I posted a few weeks ago about my faux pas in the work place, and struggles adapting to ‘British English’, especially in the work place where you don’t want to insult or offend. Now that I’ve been working in the UK for almost a full year (!) I’ve had time to compare the work culture here to that in America. In addition to being a minority in most meetings because I was the only woman (or one of a very small number), now I am also the only American,which has taken some getting used to.
40 hour weeks are not the norm. Most employees work a standard 37 to 37.5 hour week, anything after that is overtime. Obviously, as with the US, overtime is necessary sometimes to meet deadlines. Overall though, I can’t really argue with less hours.
More holiday! The emphasis on holiday time is much more here than in the US. When I started working in the US, I had 2 weeks of holiday, and at another company had 3 weeks, but any sick days came out of the same pool. The standard across companies here seems to be 4-5 weeks, sometimes with days off at Christmas as well in addition to Bank Holidays. I am completely on board with the more holiday time, as 2 weeks a year isn’t really enough to fully relax and unplug.
Apprenticeships. The concept of investing in 18 year olds fresh out of school isn’t one you often see except in trades in America. I’d never heard of someone learning to work in an office environment and having a company pay for their undergraduate degree, but it’s a fairly common thing here. No student loans and lots of work experience? Sounds like a good idea, and the company benefits as well.
Recruitment agents: I wasn’t used to being headhunted, so when I was searching for a job in the UK, I found that most positions required me to work through an agent. This was good in some ways, as they did most of the leg work, but I disliked the amount of pressure put on me to make fast decisions about accepting a position.
Pay Difference. I did some research on average starting salaries for comparable experience on Payscale.com that indicated that the average starting salaries in the UK for engineering are significantly lower than the rates paid in the US. Paired with a higher cost of living, this is definitely something to research and consider before taking a job.
Benefits and Health Insurance: This is changing with legislation, but now in the US insurance is offered by almost every full time job, though the costs are rising significantly at the moment. In the UK, health care is free for all, but some companies still offer private insurance to employees for faster and more private care. Something I didn’t realize before hand and a benefit to consider.
Certifications: I knew ahead of time that my PE license would be essentially useless in the UK. I hadn’t thought about the fact that I should try to get the equivalent here, chartership, which I am working on currently. Luckily, my university credentials are accredited by an international board so they transferred. So research ahead of time which credentials will be accepted, and which may require a bit more work.
Overall, working in the UK has been and continues to be a positive experience. I’m not sure how the culture shock will be when I eventually go back to America and find myself with far less vacation time, but I’m trying not to think about that…