The viral TikTok video causing a stir between the UK and US right now

TikTok: @imjoshfromengland2

A viral TikTok video is causing a debate between Brits and Americans over using titles like ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ to address people. Language experts at Preply have taken a look into some of the most common cultural differences between the UK and US, to stop people from causing and taking offence.

English TikToker @imjoshfromengland2 stitched a video of an American who lives in the UK explaining she found that over the pond, people don’t like to be addressed as ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’. Josh goes on to say, as a Brit who has spent many months in America, he found that everyone in America addresses people with the titles, as a sign of respect. However when he uses them in the UK he has often received a ‘dodgy look’ and had people question why.

The video already has 4.2 million views and 13,500 comments with some Americans commenting “it’s a sign of respect in the US” whilst people in the UK shared that the titles are “saved for old people” and that if you were to use them, Brits “might take offence and think you’re calling them old”.

To stop people getting themselves into trouble, language experts at Preply have taken a look into some of the most common cultural differences between the UK and US.

Communication Style

Typically, Brits have a more reserved demeanour, whereas American’s often reflect a more direct and open approach.

It’s important to maintain a sense of decorum in public settings over in the UK, privacy is hugely valued, meaning less is more in Britain! However, Americans like to be more involved and assertive in their conversations, making it likely that an American in the UK displaying general friendliness by striking up conversation could take the typical Brit by surprise. Likewise, a Brit over in the USA could be seen as rude or cold by not showing the same level of openness when chatting to strangers.


It’s widely known that Brits can overuse the word ‘sorry’, apologising for any minor inconvenience as a common courtesy. This isn’t always an admission of fault, but rather a way of avoiding any discomfort and keeping the harmony during social interactions. As a result, Brits may sometimes use ‘sorry’ in a way that wouldn’t land in conversation with outsiders, including Americans. People in the UK are also guilty of using ‘sorry’ with people they don’t know, to ask for information, or to even stand next to them at a bus stop, merely because not apologising could seem as an invasion of privacy.

British manners also emphasise politeness through the simple expression of ‘please’ and ‘thanks’. Whereas in the US, casual friendliness and chit chat is how they express respect, which could be classed as oversharing or invasive in the UK. For example, in the US it’s normal to say ‘have a nice day’ to just about everyone, whereas in the UK, people wouldn’t just blurt those words out in fear of coming across as insincere.


There’s often the argument that Brits are the only ones who can do sarcasm – the fact is, American’s are just as good at it, in their own way!

The delivery and frequency of sarcasm is what differs between the two. British humour is seen as dry, a form of wit that mocks or uses irony. American’s on the other hand, deliver sarcasm a little lighter, often smiling or laughing, giving the social cue of a joke. More often than not, a Brit delivering a sarcastic joke to an American could be received as mean or frosty as people in the US are generally more literal.

Sarcasm is used liberally in Britain, with most people conveying sarcastic comments in everyday speech, whether that be to tease someone, deflect a joke, or land a punchline to make others laugh. Those not used to the banter could perceive it as being nasty or hurtful, but in truth, it’s often a way to show affection.

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