An American in London

For several years, I have worked for American companies. Working for a satellite office of a US company is difficult for all concerned (including the US parent). A ex-colleague (and now good friend) of mine used to say the worst thing about being an American working in London was that, as a native English speaker, you put less effort into understanding the culture of the UK. You felt it was, somehow, the same as New York, Boston or whichever US city was applicable. The problem is, the UK is not the same. We have different sensibilities, a different outlook, a different way of expressing ourselves and a whole different way of working. This, of course, leads to a whole range of new problems over-and-above the more obvious (why can’t this software work in Sterling?) procedural, production or product issues. I did vow that I would never work for a US company again as the effort required just to do some of the more menial minutia of day-to-day working seemed unnecessarily hard (when will they get my tax code correct?). Still, I did it and this week we are playing host to a colleague from our New York office.

Today has been her first day in the London office and, it’s strange, because every time I meet an American co-worker I go through the same process. I must try to stress that the UK is different and instil an expectation that, although speaking (more-or-less) the same language it’s not downtown NYC. Except this time, she (I am refraining from naming for no real reason except, dear readers, you will have noticed I do not name many people in this blog) is a real Anglophile. She loves England. Tudor England, maybe, but loves it. She understands that things are not the same. Warm beer is not a crime against civilisation; it has a whole heritage and history of its own. It is truly refreshing and, in a bizarre way, made me quite happy.

This evening, therefore, we went to dinner together at Joe Allen’s restaurant because I like the theatrical nature of the place and I know it serves great food. We had a fantastic evening just talking (and, of course, we discussed office politics but not too much). I thoroughly enjoyed spending the evening with somebody who was wide-eyed to London (in fact, who seemed to be falling in love with the city that I fell in love with) and not jaded (as many of us who live here are). I even vowed to take more buses so I could see the city and not live my commuting life in an underground hell. A new perspective on my city has done wonders for me.

On this day…