Work to Rule, and Some Humor

My work experience this summer in the United Kingdom was a significantly different experience than I have had in my previous internships in the United States, but it was a useful step to help my professional development.  When I first started working, I could tell my office had a laid back and casual work environment, but I assumed this was due to the fact that my company was a non-for-profit and a small organization.  However, after learning more about the work rules in England and speaking with other members of our program, I realized that this is due to the English corporate culture.

One main difference I noticed while working in the United Kingdom was how the English want to avoid the stigma of being workaholics.  While working in the office, my coworkers often socialized with me; however, rather than speaking about work we often spoke about our personal lives and my experiences while in London.  Additionally, I noticed that most employees were lackadaisical about the time they arrived at work.  Once the employees arrived, they often spent the first thirty minutes of their day socializing, getting coffee or eating before starting up their work.  Lastly, I realized that my co-workers rarely worked overtime, hence while the people in my office were efficient and got their work done, they wanted to be seen as well rounded people who work to live, rather than live to work.

Another material difference in the English work environment was the prevalence of humor in the office.  My co-workers often used self-depreciating humor to joke about the ease of their tasks in a way that seemed to minimize their importance.  They would also make fun of themselves as a way to make the office atmosphere light-hearted and comfortable for others.  The office was always bustling with employees taking jabs at one another.  One prime instance of British humor materialized in an encounter with my boss the first day I was back in the office after the Brexit.  We were speaking about regional economic tendencies and before long the topic of Brexit came up.  Then without any hesitation, he quickly pivoted to the US political scene and mentioned that he would much rather be in the UK than to have Trump be his president.  The British are aware of world politics and often incorporate their knowledge of this in their humor and sarcasm.

The relaxed office culture and the ever prevalent sense of humor contributed to a memorable work experience.  The friendly office atmosphere made me feel at home from my first day, and the humor kept me entertained and on my toes throughout my internship.




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