Working abroad, part 2- the expat in England

Beate OeraTalent retention and management

Working abroad - expat in England

Read Part 1 – the Brit abroad 
Coming soon:
Part 3 – our advice to employers with ex-pats and to those considering a move abroad

Financial Services is a very international community and is an example of the benefits of a diverse workforce in action. In this blog series we take a look at the challenges and joys of working abroad, and give our advice to employers with an international workforce. In part one, Jack talked about his experience of working on Germany, and in this instalment, our Norwegian ops manager talks about how she has found working life in England.

“I moved to London for university when I was 18, and I had the help to settle in, and the ready-made social life that comes with uni. It was a very international environment, however, and I didn’t really meet many English people, nor feel much of a culture difference, until I got my first job. This was as an usher at a fringe theatre, and amongst others involved having to get a national insurance number (a new concept). My colleagues were also an international bunch, but my manager was English, and one of our first conversations went something like this:

Manager: ‘Would you mind doing the dishes now, please?’Tea in England - working in England
Me: ‘Oh, no thanks, I hate doing dishes’

My manager then had some choice words to say about my attitude, which I thought was incredibly rude – it is polite to answer questions honestly, after all. It took me a while to understand the nuances between orders, questions and polite chatter. That hurdle overcome, I found working life in England no too dissimilar to Norway, though I continued to have runins with the different concepts of what is polite, and had to learn to temper my Norwegian bent towards bluntness. Several colleagues have complimented/criticised me for my assertiveness over the years! When I eventually managed staff myself, we made a joke of it, and I would tell them whether a question was Norwegian or not.

My first job in an all-English environment brought home the importance of tea. Not drinking tea in England is a bit like being a the only tee-totaller at a raucous stag do, and is clearly detrimental to anyone’s career prospects. I couldn’t quite face the milk, and so acquired a herbal tea habit instead, just so as not to be left out.

Aside from tea and politeness, Norwegians’ perception of the English include fondness for talking about the weather, terrible Christmas food (mince pies and Christmas pudding…?), and a lot of stiffness and etiquette. I’d agree with the first two, but not the third. Over the years I have worked in both public and private sector, and generally love working life in England. I find the English have a great sense of humour, and the work environment is both relaxed and efficient.”