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UK Business Culture

UK Business Culture

UK Business Culture is influenced by Great Britain's complex relationship with the rest of the world.  It claims to have a special relationship with the United States that goes back over 200 years ago.  It also is the head of the British Commonwealth, a loosely connected group of countries which were British Colonies at one time in its history.

There are four main nationalities within the United Kingdom:  English, Welsh, Scots and Northern Irish.  Add to this mix, all the immigrants who have settled there from the Commonwealth of Nations such India and Pakistan and you have a very unique set of factors driving the UK culture and the UK business culture.  Within the UK, there is a natural rivalry between the industrial north and the more affluent British of the south.

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Influences of UK Business Culture

Many characteristics were developed and evolved over centuries during the British’ rich history to influence and form the foundation for UK business culture:

The British Accent

The British accent has been romanticized by foreigners for many centuries.  We can all recall the great British leaders or the British Monarchy making famous speeches at critical junctures of world history. When conducting business with the British, it is always a good idea to get the offer in writing for further examination.  The fear of mesmerized by the British accents charm is real in negotiations.

The British Politeness

In British culture, politeness, etiquette and protocol call laid the foundation for many British practices in the past and even today.  The business person is no different.  It is expected that you demonstrate politeness and respectfulness to your business partners either domestic or foreign.  The British will refrain from going by first name basis in business dealings initially.  They are also non-prying individuals.  So keep your questions and discussions strictly business.

British Opinion on Superlatives

The British culture conflicts with American Culture in that the Americans like to claim "the best", "the greatest", and "the biggest".  The British despises of such descriptions in their business dealings.  They prefer to control their emotions and avoid such extremes in optimism.  For those foreigners working on Import from China deals in UK, keep this British trait in mind.

The British Humor

The British style of humor is one of belittling oneself combined with distortion.  The British like to laugh at themselves.  To those who have befriended the British, they will also joke mildly about you in your presence.

The British Classes

The British social class system has been in existence for many centuries. The terms of lords, queens and princesses are all familiar to the foreigner. Although it has less significance today, the British class system is still in existence in modern UK.

British Conservatism, Moderation and Emotional Reserve

This is the classic stereotypic view of the British.  The act of not going to the extremes or overly express oneself transcends the British society and the British businesses.

Breaking Past Traditions

For many generations, the British has led the world in fashion, music, style and arts.  Although the British as a society has been classified as ultra-conservative, there are always members of the younger generation who will break out of the conservatism.  Take music, for instance.  Every generation past and present can name influential British musicians. Remember the British invasion of the 60's?

Tips for UK Business Culture

Given all the influences on UK business culture, sometimes it is confusing for the foreigner to figure out how to act.  Here are some tips on certain business situations:

  1. Do things without drama whether it is business or pleasure.  Loud boisterous behavior should be avoided.
  2. Avoid too much theory and idealism.  The British prefer facts and figures in your presentation.
  3. Unless you meet frequently, it is polite to shake hands before and after a meeting.
  4. The British are known for their punctuality.  So arrive on time.

Above all else, use politeness as your guide in your business dealings with the British.  The British will show you mild manners but they truly have the hearts of a British Bull Dog.