For my American travelers, this is a guide to UK terms and customs with special Edinburgh-only tips as well. 

*I will continue to add to this list. 

 
 

Avoid getting laughed at by...

  • saying aluminium (al-you-mini-um), not aluminum
  • saying university or uni when referring to college 
  • saying you're American if you were born and raised in America. (Referring to yourself as what your ancestors were, especially if they were British, will cause an automatic eye-roll)
  • saying takeaway, instead of to-go when ordering food
  • saying whisky, not scotch 
  • saying trousers when you're talking about your pants. (Or else Brits will think you mean underwear. I've gotten a few confused looks before when talking about my "pants".)
  • not discussing American politics unless you think the president is a bawbag*. (In which case, discuss away.) *stupid person in Scottish slang.

table of contents:

  • food
  • phrases
  • travel & communication
  • currency
  • health
  • university

Food

Snacks

UK - USA
candyfloss  - cotton candy
chocolate bar - candy bar
crisps - chips
flapjack - like a granola bar
ice lolly - popsicle
lolly - lollipop
sweets - candy

Drinks

fizzy drink - soda
hot toddy - hot water, tea, honey, lemon, and whiskey (amazing for colds)
iron bru - Scottish soda you can't get anywhere else, takes like bubblegum
lemonade - Sprite or 7Up
whisky - scotch
dram - glass of scotch

General Food

aubergine - eggplant
biscuit - cookie
cheese toastie - grilled cheese sandwich
chili con carne - chili
chips - fries
courgette - zucchini
coriander - cilantro or coriander
haggis - a savory, spiced Scottish pudding
kebab - gyro
mince - ground meat
parma ham - prosciutto
pudding - dessert
rocket - arugula
scone - biscuit
soya - soy
spring onion - scallion
sticky toffee pudding - a delicious cake with toffee sauce
tomato or red sauce - ketchup

 

Phrases

UK - USA
takeaway - take-out (restaurant order) 
sit in - for here (restaurant order)
mind the gap - watch your step
like a house on fire - getting along really well, i.e. "They got on like a house on fire."
that's us/you/me - when you're done or finished with something, i.e. "Okay, that's me" is "Okay, I'm done here."
moving house - moving (in regards to moving from one home to another)
ah dinnae ken - I don't know
ken - know, i.e. "I ken" is "I know".
I'm keen - I'm interested (in doing that)
slainte - cheers, pronounced "slanj" with a hard J (translates literally to "good health" in gaelic)
zed - "Z" as in the letter. i.e. "From A to Zed" instead of "From A to Z" 

 

travel & Communication

Uber is available in the UK. 
Edinburgh Taxi: +44 131 228 1211
Calling to inside the UK: take out +44 and add 0
Calling to USA from UK: add +1
Calling to UK from US: add +44 or 011 44

Lothian Buses, Adult: £1.60, Child: 80p - you must pay exact change.

Bus app for routes and timetables, click here
Bus app for paying*, click here

*note you must purchase at least £10 worth on the app to check-out

UK - USA
boot - trunk (of a car)
dispatched - shipped (a package)
holiday - vacation
lift - elevator
lorry - truck
pavement - sidewalk
parcel - package
petrol - gas
queue - line (referring to people waiting in line)
taxi rank - taxi stand

 

pelican crossing

When lights are flashing, pedestrians have right of way. Cars will only stop once you're crossing. They won't stop willingly for you if you're waiting on the side of the road. So basically, throw yourself into on-coming traffic and pray the driver knows the rules of the road.

 
 

Currency

British Pound (GBP) is the Currency for the United Kingdom (Scotland, Wales, England, and Northern Ireland*)
£1 = $1.31 

*not to be confused with the Republic of Ireland, which takes the Euro (EUR)

Tipping is not required but you can leave a 10-15% tip on a restaurant bill. I advise that you tip a pound or two for taxi drivers and at hair salons, if you'd like to.

Americans, I know it's awkward not to tip 20% but it's part of the culture. 

 

around the house

UK - USA
tin foil - aluminum foil
baking paper - parchment paper
cling film - saran wrap
tea towel - dish towel
cooker - stove
bin - trash can, dumpster, wastepaper basket, anything related to holding garbage
tap - faucet
flat - apartment
ground floor - first floor
first floor - second floor, and so on...
garden - yard, backyard 

fashion

UK - USA
joggers - sweatpants
jumper - sweater
pants - underwear
trainers - sneakers
trousers - pants

 

health

UK - USA
ibuprofen - Advil, Motrin, Midol (for headaches, sore muscles)
Lemsip - powder put in warm water to fight headaches, it contains paracetamol
paracetamol - acetaminophen (Tylenol, NyQuil, Robitussin)
surgery - doctor's office

 

University

UK - USA
primary school - elementary school
secondary school - high school, but starts around age 11 & is called first year. *Think Hogwarts school system
school - high school
college - junior college
university/uni - college
fresher, first year - freshman
second year - sophomore
third year - junior
fourth year - senior
tutor - professor
dissertation - thesis, capstone
maths - mathematics
revising - studying
term - semester