Looking to expand your operations overseas? For many entrepreneurs, trying to break into the United Kingdom is a typical move, as there are many cultural similarities between this country and America.
If you are heading across the pond in an attempt to do this, though, it’s crucial to realize there are areas where the USA and Britain differ considerably.
For example, Robert Stefanowski has spent considerable portions of his career working and teaching in the United Kingdom.
In order to thrive during his time there, he had to learn how people in the UK related to each other in the workplace.
If you want to do the same, you need to think about these issues, lest you end up in embarrassing situations that could cost you valuable contracts.
Here’s what you should keep in mind if you want to succeed in business in the United Kingdom.
1) Directives are often understated
Although Americans and the British speak the same language, there are subtleties in how people in the United Kingdom communicate – if you are unaware of them, you can be caught off-guard.
One infamous difference between the two cultures lies in how directives are issued. In America, work orders are straightforward, with little room for interpretation.
In the UK, contacts may say if they could get something done by the end of the day, it would be great. Often, this means they actually want the deal to be done by tea time – it is not an option to put it off until the next business day.
If there is any potential for confusion between you and your British contact, ask for clarification so you can avoid an embarrassing incident.
2) Soften blunt messages with politeness
Coming from an American business environment, it is easy to express something without applying filters to your speech.
However, things couldn’t be more different in the UK, as there has long been a culture of etiquette when it comes to how one conducts themselves in public.
When something bold needs to be said, they buffer it with words that soften its impact. If there is any place where you need to think before you speak, Britain is it.
Keep your interactions classy, apologize for any perceived slights, and you’ll get through your time here without making a fatal faux pas.
3) If you’re invited for after-work drinks: accept
The pub is a cornerstone of social life in the UK, so don’t be taken aback if a contact you just met invites you to have a few drinks at their favorite watering hole after the day’s work has concluded.
Unlike America, there are fewer cultural hang ups relating to the consumption of alcoholic beverages, so don’t be shocked if they start regaling you with tales of the antics of their co-workers at last year’s Christmas party.
Don’t feel like you have to match them drink-for-drink, though, or feel compelled to consume if you don’t want to – so long as you come out, it doesn’t matter if you opt to have a soft drink, coffee, or a virgin cocktail.
As long as you are socializing, your new business partners will be happy to have you there.