Most UK companies still have distinct hierarchies with managers making most of the decisions and being very firmly in charge of teams of employees. Leading a team efficiently and having a good relationship with staff are considered important management skills. Teamwork within the team is highly valued. It’s common for staff to go out for a drink at a pub or bar after work. You can read more in our article on business culture in the United Kingdom.

The British like meetings; lots of them. They are usually planned in advance with a set agenda and while they can be informal in tone, everyone leaves with a specific task. The low key, ironic British sense of humour with its understatement and euphemism is often used in the workplace to indirectly express criticism or prevent embarrassment and can be initially hard for foreigners to understand.

The British are polite but fairly formal and logical; pragmatism is favoured over excessive red tape and bureaucracy. The annual budget is the focus of organisational planning. Reaching or surpassing targets may be rewarded with bonus payments. It’s common for managers to work through lunch or take work home.

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You may become aware of ‘class distinctions’ shown mainly by a person’s accent, education and their appearance and behaviour in the workplace. Networks from the historically elite schools (such as Eton) and universities (like Cambridge and Oxford, sometimes combined as ‘Oxbridge’) – the so-called ‘old boys’ club’ – still play a role in some sectors like the city, law, politics and sections of the media. Men still dominate higher management positions.


If you speak another language other than English, you’ll have a big advantage over many British applicants – most of whom will only be able to speak English – but you will almost certainly need to be able to speak English yourself to get a job in the UK. To get a visa to come to the UK to work, you may need to prove your English language proficiency anyway. If your English needs improving, consider taking a course run by a language school. The UK Border Agency has a list of language tests that meet the Home Office requirements.

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There is a shortage of language teachers in the UK. If you hold a university degree and can speak English well, you might be able to take a post-graduate course to allow you to teach your mother tongue in an English school or college.

Qualifications and references

You can find out how qualifications awarded in your home country relate to British qualifications through UK NARIC. If you want to know if your professional qualifications are recognised in the UK, contact the relevant professional body. You should make sure any references or testimonials are translated into English.