British Mentality

As a seafaring country with an extensive colonial history, Great Britain has a very large ethnic and cultural diversity. It is therefore particularly difficult to describe British culture. Nevertheless, or precisely because of this, there are some peculiarities of British culture that are important for business dealings with the British.

Many Britons love personal freedom, are, unlike most Germans, rather individualists and like to express this through a certain eccentricity. In spite of all individuality and diversity, Britons have learned to enable and secure their freedom by living together. This is probably why the British are tolerant and considerate of other people and love to work together in teams and are very successful at it.

In Great Britain, it is (still) good manners to wait to be introduced by third parties and not to introduce oneself. Brits today often call each other by their first names from the moment they meet. If a British person introduces himself to you by his first name and you then introduce yourself by your first and last name, this has a distancing effect on the British person. Titles are also not mentioned. Handshakes are limited to first meetings. At later meetings, you do not shake hands. This would be taken as a sign that the first meeting is no longer remembered. Conversations are always introduced with extensive “small talk”. Small talk is very important in Great Britain. You must walk a fine line of being personal without becoming private. Politics and religion are unsuitable for small talk because there are too many opinions on these topics. Conversations about health or family are too intimate for many Brits. Britons tend towards understatement as well as subtle and “quiet” humor, which is not always easy for Germans to understand.

Unlike in France, business in Britain is often discussed over meals or during leisure activities. Meetings at golf, cricket, or rugby are just as suitable as visits to the theater or opera.

The business dress code in Great Britain is more formal than in Germany. Casual dress is uncommon in established businesses.

Building personal relationships is more important in Britain than in some other countries, where professional and technical expertise are used to build trust. Britons signal their interest in building relationships through their membership in clubs and societies.

Interaction is more relaxed in the UK than in many other countries, but no less professional. It is also easier to talk to company bosses in Great Britain. Interaction in Great Britain is less distant and less bureaucratic than in some other countries. But don’t underestimate the pronounced hierarchical thinking in British society and in British business.

The British are very polite. They communicate more indirectly, respectfully and diplomatically than some others. The British would never openly reject an idea from an interlocutor or an employee. It is more likely that they would then reply as follows: “Your idea could perhaps be interesting.”

Example: If your immediate boss in Britain says to you, “I like your straight forward thinking,” this is more likely to be understood as hidden criticism than as recognition.

British people use phrases such as “I might be wrong, but …” or “I am not sure, but …” to introduce criticism.

The length of a conversation about a topic is also not an indicator of a British person’s real interest. Brits like to engage in cultivated conversation, regardless of whether anything concrete can result from it.

In business, the British communicate intensively by telephone, less readily by e-mail. Confirming the content of telephone conversations in writing tends to have the effect of withdrawing trust from the British. In telephone conversations, the British let each other finish speaking and do not interrupt each other. Coherent speaking times of conversation participants are significantly longer than in Germany; only when the speaker has finished does the conversation partner go into all points undisturbed.

Britons show less emotion than people from some other countries. Their facial expressions and gestures are also more economical (“stiff lip”) than those of people from other nations. This does not mean, however, that Britons are less emotionally moved than others; they merely maintain their composure.

Brits are still punctual even if they are 15 minutes late. It’s more like good manners to show up 15 minutes late. As a foreigner, you should still arrive at your meeting at the agreed time. British people expect this specially from foreigners like Germans, who stand for punctuality. Brits will make an effort to arrive on time as well.

In the UK, a great many people have at least a bachelor’s degree. Because of this almost inflationary development of degrees, the university where you got the degree counts. But even without an education, you have chances for a good professional career in the UK. Employees are given responsibility earlier in the UK than in many other countries. Everyone gets the chance to prove themselves – with or without a formal degree. Experience, potential, commitment and performance are rewarded. It is also more likely to be possible to make a lateral move than in other countries.

Pubs are one of the central points where relationships with Brits can develop and trust can be built.

Great Britain is a service-oriented country. There are only relatively few industrial companies. Almost all British companies are small or medium-sized. The natural involvement of freelancers is the rule rather than an exception in British companies. Work is therefore organized differently than in many other countries.

Look also to the Swiss mentality, the Austrian mentality, the Spanish mentality, the Dutch mentality, the Scandinavian mentality, the French mentality, the Turkish mentality, the US-American mentality, the Italian mentality, the Latin American mentality, the Indian mentality, the Chinese mentality, the Japanese mentality, the Russian mentality, and the Arab mentality.


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