The Art of Understanding and giving feedback.
I have come across feedback that the English are too careful of other people’s feelings. I have some sympathy with this, I once worked somewhere where people were told, ‘we don’t think you will get promotion here so if you want to advance your career, you will need to look around’, this actually meant that management thought it was time for you to leave. If you come from a very blunt and direct culture, reading the subtlety of how the English give feedback can be bewildering. Normund here expresses his frustration with really getting to grips with what do we mean?
One of the aspects of UK life that has particularly stressed me is the culture and communication at work. In the places that I have worked it seems that although I worked hard to prove myself and m to move in a better position, that was not the key to achieve this as other people who were working less than me and hadn’t been employed as long as I did in those places were getting better positions. Another let-down for me was the kind of feedback I was and am still getting which has to do with a culture of not telling the truth so as to not hurt a person. When I ask about my work and how I am getting on, all I get is very positive feedback, though the results suggest otherwise. By results I mean the hours, I get as well as made to do less things than my job description involves.
Santho writes here about her first experiences when coming to the UK. Again, we here about the British politeness, how quiet it is compared to other countries and a slight hint here again about our customer service. This is definitely not something we have a worldwide reputation for.
“I am from India. I still vividly remember my first day in London. From Heathrow terminal station, I boarded the tube with my baggages. It was 7:30 AM. Trains were busy transporting people to work. People got in droves at all stations, crowding the cars terribly. I somehow managed to find a place for me and my baggage. I knew I was creating trouble by holding big suitcases and blocking peoples’ ways. But I was so surprised at the lack of frowns. Yeah! UK has the most polite people in the world!
Later in the day, when I walked along the streets for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the calm environment and the generally quiet ambience. Far less polluted, far less noisy city with such narrow roads! I love to watch bus drivers making sharp turns in such narrow roads. You should be on top of your driving abilities to manoeuvre these London roads. Back in India, two-wheelers are a common sight contributing to chaotic traffic, unlike here.
I also wanted to convey my surprise when visiting the huge superstores here. These superstores occupy acres of lands even in the centre of the city! And you get literally everything in the world! The big malls in India are generally multi-storey and occupy less ground area. Also at times I find it surprising to find very few customer service assistants in the stores.”
Gianni’s story here comments on our helpfulness as well as the opportunities that there are in the UK but also is again showing us how online the UK is. A few years ago, we would have been writing letters with application forms or c.vs (resumes) to apply for jobs. Now, you need to know the art of filling in an online form to apply for a job.
I am a 20 years old footballer from Greece and I came about 3 months ago to the UK to search for football team to play in , as the level of teams as well as the opportunities offered are more. I am currently staying with a friend while training and trying out for teams whilst searching for a morning job to be able to make some money to survive. What surprised me when I came to the UK, London to be precise ,is how everyone, no matter where they come from are willing to show you the way or help you in general, when you asked them. I was also surprised how helpful police are when you ask them in the street in comparison with back home. There are a few things, I would like to know before I came here. One of them is the language. I should have learnt and practiced more before I came to live here. The other thing, I would like to have known would be the process of finding a job in the UK. It is different in Greece where you can give your CV in paper or maybe know someone who will be able to get you a job through contacts, whereas in the UK most applications are done online.
I love Kina’s observations here. We have seen before that when you start to find Dad’s Army or Only Fools and Horses funny, you are starting to get the British sense of humour. Kina writes here also about greetings, these can be tricky for the British too, it very much depends on where you are; if you are in London, we greet with one kiss on each cheek, if you are outside London, its one one one cheek and we know that with Europeans/Americans its a hug and with the Dutch, its 3 (if you are good friends, 2 if not or a handshake, my friend tells me) . I have a friend who resolves the dilemma of greeting by giving an instruction as to how to do it when I meet him, he says’ one, right side’. This prevents the awful nose bumping if you are both going for different cheeks. I should say the rules about greeting are for women and women and women and men. Men tend to go for a handshake.
Kina also talks about the importance of the internet, I believe we are one of the most online countries in the world, we will see more of comments on this later.
Kina ‘s story
I have been in the UK for 10 years since I moved from Bulgaria in 2005. There are several things that made an impression on me. One of them was the shops, which were bigger and offered a wider range of products than the ones back home. At first, I thought the prices were a bit too high but then I realised that the prices were much more affordable compared to the ones in Bulgaria. I also struggled to learn the language as I didn’t use it much before. The humour was another aspect that was completely different from the one back home. This meant that either people would make jokes that I wouldn’t understand or I would say a joke people would not understand. Also, one should be careful not to make certain remarks or jokes as British people would find offensive. However, the very multi-cultural society of the UK and especially London helped me overcome these issues and blend in nicely. Furthermore, personal space is another aspect that is different to where I come from. In the UK it seems to me that people find their private space invaded easier than they would in my country. In addition to this, the way in which, people greet are different. The process of greeting someone does not involve hugging or giving kisses on the cheek which has brought me to some uncomfortable situations when the person you greet pulls back puzzled.
One thing I would have loved to know better before coming to the UK would be how to use the Internet, which would have enabled me to find more resources and learn about things quicker. Though even after years of experience of using computers and the Internet, I could still say that there is no site that actually has all the resources put together that are needed to guide someone who has moved in the UK through his/her first years.
One of the things that we are hot on in the UK is people keeping to time. We are a very busy nation so time is carefully allocated. A Spanish friend told me that when she goes home, people ask to come round for the evening and she responds now in a very British way, I would love to see you, I can do coffee between 11 and 1. She hasn’t got whole evenings to hang out any more.James writes here in a very funny way about the difference between African time and British time.
British Mean Time
I love the stories coming through on TGIUK as they give us an insight into aspects of British culture in a way that is not easy to understand when new to the UK. One of the things I find particularly interesting is the concept of “British” time.
When you arrange a meeting with an English person and agree a time (say 2pm), the expectation is that you will be there on time. If for any reason you are going to be late then the norm is that you phone ahead to let the person know that you are running late and advice on the revised time of arrival – in effect, punctuality is the essence of British life.
Contrast this with other parts of the world such as Africa, South America and the Asian sub continent where the issue of time is shall we say more “elastic”. In Zimbabwe for example, there is this concept of “Shona” time. The Shona time is not unique to Zimbabwe. If you are invited to a party and it’s supposed to start at 9pm and end at 1am then the chances are that it will end in the early hours of the morning (following day). Should you have the temerity to arrive on time your host will be wondering why you are there – as your host will not be ready for the event! Even worse they will wonder why you are so eager to eat their food – they will be wondering if you hadn’t got anything better to do with your time than to disturb them at what for them is an ungodly hour – never mind the fact that the invitation said 9pm! You could even become the talk of the party! A more appropriate time of arrival is to come about an hour or two late. To be fashionable, you might even arrive three or four hours late! Now contrast this with an English party. If it’s supposed start at 9pm and finish at 11pm, you can be sure that it will finish by 11pm sharp. If you manage to get there fashionable late, you will be surprised to find that the party is all over with your host nicely tucked up in bed or if it’s a public venue, the venue will be tidied up and no one in sight!
The maxim of this blog is that irrespective of which part of the world you come from you need to be mindful of the British mean time and ensure that at all times you are punctual for your appointments – to avoid embarrassment and/or disappointment.