How We Live: Differences Between British & North American Homes

diagram of an American-style house

A lot of the blogs I read are written by British bloggers, and I’ve noticed that there seem to be differences in various home-type things compared to North America. I thought it would be fun to take a look what those differences are. I don’t think I’ve actually been in any American homes, but I’m assuming they’re pretty similar to what we’ve got here in Canada.

I’ve gotten the info for this post from Matador Network, Soapboxie, and Bustle.

Closets vs. wardrobes

It sounds like most British homes don’t have built-in closets; they have wardrobes as a piece of furniture.

Closets reign supreme on this side of the pond. My apartment is considered a 1-bedroom plus den. What’s the difference between the bedroom and den? A closet. To be considered a bedroom here, a room must have a built-in closet. Walk-in closets seem to have become more of a thing, and my bedroom has a walk-in closet. I just learned that a non-walk-in closet is called a reach-in closet.

One thing I’m curious about is what a cupboard refers to in the UK, because it seems like it’s broader than the way it’s used here. When I think cupboard, I think where stuff lives in the kitchen. Funny, when I Google “cupboard definition Canada”, it wants to tell me about government cabinets. I wonder if that’s a matter of Google being confused, or Google assuming that searchers are confused when entering those search terms.


Here, most people use a range (combo oven & stove) for cooking. I’m not sure what the most common cooking situation is in the UK, but when I search Google Images for “cooker UK”, it gives some funky-looking options, including this whole situation shown below with multiple doors. Separate oven and cooktop/hob seems to be a thing too. Speaking of hobs, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone speak of a hob in Canada.

Wehha, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Fridges are bigger here, apparently. Some UK homes just have little under-the-counter fridges.

I had no idea garburators (the Canadian term for garbage disposals) existed until I was an adult. Apparently they don’t exist in the UK. They let you dispose of food waste down the sink, and the garburator will grind it up, but they tend to block pipes, and my building has requested that everyone remove or at least stop using their garburators.


Gas boilers are/were a common heating system in the UK. These pipe hot water through radiators and also supplies hot water to taps. Apparently these are going to be banned.

Then there are combi boilers, although I’m not really sure what those are.

I’m really not sure what the heating situation is across Canada. My apartment has electric baseboard heaters. The hot water comes from some magical place that has something to do with natural gas, but I know nothing beyond that.

Forced-air furnaces are common in Canada. In my home growing up, we had an electric furnace. Hot water came from an electric hot water tank.


In British homes, the washer/dryer is one thing, and it’s usually located in the kitchen, as you can see in the picture of the AGA cooker contraption. It seems weird to me that it happens in the same machine, although I don’t seem to have a problem with understanding that a dishwasher washes and dries all in one place.

In North American homes, the washer and dryer are separate machines, although they might be stacked one on top of the other. They can live in various places, but I’ve never encountered them living in the kitchen. In my apartment, the washer and dryer live in a closet in the bathroom. North American dryers are vented to the outside, and if too much lint accumulates, there’s a risk of fire.


The Guardian has an archive article from 1950 with the title “More than half of British homes don’t have a bathroom.” When I read that, I wondered where people would pee, because in Canada, the bathroom is where the toilet is, and the bath/shower is in the same room. Apparently, it’s not uncommon for the bath to be in a separate room from the toilet in the UK.

In the UK, there are often separate faucets for hot and cold water. Here, there’s usually one faucet for combined hot and cold water. There are exceptions, though; my bath has separate hot and cold faucets.

The light switch in UK bathrooms may be on a string or outside the room. How is your younger sibling not always turning off the light while you’re taking a bath?


In the UK, outside the house is the garden. On this side of the pond, the outside area is the yard, the grassy part is the lawn, and an area growing other stuff is the garden.

75% of American homes have central air conditioning (as opposed to hardly any British homes), and there’s an air conditioning unit outside the building. Very few people have air conditioning where I live now, but in the area where I grew up, most people had central air-con. I was not aware until adulthood that window air conditioning units existed.

Were you familiar with these differences? If you live in the UK (or elsewhere, for that matter), do you have anything else to add that’s different from North American-style homes?

43 thoughts on “How We Live: Differences Between British & North American Homes”

  1. That cooker you’ve seen on Wikimedia is NOT a usual cooker in the UK. I don’t know what the heck that thing is. I ca see what looks to be a clothes press next to it and yet there’s a washing machine on the other side – that’s a miso-mash of modern and Victorian eras! This is more like a usual oven that gets built in to the kitchen, then you get the hob build in separately on top –

    You guys have something on top though right, to put pans on? I know you do as otherwise you wouldn’t get bacon, and we wouldn’t be alive without that. I guess you call it something else?

    I’d never thought about heating systems in Canada or America before. Electric baseboard heaters, sounds interesting! They want everyone in the UK to have heat pumps within a few years, another idiotic move in the name of being “eco friendly” (many houses can’t have them, they cost a fucking fortune to buy and to pay for the heating throughout each year), they’re not effective or efficient. So yeah, another great English government decision there.

    I don’t know of anyone with a washer dryer, we have what you do with a separate washer and dryer. As for baths being in separate rooms to the toilet, that really boggles my mind too. It’s weird. You need all the bathroom stuff in one room. Our last house actually had a switch outside the downstairs bathroom, but our current place has light strings inside. What I have noticed is often a “thing” is frosted glass in the toilet/bathroom door. What the fuck?! I don’t want people seeing me take a pee or having a shower, even if it is a blurred image. The first thing I insisted on when we moved here – where the door is frosted glass and you can see straight through with the light on – was get a makeshift curtain put up. I refused to go in otherwise. It’s creepy.

    Yeah, we don’t have air con as we’d only get one day a year to use it.😂

    A really interesting post, Ashley! I thought the difference between them was just that British homes are small and shit. Turns out there’s a lot more to it than that.

  2. We went through a leaky condo crisis here, with a bunch of condos built in the ’80s and ’90s starting to rot because the design wasn’t appropriate for the amount of rain we get here. I bet there were a lot of people footing the bill to fix their craptastic buildings wishing they had gone for certifiably ancient instead.

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