US and UK Work Culture Differences

Written by Sameera Sheikh, CSBSJU, Spring 2018 Semester Student

Westminster Abbey with Big Ben, London

One aspect of studying abroad in London is that you have the option to be placed in an internship of your interest through Foundation of International Education (FIE). Through my college, I was required to do the internship portion. Through my application process, I was to choose a couple of interests that I had in what type of internship I wanted. Because I am a Political Science major, I ranked parliament and constituencies as my first choice, marketing and advertising as my second, and tourism and hospitality as my third.

While I had to submit my resume, recommendations, and some short responses based on my interests, FIE found my placement for me. Based on my interests they applied to multiple organizations on my behalf and landed me an interview where they thought aligned with my interests best. While not everyone gets their first interest choice, I did. I was able to intern in an office of a Member of Parliament for the Labour Party in a local constituency.

My internship allowed me to meet and interact with real Londoners, that I felt like I wasn’t really doing while taking classes with just other Americans at FIE. Working in the UK is much more laid back than the stiffness that is in the workplace in the States. While I didn’t have the opportunity, many of my peers would go out for drinks with their co-workers after work and get to know them better. Going to the pub is a common social event in London.

Working at my internship site, I was able to gain a more in-depth knowledge of the process of interaction between the people and their representatives. Our office took cases from their constituents, which is not something that is done in the US. Every month our office held a surgery, or open house for constituents to come in and talk to us. These cases included problems surrounding housing, anti-social behavior, medical needs, government benefits, immigration, etc. What we did for these constituents was find out how we could help them through the process to get what they needed. It was our responsibility to help them by contacting agencies to follow up on their enquiries or requests, were our governmental office has a degree of professionalism that agencies are required to reply to us. Most people that come to us for help are from an economically and socially disadvantaged background, and often are unable to understand or not knowledgeable enough to how to go through the process themselves.

Having an internship abroad was a very eye-opening experience for me. I was able to take ideas and make comparisons of thoughts and policies that were in London to the ones in the Untied States. It made me question why things are done the way they are done and if there is a better way we can improve our society by taking some of these ideas that I have seen while interning. I am sure my peers have discovered other cultural differences and practices that make them think that we should do them in the United States too.

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