1. The public sector is plainly more robust here than in the U.S. Parks are beautiful and well-kept; the quality of the playgrounds for children is extraordinary--and the playgrounds have attendants and clean bathroom facilities. Almost all major museums are free and open to the public, and the quality of design of exhibits and supporting materials is very high. (The London Natural History Museum, for example, puts the best ones in the U.S. to shame in many respects.)
2. "Dorothy, you are definitely not in Kansas anymore!" Charles Darwin's visage graces some of the money.
3. "The customer is always right" is not a slogan known here. When I pointed out to the cashier at the local chain supermarket that I had given him a 10 pound note, not a five, he denied it and summoned the manager who then proceeded to count all the money in the till before, some 10 minutes later, informing me that I was right and giving me my correct change.
4. On our first day, a rather dishevelled, heavy-set man--who might easily have been mistaken for a vagrant, except the streets are not littered with disposed human beings (as they are in major American cities) and the amount of literature he carried marked him clearly as a proseltyzer--approached me and one of my children to "offer the good news about your Lord Jesus Christ." I replied, "He does not exist." He snorted, and moved on. I thought, "What a tough job this guy has": when he isn't trying to sell his religion to atheists and agnostics (this is a country where people suspect the Archbishop of Canterbury is an agnostic!), in my neighborhood he is most likely encountering Muslims, whose view of his savior may be different than mine, but not significantly more friendly.
5. One may safely assume that almost everyone one meets views George W. Bush as, at best, a mediocre buffoon and, at worst, a monster.
6. No woman under the age of 30 and over the age of 18 appears to wear a top that covers her belly button. One friends says there is an epidemic of "stomach colds" as a result!
7. Journalists on T.V. ask politicans real questions and call them on their bullshit, at least some of the time. Despite England's famously less libertarian laws regarding freedom of speech, the diversity and vigor of public discourse puts the U.S. to shame, and makes America seem like some autocratic backwater...which, of course, in many respects it is (the alternative media excepted).
UPDATE: Regarding #3, a reader from the UK writes the following informative message:
I can explain, if not justify, the attitude of your local supermarket cashier (having done such jobs as a student): each person on the till is responsible at then end of his/her shift for making sure the till tallies. If the till is 'out' by £5 then the person operating it is held to blame (and can, like me, be officially reprimanded and, if it happens twice, be sacked). Thus, assuming it was an honest mistake, as a cashier one would always rather the manager checked the total in the till than take it upon oneself to refund the "always right customer his/her £5". Customers make mistakes, too.
This would explain the obnoxious treatment--and as so often turns out to be the case, it is structural factors beyond the control of the individual employee that explains what it is the "man on the street" experiences.
ANOTHER: Various readers pointed out that U.S. cashiers are often treated the same way by their employers (though that was not true back in the very early 1980s when I had occasion to run a cash register--but America has become a harsher place since then), so the structural fact is unlikely to be the explanation. John Ayer (Law, UC Davis) writes with particularly amusing observations:
The till problem was bad training. Any well trained clerk learns to leave the customer’s bill on top of the till until the change has been counted out so you can wave it back in the customer’s face. My sister almost got fired for making this mistake on her first job 55 years ago, and I absorbed it as a lesson on the path to adulthood.
That said, British shop assistants are trained at the school for museum guides, where they are taught they are paid as a function of how much they keep, not how much they move (“yes sir, this is a cheese shop!).
The two trip rule also applies: almost anything you want to buy will require at least two trips.