I moved to London after working in the US for nearly 6 years, thinking, “How different could it be?” And oh boy! Was it different! That said, I wouldn’t trade the 5 year-London experience for anything else! For me working in America was about political correctness (i.e. no “F-bombs” in the office) long hours and short holidays. I brought that with me to London and was surprised. Jaw-droppingly surprised.
Pens dropped and the familiar computer shutdown tunes sounded mid-sentence at 5:30PM; people actually took 2 to 3 week-long holidays (vacation, for you Americans reading this) without worry of losing their job. I was amazed by the natural ease at with the perceived work-life balance played out and dug it! But my two all-time favourite experiences were –
1) A liquid (read: multiple Guinnesses) lunch & a test of my knowledge of football (soccer, for you Americans reading this) rules with my sales guys. I passed and I was declared one of the team!
2) A business meeting after work with a French client from a prominent American corporation. I nearly fell of my chair when the conversation started with (imagine heavy French accent), “You American women are just not sexy… we French men like women showing a little bit of lingerie.” I hung in there and finished the meeting and the pitch.
When working in multiple geographies, a thick skin helps, so too does a sense of humor, flexibility and the ability to “not hear” odd-ball comments. I didn’t win the business with the aforementioned client but I doubt it was due to my sex appeal (after all he did want to take me to dinner after). And I will forever have a great story to tell about my rocky start at the London office.
This is a guest blog by Rema Iyer, who now works in Boston, USA