Cultural Clues… Do’s & Taboos
A series of cultural tips for countries from A to Z
Communication Guidelines for England
Don’t assume all British English words and phrases mean the same as words and phrases from North America, Australia or other English speaking countries. Many of British English words and phrases have different or even opposite meanings! Spelling may be different as well.
British English pronounces consonants more clearly than many other English speaking countries. Avoid speaking too quickly or slurring words or you could come across as unprofessional.
Make an effort to speak in complete sentences. The English generally find the North American habit of trailing off in mid-sentence irritating.
Try to maintain a low, moderate tone of voice at all times.
More detached, businesslike approaches are the most welcome and respected.
English businesspeople are generally interested in long-term relationships rather than quick deals.
Once they decide that they want to do business with you, the English can be blunt, direct, and probably will not hesitate to speak their minds. Before this transition occurs, however, it is important to give them the necessary time to make an assessment of you, as well as of your proposal and company.
The English tend to emphasize short-term results rather than long-range objectives.
During initial meetings, facial expressions are kept to a minimum and, consequently, it may be difficult to perceive what the other participants are thinking.
Be aware in your dealings that the English are “masters of understatement.”
In decision-making, the English tend to seek guidance from established laws and rules, rather than their own personal experiences or feelings. Moreover, company policy is the primary authority for businesspeople at all levels of the organization.
Objective facts and evidence are the only legitimate sources of truth; feelings are usually irrelevant.
Again, precedent plays an important factor in decision-making. That is, your proposal stands a better chance if it conforms to the way things have been done in the past.
Direct questions may result in evasive responses.
Aggressive sales techniques such as the “hard sell” or denigrating another company’s product or service will not be well-received.
Humor is often an important part of business discussions in England, and having a repertoire of jokes and anecdotes can be an asset. Moreover, people who are good at telling jokes and stories should make the most of these abilities.
Characteristics of British humor include not stating the obvious, as well as implying the opposite of what is being said. Consequently, paying attention to what is not said or done is often a necessary part of appreciating this style of humor.
Be warned: the English can use humor, especially irony or sarcasm, as a weapon in ridiculing an adversary or showing disagreement or even contempt.
Although English business culture is intensely hierarchical, teamwork remains important, especially in influencing decisions.
Usually, a consensus is reached before presenting the final decision to the individual highest in power.
Decision-making tends to be a slow, deliberate, process.
Rushing or putting pressure on the decision-making process is usually counterproductive.
Be aware that the English won’t hesitate to say “no.”
Refrain from giving unsolicited praise, since it is not necessarily welcome.
- Your positive experiences in England and other travels.
- Your immediate surroundings including nature, architecture, food, ambience, weather etc.
- English history, sports, and other aspects of the culture
- All current events of a global nature.
- The English love animals, especially dogs. Family pets are always a good topic.
- The English usually enjoy talking about current events, and will be eager to hear your opinions as well. However, try to avoid getting into discussions about politics, particularly relating to Scotland or Northern Ireland.
- Do not be the first to bring up the subject of the Royal Family.
- Refrain from making enquiries regarding a person’s occupation, birthplace, religion, or other intrusive personal questions.
- Discussing your “family tree” is frowned upon here. Also avoid bringing up the British class system in conversation.
- Do not make references to the mediocrity of British food, since it has now improved significantly.
Knowing the communication styles, business strategies and approaches to multi-cultural etiquette can be the difference between success and failure when working or negotiating internationally. Learn to manage ‘culture shock’ and improve your Multi-Cultural Communication. We can assist with all aspects of international sales and negotiations or business management abroad.
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