made up of several regions, each with its own history and culture. Keep reading for 40+ questions Americans have for British people.
Did Someone Say Cookie?
Alright, folks. Listen up. This list will be a lot easier if we acknowledge in advance that many British words were often the first. It’s just history, though we will give you some explanations. The word “biscuit” was used in 14th century England to describe a hard, flat, baked good. Biscuits were convenient for sailors, and Britain was a seafaring nation.
The word cookie comes from the Dutch word “koekje,” which means “little cake.” Koekjes had a rising agent, so they were a lot less flat and hard.
Keep Your Wig On
As we know, the British are pretty into traditions and institutions. They have a royal family for goodness sake. So, is it really that surprising that their judges still look like they belong in a period piece? For the British, wearing a wig shows respect for the court.
Just like a uniform, wearing a wig makes a person part of an institution, and not just representing their own interests. Wearing a wig shows that the law comes first.
Dirty Diapers or Nasty Nappies?
Here we are again with a language question, and this time the Yanks are using the original British word. In Middle English, “diaper” referred to white cloth that had been folded in repeated shapes. When Britain colonized North America, the USA and Canada took on this use of the word.
Meanwhile, back in the UK, the Brits had moved on with their term. The word “nappy,” which is what British people call diapers, is thought to be a shortened version of “napkin.”
Minding the Gap
Whilst seeing “mind the gap” painted on the floor of an underground or train station is completely normal to British people, it’s quite bizarre for other English speakers. The phrase first came about in 1968 when the London Underground wanted to record an automated announcement. Because of the old technology, the phrase had to be short.
Other English speakers might say “watch the gap,” or “take care of the gap,” but “mind the gap” is completely normal to the Brits.
I’ll Put the Kettle On
We’ve seen it on comedies, in movies, and in serious dramas — the British are always drinking tea! This habit came from Britain’s colonial past, as the British East India Company had a monopoly over the tea industry in England. Because of this, the drink was encouraged by the government, and seen as both high-class and inherently British. Of course, the government happily taxed the imported leaves.
Colonial imports like coffee and chocolate came from different areas in the world, but tea came from one British colony.
What’s With the Weather?
What can we tell you? The weather in the UK is pretty awful. It’s windy, it’s rainy, it’s foggy, it’s icy, it’s dark. Apparently, British weather is so unpredictable because of the country’s position at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
Apparently, storms in narrow zones over the ocean feed on the temperature difference from the equator, making British weather famously unpredictable. And how do British people deal with it? By talking about it constantly, of course.
Here Comes the Sun
Of course, the other side of having constantly temperamental weather is that you really have to make the most of it when the sun comes out. This is why, when there is just a tiny flash of sun, many British people get into their shorts and run outside.
We’re not even joking. One of the most common sights — when there’s a touch of British sun — is many topless men wandering down the street. Hey, they need their vitamin D, too!
Love it or Hate it
The easy answer to this question is “because they’re correct, as marmite does taste good.” But we know that this is a controversial stance. Admittedly, marmite is a strange product, regardless of how deliciously savory it is. Marmite is a dark sticky substance made from yeast extract, and many Brits like to smear it on their buttery toast.
The product is so polarizing that its actual slogan is “Love it or hate it.” We fall firmly in the “love it” camp.
You’re Hot and You’re Cold
This is an interesting one, and there are several reasons why British homes tend to have two water taps rather than just one, like in the US. Basically, it’s thought that this originates from a time when hot and cold water were stored separately. Cold water was drinkable and came from the main supply, whereas hot water came from a tank.
It’s possible that British people are used to the design, and now choose two taps because that’s what they’re familiar with.
Catches Win Matches
What is the deal with cricket? What an excellent question. Well, it’s a bat and ball game that’s pretty similar to baseball. It’s thought to have originated in the southeast of England during the medieval period. Now, the game is played by two teams of eleven, where one team attempts to score runs, and the other tries to stop them.
Compared with baseball, cricket is particularly British, right down to the uniform — known as “cricket whites.”
Sing Us a Song
This inquiry raises all sorts of questions of its own, like which accent is this person referring to? Basically, people from many countries in the world are told to amend their accents when they’re singing. This is because we’re most used to hearing British English or American English voices in song, and it’s apparently a bad thing to sing along with a Scottish twang.
Furthermore, a song’s rhythm can limit someone’s ability to sign in their own accent.
Your Royal Highness
This is a tricky one, because many British people absolutely hate the royal family. Just ask the Scottish. The reason that Americans might think that British people are obsessed with the royal family is because media outlets make it seem that way. Of course, British royal weddings are global events, with millions of people tuning in.
However, in the UK itself, many people are completely unbothered by such events. There are the royalists, who love it, and then the rest, who don’t.
Why So Serious?
This question probably has the same answer as the previous one. It’s not that all British people are stoic, but that British characters on TV are. If you’re only watching Downton Abbey and The Crown, then yes, many British people are stoic. But, if you’re watching Geordie Shore or Derry Girls, then you’ll see that isn’t the case.
Part of this problem is that people mix up British people with English people. The Welsh are British too, you know.
The Brilliant BBC
The BBC is the national broadcaster of the UK, which means that it has to represent and cater to the UK’s population. Its remit is to “educate, inform, and entertain.” All households with a television in the UK pay a TV license fee, which goes towards the BBC. This includes online, radio, and TV services.
On TV, there’s BBC1, BBC2, and BBC4, and online, there’s BBC3. Each region of the UK also has its own BBC output, for TV and radio.
But, What’s Your Name?
Ok, let’s get into the proper terminology for the UK. The UK — the United Kingdom — is a sovereign state that includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. On the other hand, Great Britain refers to the island of England, Scotland, and Wales. This means that people from England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland can all have British passports, and generally consider themselves British.
However, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales all have their own independent groups that would like to break away from the UK.
What Did You Say?
As the UK is made up of four different regions, there are many types of “British” accents. Whilst TV and film tend to mainly show southern English accents, the UK actually has Geordie accents, Glaswegian accents, Valleys accents, Belfast accents, West Country accents, Tyrone accents, and many more.
Accents develop when groups of language users live in the same area with regular contact. In the past, with less travel and media, this accent creation was more pronounced.
Meet You in Maths
There is some controversy on whether it’s more logical to say “maths” or “math” when it comes to “mathematics.” Some would say that the Brits are more logical because the original word is a plural, so its abbreviation should also be plural. However, others would say that the Yanks are more logical because there’s no need for the abbreviation to be plural.
Regardless, each country says it differently, in a whole range of accents. In parts of the UK, it’s “maz.”
Back of the Queue
So, in the UK, people call a “line” a “queue.” This means that British people are accused of “jumping the queue,” rather than “cutting the line.” Historically, line meant “linen” in old English and Latin. Shakespeare did use the word “line” to mean a queue, but the British went with the word “queue” in the 19th Century, taking inspiration from the French.
Interestingly, more Americans are now using the word “queue” because of computing terminology, and Netflix.
Heinz Means Beans
Many nations enjoy beans, but few eat theirs in a sugary tomato sauce on top of a piece of toasted bread. That, my friends, is British. This dish originated from war times, as tinned beans were cheap, convenient, and full of protein. The beans in question must be Heinz baked beans, which first appeared as far back as 1927.
Beans on toast is a quick and nostalgic snack for British people. It’s eaten by students, families in a rush, and people on a budget.
The Vanishing Vacation
Perhaps the real question here is, “Why do Americans not take long vacations?” The answer to this question lies in the labor laws and vacationing culture in each country. All full-time UK employees are entitled to a legally protected paid vacation of 5.5 weeks per year. Conversely, the USA doesn’t have any required vacation time. In fact, out of all industrialized nations, this is an American problem.
Furthermore, British people generally take their annual leave, whereas American workers feel guilty taking time off.
Humphrey, Get Your Stick!
We aren’t sure this is a uniquely British trait, but a 2020 article in Country Living does confirm that British people are naming their dogs and their babies the same thing. Charlotte! Come here! Sit! One reason for this could be that British people find it funny. Come on, calling a greyhound Jennifer is hilarious.
Another reason could be that Brits want their dogs to feel like real family members, and so they give them human names. Alfred! Stop that!
Americanos for the Brits
We know that traditionally the Brits are a nation of tea drinkers, whereas Americans are a nation of coffee lovers. After all, most British people have an electric kettle in the kitchen, whereas many Americans have a coffee pot. But that doesn’t mean that the inhabitants of the UK don’t enjoy a coffee from time to time.
For some reason, Brits really do enjoy an Americano. It’s just a couple of shots of espresso with some hot water. Just right.
The Brilliant Bake Off
This question is borderline insulting. After all, The Great British Baking Show or The Great British Bake Off, as it’s known in its country of origin, is a cultural institution. Admittedly, the show was at its best when it was hosted by comedian duo Mel and Sue, and starring the inimitable Mary Berry as a judge.
The show switched TV channels and hosts, so it’s not quite as universally loved as it once was. Regardless, it rules!
I Want Candy
Here we have a particularly modern question, about why some British Youtubers use American slang online. This is similar to the singing question above, where many nationalities all over the world adapt to American language in order to fit in with their media culture.
For example, many non-American beauty bloggers will say “drug store” rather than “chemist” because they want to reach an American audience. If a YouTuber is recording a haul of candy, then they want people searching “candy” to find them.
X’s and O’s
Anyone interacting with a British person online may have noticed that they like to pepper their sentences with Xs. Of course, an “x” means a kiss, and in the UK it’s a friendly, casual thing to close a message with one. British people have been drawing kisses on their schoolbooks and sending them in text messages before emojis were even invented.
Plus, if you really like someone, you can do two kisses. Or if you’re annoyed with them, none. Shocking!
Pass the Knife and Fork
OK, we’ll admit, this does sound weird. However, when British people order a hamburger at McDonalds or Five Guys, they definitely eat them with their hands, as is correct. However, if a British person is in a nice bistro, or somewhere with more of a restaurant setting, then they will eat their burger with a knife and fork.
These burgers will be larger and more gourmet — perhaps with luxurious toppings and fillings. It sounds weird, it is a bit weird, but it’s true.
Born in the USA
Americans might not be aware of this, but many Brits have a whole thing about “hating” Americans. This is more to do with American culture than American individuals, as some parts of British life jar with life in the USA. For example, many Brits think that Americans take themselves too seriously, and think they’re better than people from other nations.
Furthermore, American society is particularly individualistic, whereas the UK has a national health service. It’s not a big deal, just some friendly rivalry.
May I Help You?
This is a hilarious question and not an easy one to answer. Again, we’ll point to the types of British people shown on television and in movies. They’re often creepy, upper-class types with bad teeth and worse hair. They’re usually called Alfred, or Geoffrey, or Gwendoline, and they usually drown kittens or push people out of windows.
In reality, lots of British people look inherently angelic, or at least, just normal. They come in all shapes and sizes, folks.
A Little More Conversation
Unfortunately, a large part of the British cultural psyche is being constantly apologetic and submissive. This is a major difference between the UK and the US, and one of the reasons that British people often find Americans rude. Where an American might respond to “thank you” with an enthusiastic and loud “you’re welcome,” a British person might glance up, shuffle away, and say “it’s okay.”
British people think it’s more polite to not engage conversationally, where Americans think the opposite.
A Very Special Christmas
Obviously, British people love Christmas specials because they are amazing. Think about it — it’s Christmas day, it’s definitely freezing, and you’re full of turkey and roasted potatoes. What better activity than to sit down with your family and watch your favorite characters eat turkey and roasted potatoes?
The reason Brits love a Christmas special so much is because their TV series are so short. A special might be the last time they get to see Gavin and Stacy ever again.
Down With the Dialects
In order to answer this question, we must point you to the previous answer on British accents. You see, this question really only relates to posh southern English accents, also known as “RP” (received pronunciation) English, the Queen’s English, Oxford English, or BBC English. This might be what you see on TV, but it’s not how all British people speak.
A British citizen of Northern Ireland certainly pronounces their Rs. To say “father” in RP, you would pronounce it as “fath-ah,” whereas in Belfast, you’d say “fah-thur.”
Call it What You Want
Here’s another language question, this time over the British “called,” and the American “named.” In reality, both are grammatically correct, and both make sense in their own contexts. For a British person, someone is “called” their name. This doesn’t mean that they are being called, but that they are called that name.
For Americans, a person is “named” their name, which makes sense. For British people, “named” is just a little clunky. You say tomato, they say tomah-to.
Mom and Dud
The answer to this question is all about accents, and the way that spellings change according to how people speak. Way back in 1776, the USA declared its independence from Britain (as documented in the wonderful Hamilton). Of course, the Brits and the Yanks would have had the same accent at one point, but then they started to diverge.
Interestingly, scholars think that the English spoken in the Southern USA is probably closer to Shakespearean English than the English spoken in the UK.
Counting the Cash
Here’s an annoying one for anyone that’s visited the UK. Because the country is made up of four different regions, there are different types of banknotes in each. So, you could go to the Bank of Ireland in Belfast and get yourself some Sterling, which is official and legal British currency.
If you then took a short flight to London, a man in a corner shop would likely tell you that it’s not “real money.” In short, they should take it, but they might not.
They’ve Gone Soccer Mad
Soccer — or football, as it’s known in the UK — is a big deal. Many British people are extremely into soccer. Matches are played on big screens in pubs and restaurants, groups of lads get together once a week to play, and each city wants to support their local team. If you’re from Manchester, you either support Manchester United or Manchester City — and whichever you choose says a lot about you.
Therefore, British people love soccer, so they wear their soccer shirts abroad.
Rate a Minute
This question comes down to British slang, and whether slang does or doesn’t need to make logical sense. Let’s be honest — Americans say things are “sick” when they’re cool, so slang doesn’t need to be airtight. In this case, some British people (mainly the English) say “I don’t rate it” or “I rate you,” as a way of saying that they do or don’t like something.
If you like something, the phrase implies that you rate it highly whereas if you don’t, you don’t.
Give Us a Smile
The Simpsons has taught us about bad British teeth with its Big Book of British Smiles. Admittedly, it’s often the case that Americans on TV have big, white smiles whereas even British royals have crooked, yellow grins. However, that isn’t the whole picture. It’s true that Americans value a perfect smile more than Brits do, but they also have more inequalities in oral health.
Because Americans have to pay for healthcare, not everyone can access that Hollywood smile.
Ear All About It
Strap yourselves in folks, because you’re about to learn a new term. This question asks why some British men have “such weird ears,” and we’re here to tell you that these weird ears are known as “cauliflower ears” in the UK. Cauliflower ears, also known as perichondral hematoma, are a result of trauma to the ear.
As this person correctly points out, many rugby players have these sorts of swollen ears because of an infection or the aftermath of a hard blow.
Breakfast Is Served
We’ve already talked about beans on toast, but that isn’t the only way that British people eat their tinned Heinz beans. They also eat them alongside a cooked breakfast (and also in baked potatoes, pastry, and so on). The cooked breakfast is a big deal in the UK, with each region having its own version.
Most versions include bacon, sausage, eggs, and some type of bread — and they can also include some combination of beans, mushrooms, tomato, and black or white pudding.
Don’t Sweat It
It’s true that people from the UK say “jumper” rather than sweater, though the two words mean exactly the same thing. For a British person, “jumper” is just the more common word, and has nothing to do with actually jumping. Apparently, the word “sweater” appeared as far back as 1882, and was defined as “a woolen vest or jersey worn in rowing or other athletic exercise.”
There are all sorts of confusing terms for this item of clothing in each country including sweatshirt, pullover, and jersey.
Say That Again
To answer this question, we have to refer to what we’ve said so far about accents and dialects. Some people in the UK do speak very quickly, with more melodic and lyrical accents. Others speak more slowly, in a way that might be easier for other English speakers to understand. People in New York and Atlanta speak at different speeds depending on their accent, right?
This means that people from Brighton might struggle to understand what people in Cardiff are saying, even though they’re both British.
Tea Is Ready
The reason that some British people call their dinner “tea” is that different social classes have different historical relationships to food. Up until the 1800s, everyone called their main meal “dinner,” regardless of when they ate it. Then, the upper classes started to enjoy a lavish meal with snacks, and called it “high tea.”
Eventually, the working class called their midday meal “dinner” and their evening meal “tea.” Many working-class and rural British people still do this.
I’m Sat Here Waiting
The reason that some British people say “I’m sat here” rather than “I’m sitting here” is because it’s slang that everyone understands. Undeniably, it’s grammatically incorrect to say “I’m sat” as it uses the present tense (I am) and the past tense (sat, rather than sit). Basically, people say it because they can, because they always have, and because it makes sense to them.
Of course, some British sticklers hate this grammatical error, so it isn’t used by all UK citizens.
See You in Antalya
The US and the UK are geographically different, which is why their residents travel to different places to vacation. The US is a much larger country, so Americans can see all sorts of different cultures and types of terrain within their own country. On the other hand, the UK is close to lots of European countries, and flights are cheap and short.
The reason many British people vacation in Turkey is because it has a great climate, it’s cheap, and it’s relatively European.
On the Road Again
Why are British roads so small? Compared with the massive infrastructure in the US, roads in the UK can be twisty, cobbled, and just tiny. The reason for this is that many British roads have been there for many hundred, or even a thousand years. These small roads were made for horse-drawn carts, which weren’t as wide as today’s motor vehicles.
Of course, you’d think that the Brits would widen some of their roads, but they must be used to it!
Photographer Shows Differences Between North and South Korea
In the aftermath of WWII, many things were changing. New lines were being drawn, and one of those lines split the Korean peninsula in two. The world would be left with North Korea and South Korea. The relations between the two nations were hostile for over 70 years, but recently some light has shone through the DMZ. However, even if they do reunite, the two cultures will need some time to congeal together, as their ways of life and culture are very different. Check out these 40 images that show just how different the two countries truly are.
Fun in the Sun
In those hot days of summer, there are few things better than hitting a waterpark with your friends and family. Both North and South Koreans have access to water parks for just this reason.
As with most things, the way they head out to the pools is vastly different, though. Typically, North Korea is a little more traditional and conservative, while South Korea looks very Western in the way they suit up for the park.
There are a lot of differences between North and South Korea, even when you look at the skyline of both the country’s capitals. The top is from Pyongyang, and though there is a tall skyscraper-like building, they are nowhere near as modern as the city of Seoul.
On top of that, you can see the pollution very clearly in the North Korean capital, which is odd, as there are fewer cars!
There is only one airline in North Korea, and it is rated as one of the worst airlines in the world. On the flip side, South Korea has a multitude of carriers, plus those of other countries, as well.
Another difference is that there are very few flights into North Korea, whereas South Korea has a wide range of flight options. This is because of its place in the world economy and its efforts to improve tourism.
Both countries make their lifeguards dress in a uniform. The difference comes out in both functionality and formality. The North Korean lifeguard pictured here looks more like a flight attendant than someone who is going to jump in the water and save you.
The South Korean lifeguard is a little more properly dressed for the task at hand. Plus, he is wearing some sort of first aid kit. Both are probably skilled; one just looks more ready, that’s all.
We all know that one of the most iconic things in most Asian countries are its school uniforms. Here, you can see the difference between North and South Korea very easily. The North Korean uniform looks more traditional and is just as cute as the South Korean option.
The South Korean uniform looks more like a Westernized private school design. The other big difference is that the girl in the top image is fresh-faced, while it looks like the one below her is wearing a little makeup.
Once again, we take a look at the differences between students, but this time, we have moved up to college. College is important in both cultures, but as you can see, the dress code and style are just a bit different.
The North Koran student is a little more formal and conservative. The South Korean student seems to be dressed more in a trendy style, as well as a little more casual.
The culture and outlook on history are different, and that means that their ideas of monuments will also differ. In North Korea, it is run by a dictator who wants to commemorate his and his family’s excellence.
In South Korea, it is more about remembering than idolizing. You can see the stark difference between these two examples. The North Korean monument is a place to come and almost worship in reverence, and the South Korean war monument is something to help commemorate a tragic event.
Life in the capitals is different, but there are still a few similarities, we are sure. However, when you get into the more rural parts of the two countries, the difference becomes very evident. Take a look at these two small cities.
The top is clearly a rural city that has old buildings that look as if they need a little work. On the other side of that coin is the South Korean city, which looks like it is outside of the modern city but still a little rural.
Tourism in North Korea is limited, but South Korea is booming. Because of this, as well as the political atmosphere, the tour guides dress differently and are allowed to share different things with those they take around.
In this image, you can see that the South Korean guide is a little more informal and looks like she may use a word or two of slang. The North Korean guide, on the other hand, looks like she may ask you to drop and give her twenty.
North Korea is a communist nation, and along with that comes a need to promote and plaster propaganda all over the place, including on the front of government buildings. This gives the building a unique look and one very different from the South Korean counterpart.
In the south, the government buildings look more modern and often blend in with the rest of the buildings surrounding them, so there is a big difference!
Both countries understand the need for kids to get out into the fresh air and interact with kids their own age. The only difference is in the execution of these summer camps. North Korean summer camps are very structured and exclusive.
The child that goes to a summer camp in South Korea finds a fun-filled and ethnically diverse gathering of kids. They learn and grow but in a slightly less formal manner.
Just Need to Grab a Few Things
The grocery store is another area where the two countries differ, as well. This is not only in the layout and organization of the stores themselves, but also in how the people dress to go to the store. You can see that both are well organized, but the store in the South seems a little more structured.
Then, when you look at the difference between the attire of the two dads, you can see that the South Korean dad is a little fancier than the one in the North.
Transportation – Buses
Getting from place to place is important to any economy. However, in North Korea, taking a bus from city to city, at least in the rural parts of the country, looks dangerous and vastly different than transportation in South Korea.
In South Korea, there are larger, more modern buses. These buses have safety features and look like they may get you to your destination just a little faster.
Art takes on a new meaning when it is basically state-ran. Even fine art in North Korea is monitored and censored. Many artists have taken to including the “Great Leader” in their paintings.
In South Korea, though, the art scene is vast and ranges from fine art to modern and everything in between. With their freedom of expression, many artists show their love and reverence for their country and life, in general.
In North Korea, cars are expensive things to own, so many people choose to ride bikes. This is great for the environment and less expensive to maintain. Often, you will see large groups like this riding up and down the streets.
With all the modern trappings comes a need to get from place to place fast, and that means more cars and buses. This is a typical street in South Korea. What a difference!
Age Is Just a Number
Have you ever met someone and thought they were older than they are? This might happen if you met this college student from North Korea. In comparison to his South Korean counterpart, he definitely looks a lot older.
Whether this is because of the uniform or simply because of their different ways of life is hard to tell, but when looking at these two 20-something students, there is a clear difference. From the haircut to the clothes to the facial expression, you would never guess they were the same age.
Like tour guides on the street, the ones located in the museum of each country have a lot of differences between them. In North Korea, they are told what they can say, and they must dress in a traditional, conservative manner.
The South Korean museum guides can be a little more laid back, and though they have to cover the same things as the others, they can change up how they express it.
Each nation celebrates many different holidays, and each does so with elaborate festivals and events. One of them is just a little more regimented and conservative. The North Korean festivals are occasions for the people to dress up, and there is a marked lack of outside eyes.
In South Korea, however, their festivals are a little more liberal and certainly attract a lot of tourists. Either way, they are beautiful!
There is always construction going on, and that is true in both nations. However, the method of building and the tools available are very different. In North Korea, unless the project is a state-sponsored project, the worker may have to find inventive ways to get stuff done.
In South Korea, though, there is a boom in construction companies, and because of their economy, these corporations tend to have all the latest equipment.
The authorities of each nation share a common job, but that is about where the similarities end. For instance, take these bike cops. North Korean motorcycle cops ride on a moped and don’t have to deal with nearly as much traffic.
Like with many of the differences, it comes down to financing, and in South Korea, they are financed well enough to actually get motorcycles. This is good because they have a lot more to deal with.
Both nations utilize a well-structured subway system. The setup and layout, as well as the attendant’s uniforms, are very different, though. Once again, the North Korean offering is more conservative and utilizes the walls for more state-sponsored art.
The South Korean subway looks like many of the other subways across the globe. Plus, it is very efficient and seems to be clean, too! That is different from a lot of other subways, for sure!
The arts are one of the places where the two countries differ the most. In North Korea, most art is censored, and only approved pieces can be seen. That even includes the theater.
In South Korea, it is more liberal, and different types of theater shows are able to be seen. This includes traditional theater, like the one in the picture, as well as world-class plays and musicals from around the world.
Having open trade with the rest of the world allows South Korea to bank money that they can then spend on the infrastructure of their country. This leads to well-made bridges and good conditions on the roads.
However, in North Korea, they are limited in their trade, and with the way the government is run, that doesn’t leave much of a budget for keeping their roads and bridges in good condition.
Even when you go out to eat, there is a difference in the atmosphere of the restaurant. It can be seen and felt. In North Korea, it seems that a majority of the restaurants are often not filled to capacity and have a little more organization to them.
Whereas, in South Korea, it is more popular to dine out, probably because people can afford it. This means that the environment is a little more hectic.
Once again, transportation shows up as a major difference. This time, it is the transportation used to get Korean children to school. In North Korea, much like getting from city to city, the kids (especially in rural North Korea) are bused to school in what looks to be a dump truck.
South Korean children make their way to their daily education the same way as many others do – in a giant yellow school bus.
This is one area where there isn’t much difference, per se. However, there is just enough for us to mention it in this piece. Both circuses have performers executing fascinating and awe-inspiring feats.
The only major difference is that the North Korean circus is a little more sparse when it comes to the visual aspect. In fact, the North Korean circus seems to harken back to a simpler time.
In the heat of the summer, everyone loves a little time at the beach. This is the same whether the individual is from South or North Korea, but the way they visit those beaches varies. Once again, it has more to do with what is worn and how the space is used.
In North Korea, the people are more conservative, so it is not shocking to see a person in full pants and a polo lounging in the sand. In the south, it is more packed, and the garb is more like what we all expect at the beach…swimsuits and shorts.
Farming is vital in any country, and the jobs may be very similar, but the atmosphere and other aspects definitely are not. The North Korean farmer’s landscapes look a little old school with sticks and hay coverings. Plus, he looks like he needs a few extra layers.
The South Korean farmer looks a little more casual, and his crops are guarded by chain-link and hooked up to electricity.
When you are looking to make a big deal, many businessmen and women head out to the links. This will lead to two different experiences depending on which Korea you are living in.
In North Korea, it is very basic and not as manicured as in South Korea. The golf courses in South Korea are also bigger and offer more amenities than the ones in North Korea, but hey, at least you’re getting your exercise in!
Okay, so street art may be stretching the definition of what can be found on some of the walls in North Korean metro stations. Nonetheless, it is art that is on a wall, so technically, it’s street art.
In most of the world, street art is social commentary or expressions of one’s feelings. In North Korea, it is about making people understand the importance of their leader.
It is a given that the money would be different, right? The currency of both countries both depicts heroes and important figures in the respective country’s history. For North Korea, that means the leaders and generals – all of whom are men!
In South Korea, the variety of faces that grace the currency range from leaders to philosophers and even include a woman! That is amazing and more than some countries are willing to do!
Once again, the difference in this structure is clear. From the layout and the decorations in North Korea, they are more conservative, and the walls are covered in art depicting the greatness of their leader.
In South Korea, the look is more like the rest of the world. On top of that, the sitting structure in the waiting rooms is vastly different, as you can see in the images.
Given the strict rules and guidelines of education in North Korea, you would definitely imagine that anything having to do with school activities is going to be different. This also includes when the children head outside of school to get a little extra education.
Field trips differ in each country not only in the way the children dress, but how they make it from place to place. South Korean kids are a little less militaristic in their lines and their backpack selection.
Parade or Protest
Squares and public places in each country are used for gatherings and parades, but that is where the similarities end. In North Korea, these festivities are typically state-mandated and require a certain level of formality.
In South Korea, however, they are used not only for festivities but for the people to bring their concerns to the government and others. Take a look at this ex-military man who seems to be protesting North Korea’s nuclear testing.
Newspapers have always been the favorite thing for communist regimes to use to disseminate what they want their people to know. Thus, there is a marked difference when reading a North Korean newspaper and a South Korean newspaper for this reason, among many others.
All media has to be approved by the state in North Korea, and this means that what is put out is skewed and often very nationalistic.
Foreign Language Book Selection
Once again, any form of media, whether it is a newspaper or book, has to go through rigorous protocol in North Korea. Many foreign language books are not translated due to their divisive ideas.
That is not to say that there is not a selection of books allowed, it’s just not as large or versatile as what is permitted in South Korea. This limits the people’s ability to take in other views that might be counterproductive to the North Korean leaders.
Sure, there are some South Korean girls who go with a more traditional look, but in North Korea, they don’t have much of a choice. They have not been exposed to western styles that much. Therefore, they go with what they know.
On the other hand, South Korean ladies have a plethora of options! Of course, this means that there are going to be a lot of differences between wedding ceremonies.
Sure, you go there, and it is surrounded by snow and beautiful slopes. The hotels of the resort offer you all the amenities, too. However, the style of the layout and what those amenities are varies from North Korea to South Korea.
A lot of the ski resorts in South Korea almost mimic a Swiss chalet-like style when it comes to design. Whereas, in North Korea, the architecture seems to be a unique mixture of modern and traditional.
Downtime is key to everyone’s sanity, but the way that time is spent is very different in these two countries. On a weekend in South Korea, you may see families filling up the parks and camping overnight.
In North Korea, like many other things, leisure time is a lot more structured. You may find families filling a public square to hear inspiring words from their Supreme Leader. Whatever makes you happy!
We have already mentioned that personal ownership of cars is limited in North Korea, as cars are quite expensive. This means that the typical parking lot in the middle of the day on a weekend will look very different.
In South Korea, having a car is almost a necessity to get around, and that leads to the parking lots of malls and other establishments getting a little crowded. This makes it hard to find a spot, a problem they don’t have in North Korea, that’s for sure!
Traveling Within the Countries
Train stations in North Korea may be aesthetically pleasing — with chandeliers and marble walls — but unfortunately, the same can’t necessarily be said for travel. Why, you ask? Well, traveling within the country is even restricted for residents.
This means that the comings and goings of citizens in the country are strictly controlled. On the other hand, though, South Korea’s bullet trains speed from one end of the country to another, allowing its citizens to travel completely freely.
As you can see in the photo of North Korea, the country’s roads are usually empty, with little to no traffic. And while anyone would love to have the luxury of speeding down an empty street rather than sitting for hours in traffic, we have to admit that picture is pretty eery.
There’s a lot of hustle and bustle in South Korea, however. Being that Seoul is one of the largest cities in the world, it’s not surprising to see the streets filled with cars.
Let’s be real here, people — the rural fields of North Korea don’t exactly look enticing. We mean, the land outside of the main cities look pretty barren. Still, it helps to know that the country holds a tree planting day every March in order to bring the land back to life.
If you look at South Korea, though, you’ll notice that the country’s rural landscape is lush and in bloom — with animals all around. According to the photographer that snapped these photos, South Korea has much more green than its counterpart.
Unlike many parts of the world, the youth in North Korea don’t really have much freedom when it comes to self-expression. Still, the country does have places of leisure like the Taedonggang beer shop in Pyongyang.
South Korea, on the contrary, allows its youth and teenagers to fully express themselves. As you can see in the photo, these kids seem to have no care in the world. South Korea even hosted the Winter Olympics back in 2018 in PyeongChang.
The Benefits of Being a Resident
Here you can see the residential areas in both North Korea and South Korea. In terms of aesthetics, North Korea definitely has it down to a tee. What’s more, it turns out that citizens in the country don’t have to pay for housing, communal services, or bills.
In fact, apartments are given to them for free after they’ve given their marriage registration. On the other hand, a small apartment in South Korea can cost up to $180,000.
Don’t be mistaken, people. North Koreans do have gadgets. The country has its own factory that produces televisions, laptops, and smartphones (‘Arirang’ runs on Android). These products are manufactured in China and branded in North Korea.
Still, even with this, few people actually have enough money to buy these kinds of goods. Similar to Westernized parts of the world, citizens of South Korea have the freedom to use any and all technology without restrictions — which you can see from the photo here.
Fashion Dos and Don’ts
While there have been many false myths regarding fashion in North Korea, it turns out that women are allowed to wear pants and sport different types of haircuts.
Fairly fashionable clothes can be bought in international supermarkets or from sellers in China. Still, as you can see, women dress a bit more conservatively compared to those in South Korea. South Korea is considered to be one of the most stylishly dressed countries in the world, and we can obviously see why…
Education in North Korea is based on a year of preparatory school and 10 years of compulsory studying. Western literature and geography are among the many school subjects in order to demonstrate the Western way of life.
After this is all completed, young brainiacs and wealthier individuals enter universities, while the rest of the students start looking for a job. For South Koreans, school lasts for 12 years, and local universities are considered to be some of the most prestigious in the world — so much so that many international kids dream about getting a scholarship to go there.
Fruits & Veg
While there’s no famine in North Korea, there is a clear shortage of fruits and vegetables. This is one of the reasons as to why apples and cabbages are extremely popular. Unfortunately, the lack of protein-rich foods influences the average person’s height in comparison to South Koreans.
To fill this protein gap, people have started hunting frogs and turtles. Food carriages — which you can find in the streets of big cities — offer sausage sticks, ice cream, popcorn, and steamed meat buns. On the contrary, Seoul can offer not only rich national cuisine but also many diverse European dishes.
Business Districts and Economy
Here is what the business districts look like in both capitals. While North Korea’s economy is isolated and tightly controlled, South Korea’s economy is one of the world’s most advanced and productive — ranking 12th globally in terms of annual output.
North Korea’s economy, which is difficult to analyze, is generally unable to meet the basic needs of its people. On the other hand, South Korea’s economic growth depends heavily on exports, and the nation leads the world in shipments of semiconductors and memory chips.
These two photos compare a North Korean factory worker in Wŏnsan to her South Korean colleague in Chuncheon. Now, it’s no secret that North Korea is one of the most isolated nations in the world.
Still, what we do know is that North Korean citizens do participate in the workforce, though sometimes they do so against their will. Most North Koreans don’t have a say in their professions, and are assigned a job. On the other hand, South Korea is a thriving nation and offers plenty of job opportunities to its citizens.
Gas Station Workers
As we mentioned previously, North Koreans are often assigned their job. With that being said, citizens can also get a job as a gas station worker.
Although this kind of work may not be ideal for some, residents of South Korea can earn a pretty comfortable income as a gas station worker. In any case, at least people in this country actually have a say in what line of work they go into unlike their North Korean counterparts.
Korean Demilitarized Zone
Pictured here are military officers from North and South Korea. These two men are guarding the Korean Demilitarized Zone — a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula.
It’s established by the provisions of the Korean Armistice Agreement to serve as a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea. The demilitarized zone divides the Korean Peninsula roughly in half. This area isn’t open to the public. In fact, access is only granted by the North or United Nations Command.
A Tour Around the Country
Here we have a North Korean tour guide on top of the Tower of the Juche Idea, located in Pyongyang, and her South Korean counterpart on the view deck of 63 Building (officially called 63 Square).
The 63 Building is actually a skyscraper on Yeouido island overlooking the Han River in Seoul. While tour guides exist in both countries, there are many more strict regulations when it comes to taking a tour around North Korea. Then again, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise…
Here is yet another photo comparison of a North Korean driver of a tourist boat and his South Korean counterpart. The driver in North Korea is located on the Taedong River in Pyongyang while the man in South Korea is on the Han River in Seoul.
Sure — you can take a tour around North Korea but if you’re planning on doing so, just be prepared that the whole tour, however long it may be, will be strictly monitored.
College is important, and we have already looked at the difference in style when it comes to this level of education. However, there are a lot more differences when it comes to education, as well as the overall look of the college campuses.
In North Korea, as you would expect, it is very structured and a lot more formal. When comparing the two, South Korea is very much what most people in the West assume college campuses and classes look like.
The internet is another big difference for two reasons. The first is access to the sites, as well as access in general. North Korea monitors what its citizens can take in, so there are several sites we take for granted that are not available. The internet is also not available to everyone.
In South Korea, as you can imagine, there is a much more liberal outlook on what the internet offers its citizens.
Both countries understand the importance of getting out and having a little fun, and that is why each nation has its amusement parks. The rides are very similar in some ways, with South Korea having a little more modern renditions.
However, the way people dress and show their excitement seems to be very different. In South Korea, people dress like we are all used to. However, it seems some people dress a little more formally in North Korea.
Just like the buses that are available, the bus stops are very different, as well. In North Korea, you will find it functional and sparse when you stand on the sidewalk waiting for the next bus.
In South Korea, they like to make them a little more interesting and artistic. For instance, look at this one that looks like on old-school television. Cool, right? Either way works! After all, having an artistic place to wait for the bus is not necessarily a necessity, but it is nice.
Riding the Subway
Because a lot of people in North Korea ride bikes as their main form of transportation, you will find that riding the subway is a little different than in South Korea. Often, there is an order and cleanliness to the subway ride in North Korea. Plus, you will have plenty of personal space.
In South Korea, however, the subway is one of the most popular forms of transportation. That means more crowded cars and significantly less personal space.