This semester, I have been interning at a company called ETX Capital. It is a spread betting firm in the heart of London. If you do not know what spread betting is, it is basically wagering on moves in the financial markets, and it is ILLEGAL is the United States. As I’m sure you can imagine, it has been a great opportunity for me to learn about something completely foreign as well as become acquainted with the British work atmosphere. Since my school is comprised of Americans, I had not meant too many British people until I arrived at ETX. It is here that I have noticed a majority of the cultural differences, so I thought I would share a few of them with everyone:
1) The British work to live, rather than live to work (as is the norm in the United States). In Britain, the workdays are just a tad shorter and vacation days are much more common. In fact, they’re a necessity. I am not saying that the work ethic is at all compromised; employees focus more on accuracy and doing the job right the first time. I myself prefer this much more because workers are less stressed and are able to enjoy/appreciate their work.
2) “Taking the piss” out of your coworkers is quite common, meaning that people often joke around with each other quite frequently. Oftentimes it is through the use of the infamous British sarcasm (that I have yet to get the hang of). When you do get picked on, it is a sign of being a part of the crowd rather than an outsider.
3) The British do everything in moderation. In the 1980s, the phrase “Work hard, play hard” became very popular, yet as I learned, it should more appropriately be work in moderation, play in moderation (perhaps leaning more towards the play).
4) You go out on Thursday nights, the end! The British pub culture is a nationwide phenomenon, and it is even more prominent with employees. Groups of people from the office go out together to have a few drinks and kick back after a long day at work. It really is an act ingrained into society – a social gathering where people just go to have fun. Like in America, people can go a little overboard sometimes, but more often than not, it is a chance for people to simply unwind.
I hope that this makes those of you who are coming to London excited, because it really has been so much fun getting to know my coworkers. I know that there are aspects of the British work mentality that will stay with me forever. Who wouldn’t appreciate shorter work weeks, more vacations, and more fun?
Keri Hodnik is studying abroad in London, England, with the Foundation for International Education (FIE).