London Internship Program 2016

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Playing along

Needless to say, my interactions with British people has changed drastically from the beginning of the trip until now. The two main reasons for this being Kate Fox’s Watching the English and picking up on social queues in every day interactions. One of the biggest misconceptions i’ve identified with my 20/20 hindsight is the etiquette of greetings. Bobby and I discussed how on our first days of our internships we felt like we crushed it with our colleagues in the office.  We greeted them all with a nice big smile, handshake, and introduction. Little did we know at the time this is not how most English greetings go. Sure, there are different regulations for professional environments, but we were completely unaware of the common progression. After reading Fox, however, we were able to piece together bits from different chapters to help find a way to make friendly conversation around the office. Fox opens her book the same way any Brit starts a conversation with a stranger, by talking about the weather. I found the idea of using weather as a common ground for conversation interesting, but have never been a fan of talks about the weather. Besides, I feel like even Brits know that talks about the weather are somewhat forced when people have nothing else to talk about. That being said, I found Brexit as a good substitute for the weather this summer. It can get fuzzy talking politics in the office, but in casual discussion, everyone has an opinion on it they can discuss. It was then easy to implement Fox’s self-depravation humour by mentioning Trump and letting the Brits poke fun at American politics for a little bit to diffuse whatever Brexit rant they had usually started on (one way or another).

Humor in the UK

Throughout my time in London, the questions I have asked myself the most are: What is the EU? How is the queen so damn funny? and Is this person joking with me or not? After reading through Fox’s chapter on british humour, I’ve realized that the answer to the last question is for the most part joking. Fox discusses how intertwined humour is with everyday conversation as well as how dry it often can be. Both of these distinctions can make it hard for an outsider to pick up on when someone is joking or not. What helped me the most to make this distinction is the fact that despite their pride, Brits are pretty opposed to taking one’s self too seriously in colloquial situations. So chances are, if you pick up on irony, understating, or self-deprivation the person is being chummy rather than offensive. Immediately after reading this chapter, I went and watched a few episodes of the British Office and understood their intentions and humour better. Although there is a difference between humour and comedy, I believe that the British version of the Office depicts everyday humour rather than a comedic production. The scenes I found awkward, forced, or underwhelming before, I found much funnier. In my own office, I was witness to an exchanging of gifts last week between office members. I originally found their remarks towards one another awkward, unnatural, and sometimes flat out rude. However, after reading through this chapter, I have realized that those weren’t just pity laughs I was hearing, but this British humour in full form.

British Bonding Talk: Obnoxious or Traditional?

After reading Fox’s dissection of both female and male “bonding talk”, I was left with many questions. She explains that it is customary for women to barrage one another with “counter-compliments” to start a conversation and show friendliness. A counter-compliment being a compliment that simultaneously insults one self. For example: “Oh my gosh, Becky your hair looks so fab, mine is always so frizzy. I could never get mine to look that good”. This seems like a beyond obnoxious conversation to be a fly on the wall for, but if its intention is well understood by both parties, then I am sure it is a useful technique of showing friendly intentions. On the other hand, male bonding talk deals with one upping one another rather than self put-downs. I’ve noticed this banter around the office between male colleagues. It’s always a chummy argument over something arbitrary in which both parties insist that theirs is the better option. I enjoy hearing some of these witty and snarky remarks shot back and forth during one of these discussion, but realize not to get carried away with one’s insults. If done inappropriately or with someone to whom you should show respect (i.e. boss or professor) I can see this becoming very obnoxious and border-line insulting. However, when joking around with friends I am sure this tradition is as long standing as the pride the Bits carry around with them at all times. While I have notices that British men are very respectful and considerate for the most part, humility is not their strong suit, which in turn does provide a very driven and competitive (don’t get me started on soccer fans) environment here.



Also on a unrelated note. Here is a picture of David Cameron after he announced his resignation this week.


La Primera Semana

So week one is finally in the books, and while I would not exactly give my performance an A*, I think I at least passed. There has been a lot of acclimation, but most of my colleagues have been eager to help out the clumsy American bumbling around the office. I’ve used the wrong bathroom… twice, I’ve had to ask someone to help me figure out how to use the sink, and I’ve even spilled coffee all over myself (and others on the tube, but thats neither here nor there. Public transportation is not my thing, and I don’t want to bring it up) on the way to work. However, everyone has taken my mistakes with a smile and seems to (hopefully) enjoy having me around the office. I have mostly been working on the marketing side of my NPO, ‘TeamUp’, spending the past few days reaching out to Unis across London to recruit tutors for school in low income areas. Having tutored kids in the past, I enjoy what I am doing because I know how much of a difference a little extra help or motivational push can be from an outside source when you grow up in an environment which does not place a high emphasis on academic success. I can definitely see myself settling in to my new position and enjoying this field of work moving forward, and I am excited to see what kind of project they have waiting for me once I stop looking like a deer in the headlights.

First Impressions

I believe first impressions cary more weight than one would think before giving it further consideration. Be it a first impression of a person, a place, or a thing, it is a memory that you associate with said person, place, or thing forever–good or bad. Now I’m not saying that impressions can not be changed, as they often are, but it your first impression is an instinctual opinion made before growing comfortable with something. I think that in itself carries a lot of weight as I am one who often trusts my instincts. As far as this summer, there are a lot of firsts to experience here in London. First time on the tube, first time getting lost, first time meeting new people who talk funny. It is through these firsts experiences and their lasting impressions that you learn and grow. It is always nice to stick to what you’re already comfortable with, but stepping out and experiencing new ‘firsts’ can be as exciting as it can be terrifying. This being said, I think it is important for us to experience as much as we can while were here, for better or for worse, because I know that at least personally I will not have another opportunity such as this one for a long time. Tonight, I am excited to have a first impression of watching European football game and seeing the fans. While we have our own popular sports in the United States, I am interested to see how the English culture treats this sport and what it means to them.