London Internship Program 2016

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Dress Codes

Our first week here, a group of about eight of us went and sat in a circle right in Russell Square park. A friend from W & L was on her way, but did not know the area and was worried about finding her way and picking us out in the park. She spotted us from the street before the entrance to the park and took a panorama picture. It showed from left to right people in all dark colors, kind of blending in before a sudden shock of color hits the screen. There was no need to worry about finding us. Yes, W & L is as a whole very preppy, but in London it is laughable how much our group stands out. It did not take long for us to realize that we stood out as Americans before we even said “Hello”.

As a whole, Americans generally wear colors British people wouldn’t. Different brands are popular, which is obvious but worth mentioning. We wear shorts, they really don’t. Haircuts are wildly different. As Fox pointed out, summer fashion here is less important, because summer isn’t really as much of a thing. One thing I have noticed about European fashion in general, however, that I find amusing, is the fixation on the U.S. People in London who have a hippie-type, trendy-look wear clothes that have American cities written on them, most often New York. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen someone, clearly not from the U.S. wearing either an American sports jersey or again, a shirt that simply reads “Los Angeles”. My personal favorite was a guy wearing a tank top that said in giant letters, “New Jersey”. That was it. Nothing else. Just New Jersey. I would have taken a picture but I think the guy could have eaten me. While wearing clothes that reference America are cool, being American is not. Talk about disappointing.

I found it interesting that the British are not supposed to take dressing seriously. In America, it is taken very seriously. It is an interesting cultural difference that only begins to make sense after gaining more experience here. I have found that the more time I have spent in London, the easier it has been to understand why certain things like this are.

 

 

 



Home Rules

I found Fox’s chapter on “Home-Rules” to be interesting, but think the ideas she outlines are fairly similar to American culture. In my experience, people want their home to be private, an expression of themselves and spend a lot of time doing so. Even if it is a dorm room you lease for a year, college students spend money on posters and things to make it their own. While this is very much the same, I think the distinction of what people find comforting interesting. Fox explains drink coasters are for the “middle-middle” class, which I think is unique because they are an item that serves a purpose and are not purely for decoration. In the U.S. people’s wealth is bound to reflect how they furnish their house, but seemingly not to this extent. This reminds me of the unwritten rules in British culture and how they have far more history than us, which has lead to all sorts of traditions. This view is confirmed when Fox describes how tricky gift-giving can be because of this. When I give a gift, typically one of the last things to come to my mind would be social class: my approach is to simply find something they might enjoy. I think overall, manners and etiquette are more important to British society than in the United States. I think “Home-Rules” is just one category where this proves to be true. This is also not to say that they are important in the United States, I just believe if you were to write down all of the unwritten rules for both countries, England’s book would be a bit longer.

Hudson really drives home her point when she explains that the front garden is for show, while the back garden is meant to be lived in and enjoyed. In the U.S. in my experience, you use whatever yard is available, front, back or side and don’t think twice about it. The idea of not using a good open space is just unthinkable. From a family of four boys, I can’t imagine our mother telling us we could not play in our front yard because it was socially unacceptable. Not only would this have made playing in the front yard way more fun for young boys, it would just seem like a silly waste to us rather than a social statement. Four grammar school children playing football in their front yard are not hippies in the United States, they are simply four energetic kids. In England, Fox explains anyone using their front yard like this is “counter-culture”. While I think people understand kids are kids everywhere, I think English parents would teach them to play in the backyard, while American parents would not.

 

Here is a picture of my older brother Mike at two years old, when my family lived in London before I was born.

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While English people may frown on this poor showing of culture, my family saw an opportunity. My parents took this opportunity to make some fun out of the cultural difference Fox explains.



Humo(u)r Rules

I personally have been really interested by British humor because I think it says a lot about culture- What do they think is funny, how often do they joke, what is acceptable to joke about etc. When I first found out I was going to be going to London this summer, my friends all made jokes about how much trouble I was going to have fitting in with how loud and sarcastic I am. While I am definitely not fitting in, I have been surprised at how much I enjoy British humor. From our first day at Channel Syndicate of Lloyds, when Rupert managed to fit in a quick shot about how “America really was one of our finer colonies” to Dr. Blick’s quick wit, I now have a better understanding of humor here. I also have learned what is NOT funny. In the U.S, say what you will about us, but we are a kinder group that has engrained a mercy rule in our culture- the pity laugh. I do not care how bad of a joke someone told, you force a smile and take two light high pitched breaths out. Everyone knows you didn’t actually find it funny, but it is a way to avoid an awkward silence and a necessary gesture. The British, however, do not show any weakness. They stare into the back of your skull and make you want to apologize for wasting their time. Not that this has happened to me, though.

While I know this is a sweeping generalization, they seem to be much more polite and politically correct as a whole. I think the best example of this is tickets for the broadway show, “The Book of Mormon, written by the creators of the crude comedy series, “South Park”, sell for a fraction of the price they do in the U.S. English humor, to me, seems much more reserved, where as americans often try to go for a home run, knee-slapper type. The kind of humor where you would miss it if you were not on your toes. I would love to see an English comedian, I have to wonder if their stand-up would have to start with the weather. Overall, they seem to always be in the mood to joke, but it is a competitive sort of joking as it is often a quick back and forth. Another thing I would like to comment on about humor, is I have noticed British people trying to mock Americans. I noticed someone say, “Cheers, bro!” to me at a pub recently and I think he was just testing the waters to see what he could get away with. It was as much of a foreign experience for him as it was to me. He saw his shot to have some fun. I think he found it ironic to try and use American jargon to fit in, which made for a really strange situation. This is because I was doing the same to him by saying “Cheers”. I wonder if he realized that I was messing with him.

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View from the top of the London Eye



First Week at Work

I’m interning at a small, start-up consulting firm called Zenith Street. Aisha, the founder and my boss, started the business in 2011 after deciding she had found a niche in the market she could exploit herself. Zenith Street provides strategy consulting for SME’s which are small to medium enterprises. Currently, Zenith Street attracts clients that bring in revenues on average of 500,000 pounds annually from a wide pool of industries. Actually, I could not believe when reviewing her previous clients the lack of similarity: banks, marketing and tech firms, even jewelry stores. I am very impressed by the ability to help such a broad range of companies, as they are nothing alike and should require different expertise. Aisha has explained that small companies can also be difficult because many do not keep detailed books which can make them difficult to analyze. Also, some people are shy or embarrassed about explaining why they need help and she needs to try to ask the right questions to get the information she needs. She will not work with a client if she does not think she can help, and so much of her job is selecting clients. She envisions Zenith Street growing in the next few years, moving from clients with revenues of 500,000 pounds to a million pounds annually. I found this interesting because she is actively trying to make a profit while change the scale of her business. This means that she has to be selective with what clients she takes and how she advertises, it is a very delicate balance that requires time.

My experience has been very positive. Aisha has been very welcoming and taken the time to try to explain a lot that she does not necessarily need to and given me to exposure to a variety of things. My main project this week was to research other consulting firms in the area that would be considered competition. I figured I should look through her database of contacts, as she meets many of her clients at networking events. I reasoned that other consultants would also attend these events and they may have came into contact at them. I have found about 15 other companies in the same market as Zenith Street so far. Once found, I tried to understand how they are approaching the market differently so Zenith Street has the best approach. I suggested adding a testimonials page to the website, as people want to trust the person they are going to for advice- so they would like to know that they are well established.

My commute is about 45 minutes each way, as I am located in Hanger Lane, but it is relatively painless because of the Tube. I am on the seventh floor of my building with a very nice view of Wembley Stadium. The area is much less urban than central London, yet oddly enough there are more tall buildings.

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Here is an uncomfortable picture of corporate me that went on the company website that I am excited to share. Where am I supposed to put my hands?

 

 



First Impression

My first week in London was a lot different than I had expected. To be honest, I wasn’t ready for so much culture shock. I was maybe a little cocky having lived in Holland as a kid, even though I was just a child. “They speak the same language” I thought to myself. I read guidebooks that said “People love talking about the weather” and that there are Red Foxes that roam the streets. I definitely didn’t believe that foxes lived in the city, and as for talking about the weather- I just understood that to the universal thing people did when they were out of things to say. People love talking about the weather here, they hate that it rains, but at the same time, I feel like they love that they get to talk about it. And later that night as we walked back from Russell Square we saw a Red Fox feet from our apartment door cruising around. So after the first day, it really sunk in I was in for a very new experience. In addition to the weather and the fox, there are seemingly countless other things that have stuck out to me. I still cannot get over how nice all of the architecture is here, especially when compared to New York City, which is what I am used to. I love NYC, but it is just different. I still do not understand how the city was so clean when there are no trash cans. And I think none of us were ready for it to be light out from 6AM to 10PM or, 22:00. Between Jetlag, different hours of sunlight and army time, nothing made sense anymore. I was very impressed by the Tube, an easy way to get around anywhere which really opens up the whole city as traveling to and from is effortless. I think I could get anything I wanted because of it, as the city is so big– except maybe ice. This is the one thing that has really bugged me. You think by now Europe would have heard about ice. While sipping a hot water that we all didn’t realize costed “just 2.5 pounds”, I think we all collectively realized we would have to learn how to live in the city. We bought ice trays. We started cooking our own meals. Alex started looking both ways before crossing the street. I’m expecting a lot more to go wrong, and I’m looking forward to it as I can tell this is the start of an awesome opportunity.

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This is a group of us outside Beating Retreat, the soldier memorial.




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