Semester Abroad: Differences in the Workplace – U.S. vs U.K.

Though I have only been living in London for three months, there are a lot of differences I have already noticed between the United States and the United Kingdom, especially in the workplace.

I have had past internships as a graphic designer in design studios in Los Angeles–but here in London, I was placed at a boutique design studio called WTF Creative, whose largest clients are HBO, Warner Bros, and other big names in the entertainment industry.

In my past internships, I always equated work with stress because there was a lot of routine, competition, and minor room for error.

Working in London, my experience has been somewhat the reverse. Here, the designers work hard, but they also play hard. They communicate and work together, but they also insult each other, joke around, and listen to music as they work.

I wouldn’t say my past internships in LA were boring, but I also wouldn’t call them exciting. In London, I call them exciting. My very first task in the office was to create a two-hour Spotify playlist of my favorite music so that they could “judge” my music taste.

Since then, I’ve been working with renowned clients and designing brand identity projects. I am living a dream.

There is also a professional drinking culture in England. WTF Creative employees go to the pub together during lunch and have drinks in the office on Fridays. To be fair, they have a lot about which to say “cheers.”

Above all, there is endless tea. Someone is always making tea in the office and offering everyone else a cup. There is also a plethora of food in the office. Mike, one of the partners, brings me boxes of chocolates every day. Naturally, I always finish them. It would be rude not to, right?

Additionally, the designers are young and fun. Unlike in the US, there is no hierarchy between the CEOs and their employees; everyone is treated equally. Team members banter and give each other a hard time, but they do it because they love each other. They don’t act like colleagues; they act like friends, or even like family. They made me feel welcome since day one. They call me “T” and make fun of my accent and laugh about the way I address things; what I call chips, they call crisps, and what they call chips, I call fries.

There are, of course, other aspects about living in London that are different from living in the States, apart from the workplace. On some gloomy days, I miss Los Angeles’s always-warm weather. I miss a real, large cup of coffee. I miss my friends.

Three months away from home can be draining, but the experiences make it so worth it. I also miss driving on the right side of the road.

On the other hand, I don’t miss Boston’s horrible public transportation (the Tube is life-changing). I don’t miss Boston’s winter and below-freezing weather. I thought I could finally get away from snowstorms–but, of course, during the semester I am in London, the city has had its first snowstorms in years.



Taryn Rostovsky, Staff Writer

Taryn Rostovsky is third-year student at Boston University, pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design and double minoring in communications and dance. She is currently studying and interning abroad in London, and is traveling and blogging around Europe. Eventually, Taryn hopes to fuse her appreciation for design and advertising to further a career in the field.

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