Are there similarities between New England and England?
Perhaps this seems like a silly question. New England and England are on different continents. They may have similar names, but beyond that, what else would they have in common?
Having spent time in both places, I have noticed some uncanny similarities between New England and England. While there are certainly many differences, it is interesting to note the characteristics both places share.
At the same time, I’ll talk about the differences between New England and England in this post as well. Let’s dive in!
New England vs. England: A brief history
While the United States and England are close allies now, this was not always the case.
The English Puritans who settled in the Plymouth County (part of modern Massachusetts) in 1620 were looking for religious freedom and a new way of life that wasn’t dependent on the British monarchy.
While they did obtain much of the autonomy they were looking for, the original colonies were still under British rule and subject to taxation by British Parliament for over 150 years.
It was this taxation that finally brought the colonists to the breaking point, leading them to hurl a shipload of tea into the Boston Harbor—known as the Boston Tea Party.
This was the beginning of a series of events that led to the Revolutionary War from 1775-1783. The colonists ultimately won the war and achieved full independence from England.
Because of the long-time influence the English had on early U.S. colonial life, it makes sense that traces of that influence can still be felt in New England.
Similarities between New England and England
1. The architecture
You can find many original colonial homes throughout New England, especially in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. These homes are modeled after the British architecture of the time, as the colonists were building homes based on the styles they were familiar with back in England.
Many colleges and churches in New England copy English architecture as well. Boston College was originally referred to as “Oxford in America.”
New Englanders take great care in preserving these buildings, so it’s not uncommon to find centuries-old buildings located between more newly constructed ones.
In Boston, in particular, you can walk the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail to see key sites that played a role in the Revolutionary War. But even exploring small towns like Concord or Plymouth will transport you back to the early colonial days.
2. The narrow, winding streets
The way streets are laid out in New England cities and towns is one of the things that remind me most of England and Europe in general.
The urban structures in New England are the oldest in the United States and—just like in Europe—don’t have the grid-like pattern of younger cities. As a result, the roads are narrow and wind every which way.
Some roads seem to go on forever, and others will abruptly end, forcing you to turn right or left. But of course, that turn won’t lead you onto another road that is parallel to the one you were on before. You could end up in a never-ending maze before you find your end destination. (The GPS has been my best friend here.)
3. The public transportation
Without a doubt, Europe has one of the most intricate and convenient public transportation systems in the world—England included. You can generally hop on a bus or train and then walk to get around most places.
I have noticed the same about New England as well. Especially in metropolitan areas of Massachusetts and Connecticut, you can get around easily without a car by taking either a train or bus.
In fact, I know people here in Boston who don’t have a car and do just fine. This is not feasible for many places in the United States, but New England has a great transportation system.
Did you know that the London Underground (“The Tube”) began operating in 1863 and is the oldest subway system in the world? Following 34 years later, in 1897, came Boston’s MBTA (“The T”), the third-oldest subway in the world and the first in North America.
4. The scenery
Winding roads among rolling hills. Coastal cliffs with sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. Charming small towns with steepled churches and cobblestone streets. These are just a few of the scenic characteristics that you can find in both New England and England.
One of the most fascinating similarities between New England and England is the hundreds of thousands of miles of stone walls used in the countryside. I’ve seen it written that there are enough stone walls in New England to circle the globe four times.
This is a practice that the colonists brought over from England, as a way to fence off land for farming and livestock grazing. You can literally find them everywhere in New England still!
5. The seafood
England and New England share a love for seafood. If you’re craving something freshly caught, both places will deliver: lobster, clams, oysters, you name it.
And there is a whole culture around seafood as well. It’s not just something people eat. It’s a lifestyle. Many people in both New England and England earn a living from fishing or selling seafood.
6. The culture
Without a doubt, the culture is one of the biggest differences between New England and England, which I talk about further below. But there are a couple factors that are similar between both places:
- Many areas of New England have a very academic culture and are known for prestigious schools like Harvard, Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, etc. Similarly, people often associate England with the famous Oxford and Cambridge universities and Imperial College London. (Also, is it an odd coincidence that Harvard and MIT are both located in Cambridge, Massachusetts?)
- Despite its early Puritan roots, New England is now the least religious region of the U.S. About one in four people in New England identify as not having any religion. The number of non-religious people in England is even higher, estimated at around 36% of the population.
7. The politics
England is known for being more politically conservative than other parts of Europe, whereas New England is known for being one of the more liberal parts of the U.S. A conservative European and a liberal American are pretty close to the same thing (just kidding, but not really :)).
In general, the American political parties lean more right than the British parties. However, in New England, most Republicans are moderate Republicans and have separated themselves from the far-right ideologies of the modern Republican party.
Because of this, New England Republicans would more closely align with the British Conservative Party and Democrats would be similar to the British Labour Party.
8. The names of things
You don’t have to drive long in New England before wondering if you accidentally crossed the pond. Signs are filled with the names of British towns and streets: London, Worcester, Gloucester, Manchester, Essex, and Suffolk, just to name a few.
The colonists named many places after their homes in England, and those names remain in place today.
The pronunciation of these towns is similar to the British pronunciation as well, causing confusion for all Americans traveling from other parts of the country. (“How on earth do you get “Wooster” from “Worcester”?)
Differences between New England and England
This is probably an obvious one, but New Englanders drive on the right side of the road just like everywhere else in the U.S. In England, people drive on the left side of the road. Additionally, stick-shift cars are much more common in England than in New England.
(Can you imagine the chaos if New Englanders drove on the left? Driving in this part of the country is crazy enough. There’s a reason the term “Massholes” is often used to describe Massachusetts drivers.)
There’s no way you could mistake a New England accent for a British accent or vice versa. The two accents are quite distinct. But there is one interesting similarity between them: their non-rhoticity (non-rho-what?). This means the “R” sound is dropped everywhere in words except for before a vowel.
So if you hear the famous phrase, “Park the car in Harvard Yard,” many Eastern New Englanders will remove the R’s and pronounce it “Pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd,” similar to the British.
But if you hear both parties say the phrase out loud, they will still sound vastly different. The New England accent is much more nasal, with vowels pronounced closer to the front of the mouth. British people vocalize more toward the back of the mouth.
It’s worth noting that the strong New England accent people typically think of (mainly the non-rhoticity) is more common in Boston and eastern New England, particularly in coastal Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. You won’t hear it everywhere in New England.
Despite the cultural similarities I mentioned above, there are mostly differences between New England and British culture:
- New England still feels much more American than European. New Englanders are very patriotic and politically active. It’s not uncommon to find people along the roads holding up political signs in the weeks leading up to an election. And you’ll see American flags everywhere.
- New Englanders love their sports teams, including the beloved Boston Red Sox (baseball) and New England Patriots (American football). You won’t find much of either of those sports in England. Instead, you’ll see soccer (the “real” football), rugby, cricket, and tennis are much more popular there.
- Lastly, given their complex history with England, I think there is very much a sense that New Englanders do not want to be like England. There are monuments and historic sights everywhere commemorating the lives of people who fought for America’s independence from England.
So while there are remnants of English influence in New England, it seems to be more in the interest of celebrating America’s history than in preserving the British way of life.
Are the English accents in New England and England similar?
The only real similarity between British English and the American English spoken in parts of New England is the non-rhoticity (explained earlier in this post), or the lack of an R sound before vowels.
To American ears, this feature of the New England accent might remind people of British English, but if you heard both accents side by side, they would sound completely different.
What states make up New England?
The New England states include Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Contrary to what some people might think, New York is not considered part of New England.
Why is it called New England?
The name “New England” was given by Captain John Smith in 1614 when he first began exploring the region. Since he was English and it was common at that time for explorers to name new places after existing ones, he decided to call this part of the “New World” New England. And apparently, the name has stuck ever since.
How is New England seen by other Americans?
It’s hard to speak for all Americans, but I think New England generally has a reputation for being one of the more liberal parts of the country. It also is known for having some of the best universities in the world, with many Americans striving to be accepted to one of them.
Before moving to New England from Michigan, some people warned me that New Englanders are not as friendly as in the Midwest, and that the driving is crazy. (That last point is definitely true. :))
Planning a trip to New England? Check out these posts:
- The Perfect 7-Day New England Road Trip from Boston
- Best Time to Visit New Hampshire 2023: Fall Foliage, Summer Fun, and More
- Acadia National Park with Kids: 13 Must-See Places
- 28 Hidden Gems in Massachusetts: Fun for All Ages!
- 24 Hours in Boston: Top 10 Things to Do
- 15 Beautiful Places to Take Pictures in Connecticut