Working in the UK - SpeakPlus

Our guide to working differences: France vs United Kingdom

Nowadays, a lot of professionals want to have an international work experience. This is the case for many of our language coaches. Today, we meet one our English coach, Leigh Roberts! Originally from the United Kingdom, he moved to France last year to live and work. He agreed to tell us about some of the differences he noticed between working in the UK and working in France.

Working hours

For a start, French employees in private companies work longer hours, in general. A normal working day for a Brit would be 8.30-9am to around 5.30pm. Many French professionals I speak to routinely work until 6.30-7pm but they start at the same time as their British counterparts, sometimes earlier. The big difference is that Brits will generally only have a very short lunchbreak or have lunch at their desk so they can carry on working and go home early. It is almost unheard of to have more than an hour for lunch. Saying that, if you are a manager, then your days will be longer than anyone else’s, whether you work in Britain or France.

A different way of greeting people

One other minor difference is that British workers do not shake hands with their colleagues when they arrive at work and they NEVER kiss their colleagues. Ever! Of course, I have spoken to many professionals in France who tell me that this does not happen in their office either but it is simply not heard of at all in the UK. A simple, “Hi”, “Hello” or “Morning” is enough. Naturally, if you meet someone for the first time or you meet a visitor then you would shake hands with them; it would seem odd if you didn’t.

Relationships with managers

SpeakPlus - animer une réunion en anglaisRelationships with managers tend to be quite relaxed in the UK and first names are very often, and widely, used. There is, of course, a ‘hierarchical limit’ when using first names and this varies on a company by company basis. In formal environments, there will be a managerial level that insists on being referred to as Mr. (mister), Mrs. (missus) or Ms. (miz/mzz):

  • Men are referred to as ‘mister’ + surname whether they are married or not (Mr. Davis).
  • Single women used to be referred to as ‘miss’ + surname (Miss Jones).
  • Married women were referred to as ‘missus’ + surname (Mrs. Carpenter).

Warning: many women felt their marital status was completely irrelevant (whether at work or in private) so the new title ‘Ms’ was created but it’s not used by everyone. Every senior woman manager will have their own preferences so make sure you find out before you refer to an unmarried female CEO as ‘Miss’!!!

Professional meetings

SpeakPlus - travailler avec des anglaisIn the UK, somebody in the meeting will have to lead it and make decisions but if you’ve been invited to a meeting, it’s generally because you have something to contribute. Consequently, it’s alright to express your point of view or ask questions. Indeed, if you go to a meeting and don’t say anything, people will wonder why you are there; just make sure that if you have something to say, it’s relevant to what is being discussed.

NEVER BE LATE FOR A MEETING!!! If the meeting is set to start at 10am, make sure you are in the room, fully prepared, at least five minutes before it is due to start. Generally speaking, there is no leeway at all for appointments or meeting times in the UK: the time you are given is the time the meeting is expected to start.


About our English teacher Leigh Roberts

English teacher - Leigh Roberts - SpeakPlusMy name is Leigh Roberts, I am 55. I am originally from the south-east of the UK. Last year, I moved to the southern Charente. In 2009, I went back to university, gained a teaching qualification and then a degree. I have been teaching English in classrooms, businesses and online ever since. Most of my time is now spent teaching English online and I love it. The contact is truly one-to-one, the sessions can be fully tailored to meet people’s needs and there is no shame in making mistakes.

I am very interested in politics and history. I love watching rugby (but no longer play). I enjoy making furniture and I am absolutely, crazily, madly and ridiculously obsessed with greyhounds.


Do you want to follow English lessons with Leigh? Please click here to start your one-to-one language lessons by webcam!

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