The US and UK are among the most preferred countries to migrate to because of their prominent higher education institutions and thriving economies.
The US ranks as the strongest economy in the world and the UK as the fifth strongest. This makes both countries attractive to expatriates searching for education and employment or business opportunities.
Although the two countries have some similarities in terms of high living standards and job opportunities, they differ significantly in terms of weather and the people’s cultures.
This article will compare each country’s uniqueness to help you make a well-grounded judgment concerning your destination of choice between the two.
The US or the UK
The pros outweigh the cons of living in both countries, but you will have to look at the minor details that suit you. Your choice will depend on which countries offer favorable conditions to you.
List of pros and cons of living in the US
- Varied natural landscape and climate.
- One of the best economies and easy for foreigners to start a business.
- Accessible and affordable real estate.
- Advanced medicine and research.
- No class system.
- State-of-the-art internet and telecommunication system.
- Little internet censorship.
- Fewer restrictions on entrepreneurs.
- Generous people.
- Incredible to foreigners.
- Gun violence.
- Complex healthcare system.
- High cost of living.
- Difficult work-life balance as compared to the UK.
List of pros and cons of living in the UK
- The free healthcare system (NHS).
- Plenty of cheap airlines.
- Easy access to other European countries.
- Access to free education.
- Captivating cottage homes.
- Plenty of paid holidays for the working class.
- Great opportunities for a skilled workforce.
- Solid labor laws and noble employee benefits.
- Accessible train travel.
- Access to historic cities.
- Interesting pub culture.
- Cultural diversity.
- Exciting festivals and celebrations.
- Beautiful landscapes.
- Dreadful weather.
- Expensive visas.
- It is expensive to buy a house.
- Challenging for foreigners to secure jobs.
The US or the UK: Quality of life
What are the main differences between the US and the UK when it comes to the quality of life?
In the US, a full-time employee works for an average of 60% of their day, hence having less time dedicated to their personal lives. Often they lack adequate time for sleeping, eating, leisure, socializing with friends and family, and their hobbies.
In 2021, the average employee in the US only worked around 35 hours per week, according to Statista. However, the statistics don’t reflect the reality where people usually work longer hours. These long working hours make the US lack a healthy work-life balance.
The cost of housing in the US largely depends on the location. In the most affordable areas, such as South Dakota, a one-bedroom apartment costs around $550. In the most expensive areas like San Francisco, it may average up to $3,500 for a one-bedroom apartment.
The US boasts of some of the best universities globally, such as Harvard, Stanford, and California Institute of Technology. It has one of the best higher education systems in the world, attracting students from various countries.
However, compared to the UK universities of the same rank and caliber, studying in the US is more expensive.
The public schooling system offers free education from kindergarten to the 12th grade.
The US healthcare system comprises both private and public, profit and non-profit health care providers and insurers. However, healthcare is mostly provided by the private sector, composed of charitable organizations, profit, and non-profit providers.
Social security provides retirement insurance for old age, disability, and protection for younger survivors of deceased employees. It is the primary source of earnings for the retired workforce in the US or their spouses and young survivors.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities research, at least 96% of employees (between the ages of 20 and 49), whose jobs were covered by Social Security have gained life insurance protection through social security.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the weekly median earnings for full-time wage workers in the US in the second quarter of 2021 to be $990. This translates to approximately $51,480 as the yearly income.
However, these figures are not constant and may vary because of other factors like the city, level of education, and job type. Other influencing factors in the level of salaries are, sadly, race and gender. Read more about salaries in the US.
In the UK, an average salary of $40,000 is quite common. Almost in all cases, you will earn more in the US than in the UK.
The US’s tax system and tax rate are vastly different from the British. Generally, in the US, you will pay fewer taxes even when earning the same salary or more. In the US, you are obliged to file taxes every year, but it’s not the case in the UK.
Plus, as an American, you will need to file your taxes regardless of where you live.
Cost of living
The cost of living is lower in the UK than in the US According to Investopedia, living in the US will cost you 0.49% more than in the UK. However, to better judge the two, it is important to weigh different variables to get a better conclusion.
The cost of living depends on the city. The major large cities, such as New York and San Francisco, are expensive, with average single expenses per person per month ranging from $5,822 in New York to $5,960 in San Francisco.
Alternatively, there are cities with more affordable rates, like Cincinnati and Oklahoma. The least expensive state in the US is Mississippi.
Overall, living in the UK is 16% more expensive than in the US.
The US is famous for its food, vast choices, and especially the fast-food culture. You won’t find anything similar in the UK, where the folk’s favorite meal is fish&chips. That might be very odd to the American.
Overall, the US infrastructure ranks 13th worldwide compared to the UK, which is 11th. The US is well connected in road and airport transport, meaning it is easy to travel from one state to the other.
The railway transport system is mainly for freight shipments of goods connecting Mexico and Canada. Passenger trains and commuter rails are only available in the major cities.
The US also boasts a reliable electric grid and ready access to safe drinking water.
The US is a large country with diverse weather depending on the state and the season. Nevertheless, it mostly has a continental climate ranging from hot summers to frigid winters. There is a notable difference in some states like Hawaii and Florida, experiencing tropical climates.
At the same time, Alaska has an Arctic tundra climate, a harsh climate with extreme heat in the summer and grueling cold in the winter. In Texas, the summer is hot, especially around the arid and semi-arid areas.
Some places in the US with the best weather include Honolulu in Hawaii, Los Angeles in California, and Daytona Beach in Florida.
Finally, the weather is far more predictable in the US than it’s in the UK. Due to the different airstreams in the UK, it can rain, sunshine, and show in a matter of hours.
See our top cities to live in the UK with the best weather and climate.
The US has diverse cultures and might vary in their behaviors and lifestyle according to culture, but most people are outgoing and love sports. The major sports that dominate the population are American football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, athletics, tennis, and golf.
Generally, people are also drawn to fitness and participate in outdoor sports like jogging, skiing, aerobics, and soccer.
There is a scarcity of houses in the UK compared to the population. Housing is also expensive, and in cities such as London, there is no proper spacing between homes. On average, a one-bedroom in the center of London will cost $2,328 per month.
Furthermore, UK houses are significantly smaller in size than you used to in the US. There is much fewer square meter per person than in the US. Besides size, you will see a difference in amenities and appliances.
For example, UK homes also don’t have air conditioning. Well, with a “hot” British summer, what do you need it for?
One of the best education systems in the world is in the UK. The high education system in the UK is quite expensive. The average tuition fee for a British university is 9,250 GBP. Compared to the US, the education system is more diverse in the choice of courses.
UK healthcare is publicly funded and provided by the National Health Service (NHS). Hence, it’s free for all residents living in the UK. However, be prepared for some long waiting hours when booking the next doctor’s appointment. Read more about UK healthcare.
In the UK, the official working week is between 35 and 40 hours. No employee is allowed to work over 48 hours workweek by law. In the UK, the average employee works around 37 hours per week. Your working hours mostly will depend on the employer and the industry, but generally lie in the 40 hours range.
Most British prioritize their work-life balance and family life over the job or career. As an employee, you will have between 20 to 30 paid days off. At the same time, you are lucky to get 10 days in the US.
Consequently, the UK has a better work-life balance than the US, as they enjoy more mandated paid holidays and work fewer hours than their US counterparts.
According to statista.com, the median annual earnings for full-time employees in the UK in 2021 were 31,280 GBP. On average, UK worker enjoys significantly lower salaries than their US counterpart.
Read more about salaries in the UK.
The UK has a PAYE (pay-as-you-earn) system, where the government calculates exactly how much tax you owe for the year. Read more about taxes in the UK in this article.
Cost of living
Like in the US, the cost of living in the UK depends much on location, with London ranking the most expensive. Cities in northern England are a cheaper alternative.
In comparison, living in the UK is cheaper than in the US, with rent being 22.55% lower in London as compared to New York. Likewise, a reserved lifestyle in London will cost you $4,700 per month compared to $5,822 in New York City.
Food in the UK is better and strictly regulated, meaning you will see fewer to no additives and preservatives and overall healthier products. However, groceries might cost you more in the UK than in the US.
There is robust connectivity of railway, toll-free motorways, major ports, and over 70 airports in the UK, making it among the best infrastructure globally. This great transport system makes it easier to connect with the rest of Europe.
Compared to the US, the passenger trains in the UK are more reliable and efficient. It connects London with most of the other areas and to the rest of Europe.
The UK also has sophisticated and technologically advanced communication systems ranging from fiber-optic links to underground cables. It also boasts of extensive satellites. There is a comprehensive electric connection, and water is classed as one of the world’s purest and safest for human consumption.
The Gulf stream and the Atlantic ocean largely influence weather in the UK. It’s mostly temperate with moderate winters and summers.
Set side by side with the US, during the winter, most of the East coast of the US, bordering the Atlantic ocean, is colder than the UK. In the summer, the southern part of the US is hotter than the UK.
The weather is better in the US, as it’s more diverse, and you can enjoy some warmer summers in most states. Plus, unpredictable UK weather might drive you and your health crazy.
UK residents are mostly reserved and private and don’t exhibit grand public displays of emotions like their US peers. They mostly value good manners and being polite. Regardless, they can still be warm and funny.
The US or the UK: living standards
Salaries in the US are better than in the UK, meaning if you get a good job in the US, you should live a comfortable life. However, medical cover in the US is expensive and not well covered by the average earning person.
This means that if you get sick or have a health condition, you might spend most or all of your earnings treating your ailment.
In contrast, in the UK, medical treatment is free. This means even if you earn averagely, you don’t have to worry about spending a sizeable chunk of your earnings on treatment. The small amount deducted to cater to the NHS is very minimal compared to paying for insurance in the US.
In the UK, the unemployed who actively seek employment and people living below the poverty line also receive some funds for upkeep from the government.
Generally, the living standards in the UK are better than in the US.
The US or the UK: job opportunities
Both countries have excellent job opportunities for foreigners, especially well-educated ones.
Best industries to work in the US
The industries that ensure continuous revenue growth are the best to invest in and create job opportunities.
The table below captures the USA’s top six industries (in terms of revenue):
|Industry||Revenue for 2020|
|Retirement & Pensions Plans in the US||$1.257B|
|Health & Medical Insurance||$1.145B|
|Drug, Cosmetic & Toiletry Wholesaling in the US||$1.049B|
|New Car Dealers||$978.5B|
|Hospitals in the US||$968.5B|
High-demand jobs in the US
The most in-demand jobs in the USA require relevant skills and academic credentials. The table below shows the high-demand jobs in the USA and their salary ranges:
|Job title||Salary range|
|1. Vaccine Specialist||$53,000-$106,000|
|2. Diversity and Inclusion Manager||$60,000-$145,000|
|3. Customer Marketing Manager||$89,900-$154,000|
|4. Machine Learning Engineer||$72,600-$170,000|
|5. Process Development Scientist||$52,000-$119,000|
|6. Business Development Representative||$35,000-$68,200|
|7. Search Marketing Manager||$46,000-$90,400|
|8. User Experience Researcher||$68,800-$151,000|
Best industries to work in the UK
The fastest-growing industries offer more opportunities to invest in or seek employment. The table below represents the fastest growing industries in the UK:
|Industry||2022-2023 Revenue growth|
|Festivals in the UK||861.7%|
|Scheduled Passenger Air Transport in the UK||445.5%|
|Airports in the UK||201.9%|
|Urban Passenger Rail Operations in the UK||201.2%|
|Saunas & Solariums in the UK||170.2%|
|Residential RV & Trailer Park operators in the UK||157.0%|
Best jobs to find in the UK
Job hunting in the UK is not a walk in the park. However, if you are aware of the most in-demand jobs, you could have a good head start by arming yourself with the relevant qualification. Read our guide on how to get a job in London as an American.
The table below shows the best jobs in the UK and their potential base salaries:
|Job Title||Average base salary|
|Full Stack Engineer||£47,320|
|HR Business Partner||£50,000|
Read more about living in the UK in the comparison: Germany vs the UK.