British/London culture & social customs
Asides knowing the British are hyper-polite, love tea, hate breaking queue rules, love complaining of the weather, use expressions that mean the opposite of literal meaning, etc, what other things do I need to know culturally in fitting into an IBD team in London as very likeable person (considering I've never been to the UK before)?
They drink all the time, especially on a Thursday.
THIS! was there last week and couldn't escape pints no matter how hard i tried
Hyper-polite? My advice, assuming you're American, is dial back the friendliness and "loudness". Sounds bad, but when I moved to America for college from London, that was a big culture shock for me. Every time I bumped into someone, or was at a shop, people would try start conversations with me. We are traditionally very reserved people and don't want to start up conversations with every single person we meet.
They would never be caught dead in brown shoes. Black only
So, brown is an absolute non-negotiable & non-forgivable no-no for a front office intern?
Unless you want to get ragged on
If you're in Canary Wharf, it doesn't matter. Wear brown, black, Oxfords, loafers... No one cares. The "no brown in town" is a uniquely British thing, which you can imagine most of CW don't adhere to because, well, most of them are from abroad (Europe, mostly). I saw scores of people wearing brown shoes... No one cares. Do you really think your Spanish Director is going to comment on your shoes? No.
If you're in the City, maybe it's a bit different, especially at banks with greater British national representation.
Even in terms of your suit.... Doesn't really matter? I mean, yes, wear a charcoal grey or navy suit if you have to wear a suit, but when I interned at an American BB, I was one of three people to wear a suit in my team. The others were an MD and an Analyst. No ties. Check with your team, though, on what the dress-code is.
I just find it fascinating the advice some people give on here.... Regurgitating poorly informed articles or old posts. I've actually done an SA stint, I know how it's actually like.
No brown in town.
Had an internship in Atlanta, Georgia where I regularly wore a blue suit with black dress shoes. I could literally see guy's brains working; asking themselves "is that allowed" when they saw me.
I think the black dress shoes with dark blue suits looks so good. It is a shame Americans don't really go for it.
No brown in town!
-Thursday night drinking is a real culture thing
-Most sports they are into are Rugby (Union), Cricket, Golf and the odd F1 fan. If they're posh and old school they may even talk about their polo days.
- No brown into town - I get most offices have a completely new lenient dress code after COVID but some old schoolers still want you only wearing a navy/grey suit with black oxfords/loafers
- Oxfords not Brogues - again alluding to the previous point
Are cap-toed or wing-toed oxfords less than ideal?
as long as it's toe-caped it's fine
So, football isn't as popular as I imagined?
It's very popular, just not among the kind of people you interact with when working in IB, especially given the fact that most people in banking are very international (less than 10% British on my floor at a BB)
It is, but less so with the proper old schooler's London IB culture is known for. If we're talking about the public school (Eton,Winchester, Radley lot etc) -> Oxbridge -> Senior MD path, chances are that the sports mentioned (Cricket, Rugby, Golf etc) is what they're into
If you are going to work for a big bank chances are most of your team will be continental European, so I wouldn't worry much.
Do good work, don't be fat and don't stink. Everybody will love you.
OP - feel I'm qualified to opine here as a US-UK citizen who has lived in both countries, as others have said you'll honestly be fine. In your original post you've probably covered off most key points - basically just be a likeable guy/girl and you'll be fine.
Also worth pointing out that London as a city is quite "americanised", both in that it literally has a lot of Americans already and has a very outward-looking international feel similar to NYC. In some other areas of the UK you would see much greater cultural differences between there and the US, however assuming you're American you shouldn't struggle to fit into London at all. Whilst football (soccer) is obviously the no.1 sport in the UK (followed by cricket and rugby), there is also a decent amount of interest in NBA and NFL (with a few NFL games being hosted at Wembley stadium each year now). And of course all the major US tv shows are consumed/watched heavily in the UK, from GoT/Succession to Netflix's reality shows e.g. Love is Blind. So even as someone who has never been to the UK before you'll hopefully still be able to find some common ground.
And of course as others have mentioned, while London is a very diverse/international city the finance industry is even more so - at any bank you'll find a significant percentage of your colleagues will be from continental Europe (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese etc). And as mentioned there will almost definitely be a few Americans around (if not in your class then in more senior roles, e.g. VPs or MDs). So it certainly shouldn't be the case that you'll be the lone "foreigner" among a sea of Brits lol.
To just expand on the humour point, British humour can be very sarcastic at times - for a good example of this maybe watch an episode of "8 out of 10 Cats" (popular panel show in the UK) on Youtube. Also John Oliver's humour (although tbh I think he tones down/adapts his humour for American audiences, as no-one in the UK has heard of him even now ironically). Again I still don't think there's a huge cultural gap compared to the US - as American comedies (like "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" for instance) are often huge hits over in the UK, so British people will still get and enjoy your sense of humour. For me personally as an American/Brit it's the more "obvious" American humour that I don't enjoy so much, e.g. Jimmy Kimmel and Fallon, imho the humour on 8 out of 10 Cats is far superior (I do quite like Stephen Colbert though).
And this is probably obvious but pub culture is really big in the UK - not necessarily always drinking an absolute ton (or getting sh*tfaced as Brits would say) but often it's just about hanging out/socialising in a group. Also for dating a (nice) pub can be a perfectly acceptable venue for a casual date. This is something that my American colleagues tell me doesn't really exist in the US - although in America I guess you have sports bar culture which would be the equivalent.
The other big thing for socialising is a "curry night" - going to a British-Indian curry house and having a nice spicy curry washed down by multiple pints. British-Indian food is its own cuisine distinct from "authentic" Indian (similar to Italian-American food vs Italian) - basically immigrants from India and Pakistan in the 1960s/70s set up curry houses and adapted their cuisine to particularly appeal to the British palette. It's very tasty stuff though, and as mentioned goes very well with a few beers! So if you get invited along to hit a curry house you should definitely say yes.
Finally, tipping - compared to the US this is less prevalent, although in London now many places (ranging from restaurants to casual brunch places/cafes) will have a minimum 10% or sometimes 15% service charge (another example of the city becoming Americanised). You're not expected to tip anything beyond that however, unlike in the US.
That's pretty much everything I can think of from the top of my head - in summary OP, as others have said you'll be fine! Enjoy your time in London and welcome to life in the UK!
Edit: one other (minor) thing I forgot, everybody in the UK uses WhatsApp for messaging, which isn't as popular in the US for some reason. Whereas in the UK nobody really uses iMessage, group chats are either via social media apps or WhatsApp primarily.
Love the usage of Whatsapp! Really wish this was ubiquitous in the USA! Thankfully, all of my "tech" friends are starting to use it. Hopefully, more and more of my "regular" friends will catch on.
These interviews should tell you most of what you need to know about being an American in the UK. Your enthusiasm is not welcome.
Or watch the US office and then the UK office. That should also set the tone.
The UK is a place where you literally have to apply for a fucking license to watch live TV. Says all you need to know about the country.
it's "optional" if you can stand the amount of red-enveloped letters through the mail (which you'd receive anyway even you've paid.....)
Optional until the police show up you mean? You can get sent to jail for watching without a license.
You have to pay 159 quid a year to watch the telly?
Tv license is basically a tv tax to fund public channels & public infrastructure (ie the BBC). You don't have to apply for it - you just pay it if you want to watch TV channels or the BBC streaming service.
Prescription drugs cost £9 with NHS. It's a standard fee, period. Don't hesitate to go privqte if you want quicker appointments…
Biggest bank notes are £50 (a shock when Euro 500 are a thing).
The post above from continental viewpoint was bang on. Ended an internship with no offer without having received any negative feedback for 6 months. Coming out of France where any feedback starts with a long list of things you need to improve before being top ranked, it's a bit of a culture shock.
Also, Brits are super PC compared to Continental Europe. Can't do the same jokes
From a continental Europe perspective:
- The British cannot handle sarcasm (they will often be offended if you make a bad joke)
- People are very covert, nobody will ever give you direct criticism, at best they will hide it behind a broader neutral and indirect sentence
- In terms of negative review, people will likely smile at you and stab you behind your back. Both when I was top and middle bucket I've never received a negative review. On the opposite in Europe, people will tell you that you suck but with no hard feelings
- Politics is extremely important. That's how you get promoted, and how certain people can hide despite being horrendous at their job
Of course, this is mitigated by the fact that at east half your team will be European so the above is slightly less applicable with then
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