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The 7 habits of the Elusive English

The English are different: 7 habits to bear in mind when working with the English:

    1. The English are famed for their indirectness
    What they say may not be what they mean driven by a desire not to offend. For instance such phrases as ‘it is an interesting idea’ or ‘it’s nice’ are often polite ways of saying that they are not interested in them. Make sure that you clarify but try to use words that are not too blunt – for example: ‘so you mean that it is not quite what you were looking for’. Asking for clarity in a polite way will be appreciated.

    2. Conservative dress
    In England, unless you work in advertising or other parts of the media, office wear is conservative. That means dark coloured suits for men and women. Coloured shirts are acceptable as well as bright ties although this will vary according to the type of business.

    3. Why so many words
    The English are well known for their extensive vocabulary which is partly driven by the desire not to offend and put across a message in a subtle way. Try to learn from the English what words they use and when. If you are in doubt try to add some context and explain in more detail.

    4. Hierarchies
    The English are not as rigid in their hierarchies as the French or the Germans but are more formal than for instance the Dutch. Respect is expected for your boss and you would be unlikely to find an English person criticising or contradicting their boss in a formal setting with other people.

    5. Meetings
    In some countries it is considered important that everyone at a meeting should contribute. In England this is not the case and it is a general view that only those with useful input should speak. This naturally does not always happen due to differing views on what is useful and the amount of engagement. The best strategy is to comment only on key items and remember; not in a blunt manner.

    6. Discussing the deal
    Unlike some other countrymen, the English like to start discussions with warming up conversations about the weather, football teams, etc. This creates a sort of social bond before moving on to discuss the deal. This can be very frustrating if you come from a different culture but dismissing it can easily offend the other party. Play along and gently say ‘shall we discuss the offer’ if the intro lasts too long.

    7. Networking
    This word makes most English people shiver! The English positively hate the up-front style of brash networking. The way most English network is done via social chit chat with a vague mention at the end about their business or a casual suggestion of exchanging business cards. A full on assault without any warming up is likely to lead to your card being binned without the details being recorded!

3 Comments for this Post
  • Pingback: Socialising with the elusive english | Wykeman

  • Jan Willem Lensen
    May 16, 2012 at 7:38 am

    How true it all sounds. Nearly 20 years in the UK and well used to it. Funny, that when discussing it with an English person, they usually respond with….”oh, but you are Dutch”.

  • Josephine Bacon
    August 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    The worst thing that English people do is boast about how bad they are at languages. It is quite common for am English person, when introduced to someone with a “foreign” name to say “Oh, well, I won’t say your name, I couldn’t possibly pronounce it!” They may even say this after they have pronounced it! As a court interpreter, I was once in a child custody case in which the children’s guardian happened to be a Nigerian woman. The judge said “Oh, I won’t bother to pronounce your name”. Ho rude is that?

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