I always tell students how incredible and brave they all are by getting out of their comfort zones and making the important decision of going abroad for their summer internship. Fun? They will have loads of it, but they should keep in mind the main reason they are here is to show their talent as professionals and to improve their skills, in order to develop their future careers. In fact, if we analyze carefully, the same applies to Absolute Internship Program Coordinators - in my case, at the London Summer Program.
The world is a more local place than ever, with different cultures crossing paths more readily than in the past. As a result, workplace norms are starting to bridge the gaps too. Despite speaking the same language (though some would even argue this point!), Great Britain and the United States of America do not always see eye-to-eye on how things ought to be done when it comes to business culture. With that in mind, here are our top 5 corporate cultural differences between the UK and USA.
Back in my senior year of high school, I took a trip to the UK with my class, and it turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. I have wanted to go back ever since. Imagine my excitement when I saw an opportunity to work in London as an intern! The opportunity came about through Absolute Internship, a program that brings together students from various nations to work in major cities across the globe.
Why did you decide to do an internship abroad? How did you choose London?
I decided to do an internship after my first year because I was looking for relevant experience in my field and I knew I needed to work over the summer but I also wanted to travel. The Absolute Internship program was an awesome hybrid. I had thought about Madrid but decided on London because I had been there before and loved it. It is easy to travel and you can speak English so there is less of a culture shock. I love the culture of the city and the fact that it has one of the largest finance industries.
When I imagined my summers of college I envisioned myself with a backpack that weighed roughly the same as a small child wandering around Europe. I’m very happy to say I’ve had my share of wandering, but with help from Absolute I was able to swap the backpack for a suitcase and wandering for exploring with a map.
Arriving in a new city, especially one as big and busy as London, can be overwhelming. I come from a moderate sized suburb, where the greatest decision one has to make for weekend activities is whether or not to go to the mall or the movies. So coming to London with its plethora of daytime and night activities was both an exciting and scary prospect.
My experience as an intern has been quite different from my day to day life at home. I can’t speak for the other interns as the general consensus seems to be that many are university students who spend a large portion of their time in school. I took a less conventional route and put off college for about three years after I graduated high school to work. When I finally did start school, I opted for online courses so I could work full time and be a full time student.
While Absolute Internship has organized many major events for us, I would have to say the most significant one that contributed to my understanding of European culture have been to the more historical sights. This includes the trip to Stonehenge and listening to the various theories surrounding its construction as well as the trip to Paris the weekend before last. When touring the streets of Montmartre (which I still don’t know how to say) I got an idea of the most important aspects of European culture. I know, I know, the culture of Paris is different from the culture of France the same way the culture of London is vastly disparate from the rest of England. But these two cities held some things in common with another city I visited-Bath. All of these places were absolutely filled with pedestrian traffic. Okay there’s no revelation there. Actually what’s fascinating is the sheer amount of history these locations are filled with.
Before I left my home in Melbourne, Australia; almost everyone I talked to reminded me to pack warmer clothes. Because even though I was technically going in summer, London summertime is lightyears different to Melbourne’s. or so they thought. London is currently experiencing a heatwave that is so very reminiscent of home, any homesickness has evaporated. I am regretting listening to their advice as most of my clothes are too warm to comfortable wear. Good thing there is Primark; an amazing store where you can get a whole new summer wardrobe for around 50 pounds (shoes included). I highly recommend visiting the one near Tottenham Court Rd Tube Station.
At around nine thirty every morning I walk into the upstairs office of the company and plop down in my chair at my desk situated right next to my supervisor's, the senior editor. The majority of days I have been there I have worked on an ongoing project focusing on converting hard copy books currently out of print into a type of e-book format on their upcoming website. The books are mainly encyclopedias and what I have worked on primarily focuses on music and musicians in general. The idea is to turn certain parts of each book, such as specific chapters in books discussing a singular artist or sections discoursing particular decades of music in more wide range works, into their own individual articles. That way when you search the subject on the website it will bring you to a coherent and independent piece that can stand on its own without connections to the book. That make sense? You awake? It’ll be much more interesting than I make it sound, I promise.
As someone more interested in creative writing I sadly don’t get to contribute any part of my imagination to this as the text already, well, exists. We’re just moving it from paper to a computer screen. My job here is to format. I work on a program called Quark because apparently it’s more reliable than Microsoft Word with all its ‘tricksy habits’ (that is seriously what the boss man called them). I won’t comment on that. I mostly focus on changing headings and the style of album and film names to italics…and that is exactly as boring as it sounds.
After a looong flight of about eight hours and an overall travel time of twelve hours (though I suppose those hailing from Australia would scoff at that with at least one fellow intern putting in a whopping fourteen hours of flying-cue my eyes falling out of my head) I finally landed in London Heathrow airport on Friday July first at about 7:40 am for my July/ August internship in the city. That didn’t necessarily mean I met our group coordinator, Vedant or the rest of my arrived group at that point since the customs line took about two or three hours to slog through-urf.
My Last Day at work... my feelings are... sentimental. Sort of sad. It's been such a long, wonderful journey working here. I really feel as though I've grown up a lot. Over the weekend my Dad came to visit and to take away some of my stuff. That was nice, he noticed I had changed a bit though; that was not expected. I think the only person who hadn't noticed my change was me--up until my Dad mentioned it that is. This was something I embraced and welcomed; it was a positive change towards adulthood. I thought this was pretty well captured in a picture my friend took of me the night of our speaker series (which was very informative and helpful for marketing, I thought).
Well, it’s that time again, another London post. It was interesting—over the last week I had a HUGE influx of work. One of my bosses went on vacation and another boss had just given me about 6 projects to follow-up from a marketing conference. In all, my to do list spanned about the length of 4 pages. It was insane. And a lot of my deadlines were that week or early the next week. The biggest problem was that I wasn’t given any information on which projects to prioritize and on top of that, my supervisors were contradicting one another, giving me more work, write something this way, re-write it that way.
Well, it’s that time again! Blog number 2; let me begin my blog by saying that I had no idea what to expect. London was so far and yet so near as I got on my delayed Iceland Airways plane. I had 5 hours to Iceland then 3 hours to London. Terrible. We arrived within one minute of my connecting flight’s take off. It was INCREDIBLY lucky that Iceland Air asked my plane to wait a small handful of passengers and I. We got on, and I was about half an hour late for the airport pickup from my Absolute contact, Banu. I was able to call her upon my arrival in Heathrow; low and behold, yet another person offered to wait for me! I was really relieved and really thankful. This was only one example of the kind and welcoming atmosphere that received me here in London. Every single one of my contacts, Guilia, Banu and Carla were all extremely accommodating and friendly. In fact, I have grown to become good friends with Giulia and Banu. Carla I have not been able to see as much, but she seemed really nice and I thought we could get along well! The employers at my internship in London have been equally friendly and I am excited to say I will be going to my boss’ “Work Stag Party” next week as he is getting married in July.
Despite being part of the European Union, the UK hasn’t adopted the euro. Instead, Londoners use pounds. Currency in London is fairly simple – 100 pence per pound (or pound sterling). However, if you want to sound like a local, instead of pence, you could say “pee,” and instead of pounds, you could say “quid.” Also, a five-pound note is called a “fiver” while a ten-pound note is called a “tenner.” Congratulations – you’re now well versed in London’s currency talk.