British English versus American English
There is always the issue of language and meaning even if you both speak English. British English and American English are often miles apart. If you tell someone his presentation was “quite good”, an American will beam with pleasure, a Brit will ask you what was wrong with it. You have just told him politely that “he barely scraped by”.
A common language does not guarantee a similar interpretation of even a word or phrase. Both the Britains and Americans speak English, but their cultures are sufficiently different so that a single phrase has different meaning to each and can even be completely misunderstood. In England, one asks for a lift instead of an elevator, also the English “hoover” a carpet whereas Americans vacuum.
The Britains speak English, North Americans speak English, but can they communicate? It is difficult unless you understand that in England newspapers are sold at book stalls.
The ground floor is the main floor, while the first floor is what Americans call the second, and so on up the building. An apartment house is a block of flats. A bathing dress or bathing costume is what the British call a bathing suit, and for those who want to go shopping, it is essential to know that a tunic is a blouse; a stud is a collar button, nothing more. If you want to buy a sweater, you should ask for a jumper or a jersey as the item will be marked in British clothing stores. A ladder is not used for climbing but refers to a run in a stocking. If you called up someone, it means to your British friend that you have drafted the person – probably for military service. To ring someone up is to telephone him. You put your packages into the boot of your car, not into the trunk. When you table something, you mean you want to discuss it, not postpone it as in the United States.
Any reference by you to an M. D. will probably not bring a doctor. The term means mental deficient in Britain. When the desk clerk asks what time you want to be knocked up in the morning, he is only referring to your wake-up call.
A billion means a million million (1,000,000,000,000), not a thousand million as in the United States, a British milliard is an American billion. Advertising hoarding is a billboard in American English, a shortening “advert” is used in British English only. From business talks you can learn that share in Britain is a stock in the USA, a company is a corporation, a Managing Director is a Chief Executive, a time-table is a schedule, redundancy payment is lay-off pay, a post code is a zip code, the post is the mail, an apartment in the post address is a suite, a booking office is a ticket office, an annual holiday is a leave, a holiday is a vacation, a rise in salary or prices is a raise, etc. Provisions are reserves in American English; do not confuse this with the British English meaning of reserves.
(From: M. Zellers. “How to Speak English”)