As an aspiring journalist and lover of travel, I found London to be a central hotspot for creativity – and the cultural enthusiasm had a similar feel to my hometown of Brooklyn, NY, in the U.S.
England is known as a hub for global networking and business. Though I only spent a month and a half in London, I was able to experience firsthand how important the city is on an international scale.
In July 2018, I began my internship with Nursing Times, the largest nursing news website in the UK, providing clinical articles and research for nurses in all stages of their career. For six weeks, I indulged in British culture and had an opportunity to truly immerse myself in their working environment.
The office was in The Telephone House, a new low-rise corporate building in Shoreditch of East London. The area is surrounded by small cafés and bars, with young creatives and trendsetters bustling down Shoreditch High Street. During my internship, here are five things I noticed about working in London:
1. Work culture
The office was a very laid-back environment. Since Nursing Times is an online website with a monthly publication, I was working with a small editorial team of eight, though the floor of the building was diverse and held a variety of other publications in the works. With my phone in hand and an office laptop in front of me, my daily routine was strictly writing based. I researched press releases for long-length articles, pitched stories from newspapers I picked up exiting the Tube to the office, and conducted phone interviews with professionals across the UK’s National Health Service.
My work environment was very easygoing. Many of our lunches were eaten at our desk with prominent emphasis on email communication, though our desks were side-by-side. A friend of mine, who interned in London a year before, told me how she felt employers in the UK were less likely to explain the details of your responsibilities. I found this to be true in my experience. I was put straight to work the same day after my interview with very little guidance on my first writing assignment.
2. Tea, tea and more tea
The most prominent cultural aspect of UK work culture that I realized was how frequently my co-workers would be on tea duty. Every hour or so, my supervisor would grab the tray from the cabinet and take rounds around the team to see if we needed to quench our thirst. After a week, I took up the routine of tea duty and it became a habitual routine remembering how much sugar and milk my co-workers enjoyed in their tea. A survey of British employers revealed that the average British workers spend 109.6 hours per year making tea, and it continues to be the main choice of beverage for most.
Cursing seemed to be another part of the working environment that I wasn’t used to. The most common swearing words would slip from their mouths. They always seemed to be spoken in such a polite way that I would barely notice the intensity of their meaning. In the U.S., I was taught to keep profanity away from the workforce. However, in the UK it seemed like a usual occurrence.
Politics seems to have impacted the office small talk in the UK; the workers seem more open to discussing politics than in the US. With the issue of Brexit, many co-workers felt comfortable discussing politics at work. During the time of my arrival, President Donald Trump was visiting London, and my team took humor in showing videos of the “Trump baby” that took flight over Britain’s Houses of Parliament. That day was full of protests against the U.S. leader’s controversial visit. Many would consider talking politics at work to be taboo, fearing teams would be rifted by the subject. My team however, deemed it an acceptable conversation topic.
5. Drinking culture
One prominent part of UK work culture is the etiquette of after-work drinking. In the UK, different levels of management and employees go out together. Fridays after work, my supervisor and editorial team would invite me to The Fox, a pub close to the office. This was new for me, since the minimum legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21. Since I was only 20 years old, I didn’t yet feel comfortable engaging in this after-work activity.
Visit The Fox. 28 Paul St, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 4LB, UK. Phone: +44 20 7729 5708