Facts and Statistics
Location: Western Europe, islands including the northern one-sixth of the island of Ireland between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, northwest of France
Climate: temperate; moderated by prevailing southwest winds over the North Atlantic Current; more than one-half of the days are overcast
Population: 60,776,238 (July 2007 est.)
Ethnic Make-up: white (of which English 83.6%, Scottish 8.6%, Welsh 4.9%, Northern Irish 2.9%) 92.1%, black 2%, Indian 1.8%, Pakistani 1.3%, mixed 1.2%, other 1.6% (2001 census)
Religions: Christian (Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist) 71.6%, Muslim 2.7%, Hindu 1%, other 1.6%, unspecified or none 23.1% (2001 census)
Government: constitutional monarchy
Language in the UK
The United Kingdom does not have a constitutionally defined official language. English is the main language (being spoken monolingually by more than 70% of the UK population) and is thus the de facto official language.
Other native languages to the Isles include Welsh, Irish, Ulster Scots, Cornish, Gaelic and British Sign Language.
Immigrants have naturally brought many foreign languages from across the globe.
British Society, People and Culture
The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is comprised of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It is important not only to be aware of these geographical distinctions, but also the strong sense of identity and nationalism felt by the populations of these four nations.
The terms 'English' and 'British' do not mean the same thing. 'British' denotes someone who is from England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. 'English' refers to people from England. People from Scotland are 'Scots', from Wales ‘Welsh’ and from Northern Ireland ‘Irish’. Be sure not to call someone Welsh, Scots, or Northern Irish ‘English’.
The Class System
Although in the past few decades, people from varied backgrounds have had greater access to higher education, wealth distribution is changing and more upward/downward mobility is occurring, the British class system is still very much intact although in a more subconscious way. The playing field is levelling but the British still seem to pigeon-hole people according to class.
Class is no longer simply about wealth or where one lives; the British are able to suss out someone’s class through a number of complex variables including demeanour, accent, manners and comportment.
A Multicultural Society
Formerly a very homogenous society, since World War II, Britain has become increasingly diverse as it has accommodated large immigrant populations, particularly from its former colonies such as India, Pakistan and the West Indies. The mixture of ethnic groups and cultures make it difficult to define “Britishness” nowadays and a debate rages within the nation as to what now really constitutes being a Briton.
The Stiff Upper Lip
The British have been historically known for their stiff upper lip and “blitz spirit” as demonstrated during the German bombings of World War II. This ‘grin and bear’ attitude in the face of adversity or embarrassment lives on today.
As a nation, the Brits tend not to use superlatives and may not appear terribly animated when they speak. This does not mean that they do not have strong emotions; merely that they do not choose to put them on public display. They are generally not very openly demonstrative, and, unless you know someone well, may not appreciate it if you put your arm around their shoulder. Kissing is most often reserved for family members in the privacy of home, rather than in public. You'll see that the British prefer to maintain a few feet of distance between themselves and the person to whom they are speaking. If you have insulted someone, their facial expression may not change.
The British are very reserved and private people. Privacy is extremely important. The British will not necessarily give you a tour of their home and, in fact, may keep most doors closed. They expect others to respect their privacy. This extends to not asking personal questions. The question, “Where are you from?” may be viewed as an attempt to “place” the person on the social or class scale. Even close friends do not ask pointedly personal questions, particularly pertaining to one’s financial situation or relationships.
There is a proper way to act in most situations and the British are sticklers for adherence to protocol. The British are a bit more contained in their body language and hand gestures while speaking. They are generally more distant and reserved than North and South Americans and Southern Europeans, and may not initially appear to be as open or friendly. Friendships take longer to build; however, once established they tend to be deep and may last over time and distance.
British Etiquette and Customs
Meeting and Greeting
Gift Giving Etiquette
Business Etiquette and Protocol
The British Communication Style
The British have an interesting mix of communication styles encompassing both understatement and direct communication. Many older businesspeople or those from the 'upper class' rely heavily upon formal use of established protocol. Most British are masters of understatement and do not use effusive language. If anything, they have a marked tendency to use ‘qualifiers’ such as 'perhaps', ‘possibly’ or 'it could be'.
When communicating with people they see as equal to themselves in rank or class, the British are direct, but modest. If communicating with someone they know well, their style may be more informal, although they will still be reserved.
Written communication follows strict rules of protocol. How a letter is closed varies depending upon how well the writer knows the recipient. Written communication is always addressed using the person's title and their surname. First names are not generally used in written communication, unless you know the person well.
E-mail is now much more widespread, however the communication style remains more formal, at least initially, than in many other countries. Most British will not use slang or abbreviations and will think negatively if your communication appears overly familiar.
The British can be quite formal and sometimes prefer to work with people and companies they know or who are known to their associates. The younger generation however is very different; they do not need long-standing personal relationships before they do business with people and do not require an intermediary to make business introductions. Nonetheless, networking and relationship building are often key to long-term business success.
Most British look for long-term relationships with people they do business with and will be cautious if you appear to be going after a quick deal.
If you plan to use an agenda, be sure to forward it to your British colleagues in sufficient time for them to review it and recommend any changes.
Punctuality is important in business situations. In most cases, the people you are meeting will be on time. Scots are extremely punctual. Call if you will be even 5 minutes later than agreed. Having said that, punctuality is often a matter of personal style and emergencies do arise. If you are kept waiting a few minutes, do not make an issue of it. Likewise, if you know that you will be late it is a good idea to telephone and offer your apologies.
How meetings are conducted is often determined by the composition of people attending:
In general, meetings will be rather formal:
Being a Manager in United Kingdom
To ensure successful cross cultural management should treat all people with respect and deference and to not waste anyone's time. This means that you should arrive at meetings prepared and ready to discuss the matter at hand. Expect your British colleagues to not be very emotive with their facial expressions and word choices. And keep in mind, the British are known for their dry wit.
In the UK, even though traditional organizations may be somewhat hierarchical, there is a sense that most people in the company have an important role to play and are valued for their input. Therefore, managers lose no respect by consulting employees to gather background information and or by sharing the decision-making process. More and more often, employees expect to be consulted on decisions that affect them and the greater good of the organization, and not doing so may have a negative impact on moral for those who want to feel responsible for the success of the organization.
The Role of a Manager
Cross cultural communiciation will be more effective when working in United Kingdom when you remember that the most productive managers in United Kingdom recognize and value the specialized knowledge that employees at all levels bring. Employees expect to be consulted on decisions that affect them and the greater good of the organization.
Approach to Change
The United Kingdom’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is developing all the time. United Kingdom is seen to have a medium tolerance for change and risk. It is important for innovations to have a track record or history noting the benefits if they are to be accepted and implemented.
The fear of exposure, and the potential of embarrassment that may accompany failure, brings about aversion to risk and the need to thoroughly examine the potential negative implications so some intercultural sensitivity may be required.
Approach to Time and Priorities
The UK is a controlled-time culture. Global and intercultural expansion has meant that adherence to schedules is important and expected. Missing a deadline is a sign of poor management and inefficiency, and will shake people’s confidence. People in controlled-time cultures tend to have their time highly scheduled, and it’s generally a good idea to provide and adhere to performance milestones. Since Brits respect schedules and deadlines, it is not unusual for managers to expect people to work late in order to meet target deadlines. Successful intercultural management will depend on the individual’s ability to meet deadlines.
The management style in the United Kingdom is undergoing a metamorphosis, so you will find a variety of styles. In old-line businesses, the managing directors are the overall decision-makers.
In other industries, managers strive for consensus and make a concerted attempt to get everyone's input before a decision is reached. The manager may still make the ultimate decision, after consultation with the staff.
Teamwork is becoming increasingly important in most organizations. Brits believe the best ideas and solutions often come from having many stakeholders meet to discuss an issue. They also prefer for the highest-ranking person to make the decision (and then perhaps clear it with someone at a higher level), so decision-making can be laborious.
British managers will praise employees, although not generally in public. Subordinates expect their efforts to be recognized and rewarded. Most British are suspicious if praise is excessive or undeserved.
Boss or Team Player
In United Kingdom, groups collaborate well together as teams. Members are generally chosen to participate based on tangible skills or the knowledge base they bring, and are equally welcome to contribute to any discussion that may arise. They are encouraged to generate new ideas that may further the direction of the plan or spawn a new track entirely. In successful, dynamic teams, all members are valued for their actual and potential contribution, and all are treated with equal respect.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
Communication will be direct and reserved. Avoid confrontational behavior or high-pressure tactics. Avoid displays of emotion and do not argue on the basis of feelings. Decision-making is slow and deliberate and so patience may be a necessary cross cultural attribute. It is a good idea to send a letter summarizing what was decided and what the next steps are.
UK related links and resources
* Currency - the currency of the UK is the Great British Pound. Use the free currency converter to compare to dollars, GBP, etc.
* Weather - visit Yahoo!'s up to date Weather for the UK (although it's probably raining!).
* Dialling Code - the international dialling code for the UK is +44.
* Time - UK is at GMT.
information provided by www.kwintessential.co.uk