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Working in the United Kingdom

Your guide to expat life in the United Kingdom

Want to work in the United Kingdom?

The UK is an economic powerhouse with the fifth largest GDP in the world. Expats are attracted to the country’s strong economy, political stability, good working conditions and high standard of living.

While the corporate world remains conservative, enterprising expats have the opportunity to make their mark in a dynamic and diverse business environment.

Each of the UK’s four nations has its own unique characteristics, but business practices, etiquette and culture are all influenced by politeness and courtesy.

Business in the UK

The British are generally reserved and pride themselves on good manners and behaviour. Business dealings are very diplomatic, with everyone making an effort to be considerate and polite. Communication is restrained, directness is avoided, and evasive, cryptic and sometimes humorous statements are substituted for what’s actually meant. You’ll need to become adept at understanding these subtleties.

The business sphere is very formal. Dress is conservative, punctuality is paramount and outward displays of emotion are seen as distasteful.

Many businesses have moved towards an egalitarian approach where positions parallel each other. As a result, responsibilities and hierarchies can sometimes be unclear, which can be frustrating for people used to explicit directives and a culture of subordination.

Women are treated equally in the British workplace. They make up nearly half of the workforce and hold more managerial positions than in most European countries.

Practical details

English is the language of business and working hours are from 09:00 to 17:00, Monday to Friday. Outside the public sector, employees often work much later. Business dress is conservative and formal in the corporate workplace, with both men and women wearing dark suits.

A firm handshake is the best business greeting. Address senior colleagues with their formal title until told otherwise. Gifts are not expected and can be inappropriate, but a round of drinks is happily received.

Expat salaries in the UK

Expat salaries in the UK don’t differ much from local salaries but are generally high. This is especially true for the finance, law and IT sectors, as well as most corporate positions.

Top tips for working in the UK

See what people responding to our Expat Explorer Survey think about living in the UK.

See the beautiful landscapes, cultural and historical buildings.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in September 2021. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information is purely for orientation and to inspire further research, it does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you're aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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