Subject: 5 differences between working in a UK and US office


This semester (term), I am currently completing a journalism internship in London, England. I am originally from the Washington D.C. area and I go to school at the Missouri School of Journalism, the oldest journalism school in the United States.

Although I've only been interning and studying abroad in England for the past few weeks, I've already noticed a variety of differences between the newsroom I am in now, versus some of the newsrooms I’ve worked in back home. It's definitely been a learning curve, but that's what internships are all about, right?

Here are some of the things I’ve noticed while working in a UK office.

Slightly more relaxed work environment

One of the first things I noticed is the energy in the room. In cities such as New York, it seems like there is a constant buzz that is radiating around anyone in an office, especially in the journalism field. In the states, it’s as though it’s a competition to see who had the busier day, who is juggling more tasks and who is “outdoing” one another with their crazy schedules. I’m not sure if it’s just the newsroom I’m in now, but I’ve generally gotten the same vibe from my other classmates who are overseas interning here as well. Everyone seems a bit more casual, a bit friendlier and perhaps even…dare I say, more human?  It’s definitely a nice change compared to an even more chaotic and hectic lifestyle that I live back home as a journalist in the states.

Camaraderie between co-workers (pubbing after work, etc.)

This goes hand in hand with my previous comment. Office bonding, I would say, is a lot different here than in America. Many of my friends studying here in England spend their breaks with their co-workers. Some go on weekly lunch breaks with the rest of the company employees. Others go pubbing with their co-workers, and even their bosses, after work. Pub culture is very big here. In America, going to a pub with your boss could be downright awkward or frowned upon. And getting drunk with your boss? Typically, it's seen as a big no-no in America. Although most people will just go to the pubs for a round or two, there is still quite a big difference in company culture between the states and the UK.

Slight mannerisms

Sometimes, it’s fun to notice the little things too. You will hear "erm" instead of "um" more often and might be greeted in the morning with a "hiya!” instead of “hi.” These slight mannerisms are simple reminders of what it's like working in an international newsroom, and I’m not gonna lie, I kind of like it.

Assigning tasks

This is something that is still taking a while for me to get used to. In the states, people are generally very specific about what task needs to get done, how it needs to get done and when the assignment is actually due. In the UK, it’s a little bit different. They might say, “Do you have a minute?” which really means, “Can you do this for me right now?” Or, they will hand you an assignment and you will have to figure out what needs to be done with less straightforward directions. I’m not saying that one way is better than the other, but I was told to prepare myself for this while being in the workforce in the UK; that’s also an adjustment that I’ve had to make, but I’ve also learned a lot along the way, too.

Different senses of humor (take The Office for example)

A British sense of humour is very different than an American sense of humour. In the states, humour is typically more of a knee-slap humour, but I've found that British humour tends to be more dry and cynical. And sometimes, if you’re American, the jokes won’t land. And yes, if you’re wondering, that can get awkward! If you want to see more of the differences between the countries’ senses of humour, try watching both the American and British version of The Office.


Different phrases

I've also noticed that certain phrases are different in the states and the UK. Logging, for example, took me a minute to catch on; in terms of journalism phrases, logging or texting is otherwise known as transcribing. In addition to journalism phrases, simple adjectives such as "brill" and "fab" are often used here. Brill, short for brilliant, is often used like an American would say "good" or "great." Also, if a British person says the phrase “pigeon holes,” it is really just a funny way of saying mailboxes. 

Those are some of the many differences between the US and UK lifestyles I’ve noticed for the month that I have been interning abroad. If you ever get the privilege to study, work or intern abroad, I would wholeheartedly recommend it. You learn so much about how other people live and you have the opportunity to make long-lasting relationships with people from all over the world.


Caroline Watkins