Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

British English can be quite different from American English!

Today you’ll learn how small talk openers are different in British culture compared to American culture.

Anna Tyrie, today’s guest, shares three ways to start a conversation in British English.

Listen in for these fantastic tips!

Who is Anna Tyrie?

Anna was on the show a few years ago discussing British and American food.

Check out AEE 1821: UK vs. U.S. Breakfast with Anna Tyrie from English Like a Native.

Anna Tyrie is the founder of English Like a Native, a company that provides courses focused on fluency and pronunciation.

She also provides free online resources across social media, including YouTube and Instagram.

At the end of 2022, Anna started a podcast on a whim and has since had 2 million downloads.

In today’s episode, they will be comparing starting a conversation in different countries.

Anna is from the north of England but has been living in London for more than a decade.

Not just the accent

There are clearly many differences between the British and American accents.

Vocabulary and slang also have differences between these two dialects.

However, the differences don’t stop there!

These two countries have very different cultures, despite the language commonality.

Culture affects everything from food and holidays to the way conversations are started.

Starting conversations in England

Lindsay asks Anna if she thinks culture matters when starting a conversation.

Anna responds that culture is a big factor in how these conversations begin.

Generally, British people are a lot more indirect, careful, and gentle with how they address things or throughout a conversation.

On the other hand, Americans tend to be more blunt and straightforward.

Today you’ll learn three things that are particularly different in British English conversations.

#1: British people and the weather

It is common in England to make comments about the weather.

Lindsay shares that Americans also talk about the weather when kicking off a conversation.

Anna shares that the weather in London is very unpredictable which makes it noteworthy.

You could leave the house in a summer dress, and moments later it could be raining heavily.

The British have to prepare ahead of time and often have to think about the weather.

Here are a few examples on how to start a conversation about the weather:

  • Lovely weather today, isn’t it?
  • Hasn’t it turned out nice today?

#2: Complaining about transportation

In London, it is common to start a conversation by venting about transportation woes.

There are many options for public transportation in big cities.

However, these transportation options often have issues with reliability.

It’s difficult and expensive to have a car in London.

There is a congestion charge for having a car that isn’t fuel efficient.

Train strikes have been common recently, giving people more to complain about.

Here are a few examples on how to start a conversation to talk about public transportation:

  • Has anyone been affected by the train strikes today?
  • Could you tell me if the 71 bus goes through Stratford? If not, what bus does?

#3: Question within a question

It is common for British conversations to start with a question within a question.

Here are some examples:

  • Could I ask you? Have you been waiting a long time for this bus?
  • Do you mind if I ask? Where did you buy this coat?

Lindsay points out that this is rare in the States, as Americans are less likely to ask permission.

Historically, England had strict etiquette rules and a strict social class.

This may be part of what affects the disposition of British people.


It is fascinating to notice the many differences between American and British culture.

You can find more resources from Anna Tyrie regarding British culture and English on her website.

You can also check out her podcast “English Like A Native”.

When you’re in London, try the conversation starters shared by Anna in today’s episode.

Do you know any other differences between American and British English conversations?

Share one in the comments below.

Anna’s bio

Anna is the founder of English Like a Native, a company that provides courses focused on fluency and pronunciation, coupled with an award-winning online community. She also provides lots of free online resources across social media and most notably YouTube and Instagram. At the end of 2022 Anna started a podcast on a whim and has since had 2 million downloads. 

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