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Intercultural Training:  How can I work with British people?

The United Kingdom is made up of four nations:  England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  The people of all four nations value their nationality and identity.  The most obvious time to see the differences between the nations appear is during sports, particularly those between the four nations, particularly when any of the other countries play England at rugby or football.


Who are the British?

Traditionally considered to be very hard to work out, the British are revered for their politeness and courtesy.  While one cannot generalise too much, this remains true today.  When doing business with someone from the UK, it is important to maintain these levels of courtesy.  That is not to say that business meetings have to be serious however.  The British sense of humour is as famous as British politeness and tense negotiations might occasionally be relieved with a joke.


"Doing Business" in the UK

London is the headquarters of a large number of multinational companies and is home to people from all over the world.  A meeting or negotiation is therefore likely to have as many non-British as British participants.  


It is important to remember that in business meetings and interviews, punctuality is vital.  In London, public transport is sometimes unreliable and so one should always allow extra time in order to be at your destination on time.  Recently, it has become common for appointments to be held outside of the office in a coffee shop or even in the pub.  There is nothing unusual about this.  The host of the meeting no doubt believes that it allows for a more relaxed discussion, and it also gets you out of the office.  


Except in a minority of instances, all colleagues should be on first name terms with each other.  This might be confusing for Japanese people for example, but it is normal practice within British-based organisations.  


First Name Terms

When meeting a British person for the first time, a handshake is exchanged.  Business cards can also be exchanged, but this is not universal.  There will then be some "small talk", or "pleasantries" - usual topics include the weather, the weekend or holidays.  


Some British people will often disguise orders with more polite language, such as "Would you mind..." or the use of tag questions.  It is also important to be aware of this in the workplace.  



To learn Business English with us, contact us on 020 3566 0145, by e-mail or by filling in the form on this screen.  





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