Cultural Differences

My supervisor, Margaret, is probably the most genuine person I’ve ever me. She is passionate about what she does and life itself. She is curious about life in the United States, and offers me insight to the tips and tricks of the UK. So that’s what I’m going to dedicate this blog to.

One thing that is drastically different in the UK is how they treat higher education (or university as they call it here). The major thing that separates us is the cost of attendance. In the UK, there is a maximum tuition charge of 9,000 pounds, or about 11,000 dollars, and it’s a flat rate for every university. When Margaret and I were discussing this, she mentioned how the price here even deters some people from attending. Margaret’s son, Charlie, is 17 and just started looking at potential schools. He wants to be a filmmaker, but from what I understand there aren’t that many good university programs for it. Margaret said this is common, that people are opting out of higher education to go into a specific trade. She told me that university is viewed not as a means to an end, unless you want to go into something specific like law, medicine, or business. Comparatively, I think in the United States teenagers view college as their only option to getting a career.

For my International Accounting class, we’ve gotten the opportunity to visit different companies in the UK. We’ve seen everywhere from the International Accounting Standards Board, to EY and PwC, to FedEx. When we visited EY, we got to talk to a woman from Texas who decided to work in the UK not only because her love of travel, but also because the benefits in the UK. She told us that they have 25 days of vacation, and they have to schedule all 25 of them. In the US, this number is significantly lower and if you didn’t schedule all your days, there’s a good chance no one will say anything to you. At EY, they also have a flex program where working mothers can choose their own hours. She talked about how a woman on her team only works Monday-Friday 9-4, even during busy season. In the UK, they also have extremely different views when it comes to maternity and paternity leave. Here, they allow you 39 weeks and it also extends to fathers as well. Compared to our 12 weeks in the United States. Even Margaret leaves the office a little earlier than I do, if she has somewhere important to be or just finished her work for the day.

The people in the UK work to live, not live to work. I might have mentioned that on here before, but it becomes more and more apparent. During our EY visit, they talked about how even during their busy season the latest they would work is until 12am maybe 1. In the US, you could be working until about 3 am. Work is viewed as a means to make money, not their entire life. The English don’t view work as a lifestyle, just work. They like to travel, play sports, enjoy time with their families. Now, I’m not saying that American’s don’t, but it’s a pretty interesting difference. Margaret runs a 5k every weekend, goes to comedy shows on the weekend, and plays tennis. Although she loves her work, she still dedicates so much time to other things she enjoys.

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