UK/US Cultural Differences

Excerpt from Chapter 2 of “Pond Business: How to Succeed Across the Atlantic” by Mark Sutherland, available from Dunrobin Publishing on Amazon and Amazon UK and in bookstores in the UK and the US.

Ricky Gervais, the British award-winning comedian, wrote a rather interesting article for Time in November 2011 that gives us a wee bit of insight into the cultural differences between the UK and the USA.

“It’s often dangerous to generalize, but under threat, I would say that Americans are more ‘down the line,’” he wrote. “[Americans] don’t hide their hopes and fears. They applaud ambition and openly reward success. Brits are more comfortable with life’s losers. We embrace the underdog until it’s no longer the underdog. We like to bring authority down a peg or two. Americans say, ‘Have a nice day’ whether they mean it or not. Brits are terrified to say this.”

And thus we begin to understand that our two nations are full of people who act, think and view the world differently from each other. However, because we seem to look the same on the outside due to our style of dress or culture, and speak a similar language, we can very easily fall into the dangerous assumption that we think the same way in life and in business. And a failure to understand this can be costly indeed.

“I think the key things here would be small differences in terms of surfacing ambiguities and getting down to the nitty gritty of deal-making,” a friend of mine in the UK’s Department of International Trade (DIT) told me once. “It’s a little bit of a cliché but true all the same that Brits can have slightly less focused pitches and be a bit reticent about explaining what they are really good at and why their product or service is the best.” Basically, Brits don’t like to brag, even when their boasts are absolutely true.

“The other area I find is in terms of selling yourself individually,” he continued. “Americans can sometimes be a bit more upfront about where they went to school, where they live, even what they earn, whereas for some Brits a kind of modesty can prevail.”

You can read more about my cross-Pond experiences and insights on how to succeed in your cross-Pond business ventures from corporate, governmental and organizational leaders in both countries in “Pond Business: How to Succeed Across the Atlantic.”