5 Key Differences Between UK and US Business Culture

Are you planning to do business overseas?

As a UK business owner, you may think it’s no big deal to do business across the pond. The UK and the US have a language in common, after all. The customs should not be that different, right?

Wrong. There are several cultural differences between the two countries. Let’s explore the vast difference between UK and US business culture.

1. The Difference Between UK and US Business Markets

If you want to jump into the business market overseas, be aware that the UK and US markets are vastly different. While the UK business market is a large global contender, it is more cohesive than American markets.

The business market in the States cannot be considered in its entirety. Instead, it’s a patchwork of markets based on the US state, region, and even business type.

In order to dive into the British business market, you just have to study one set of stats. If you’re interested in the US market, study your target market carefully instead of focusing on an overview of American markets as a whole.

2. Differences In Small Talk

Have you ever exchanged pleasantries with a US business counterpart?

Socializing in British business circles is very different than mingling with American businessmen.

  • In America, self-promotion is acceptable and even encouraged.
  • In the UK, small talk before a meeting is common, whereas Americans get right to the point of the matter.
  • American small talk is based on pop culture and celebrity.
  • British business small talk is based around politics, the weather, and other more generic topics.

As a UK businessperson, if you do business with American counterparts, get used to a bit of bragging. In the US, talking about your own accomplishments will score you points with potential partners and colleagues, whereas in Great Britain this is considered obnoxious. Think of self-promotion as a positive: It gives you insight into your business counterpart’s strengths and accomplishments without having to research or observe them on your own.

3. US Business Is Fast-Paced

In the UK, business people truly value work/life balance. Shorter business hours are observed. Socialization with co-workers, once you are off the clock, is normal.

In US business culture, it seems as though no one is ever really off the clock. Long business hours, eating lunch in your own cubical, and seizing the opportunity for overtime are standard habits.

In the UK, you might grab a pint after work with a business colleague, simply for the pleasure of drinking and chatting. Pub nights and weekends are a work tradition.

In the US, if you’re dining with your coworkers, it is usually a working lunch or dinner. You dine and talk about business, or you go out for the purpose of networking with other professionals. Americans are all business almost all the time.

4. Differences Between UK and US Business Holidays

Are you used to British bank holidays? If so, get ready to take days off on a different set of holidays.

US federal holidays happen less often than British bank holidays, and each set of holidays is different. For instance, British businesses observe Boxing day, while for Americans this day is no different than the next. In America, Martin Luther King Day and other national holidays are observed, whereas in Great Britain they hold no significance.

5. Subtle Differences In Manner of Speech

If you’re from across the pond, you may not understand the subtle differences in speech tendencies between the two business cultures. This could potentially land you in a business dealing you don’t want, or even in legal trouble. Be prepared to have Sweet Lawyers on speed dial in case a “Maybe” is interpreted as a “yes” between British and US business counterparts.

Whereas British colleagues do business by talking between the lines, US counterparts are more direct. There is no reading between the lines with business partners in the States. 

Ready to Do Business? 

Which difference between UK and US business cultures surprises you most?

Now that you’ve learned about the various cultural subtleties, you’re ready to meet with your business counterparts overseas. For more tips and tricks on business etiquette, browse the rest of our blog today. Also, come back every day for new material about how to explore the work of an entrepreneur.