Keep calm and carry on

The title of this post is a classic British-ism, and I think it’s one that is particularly good when it comes to advice to expats. If I had to summarize my experiences as a nearly 3-year resident of Britain, particularly as concerns my job, it would be this, to note this difference in attitude between my British work colleagues and American colleagues in previous jobs. I have mentioned before that the locals do not seem to have any experience in the American art of “venting“. I have been surprised on a number of occasions how the things I’ve said when “venting” have come back to me, perhaps not to “haunt” me per se, but certainly to make me aware that my toss-aside comments have been taken seriously and noted in some large record of my time spent working in England. And I’m not sure how to fix this one. I would never advise a young colleague not to “vent” about their frustrations and experiences, but I would certainly advise him or her that these “vents” will remain on their record and be taken seriously in a way that I would not have expected based on my prior work experiences in America.

I’m not quite sure what the problem is. I don’t know if my colleagues bristle at the implied criticism at the way things are done here, or if my speaking up is generally considered to be “too much” … I do know that as a personal foible I tend to relate too much detail about things when confronted with general assemblies, but I am interested in the fact that these details are apparently retained in some master list of things I have said. Regardless, it does create a situation where I try to watch every word I utter, sometimes with great personal difficulty as my typical “get it out there” behavior is suppressed. It’s one of the many and varied, albeit interesting, culture differences that I could only define as “subtle” and not something I expected to experience on my transition from US to UK life.

8 responses to “Keep calm and carry on

  1. I would advise them to start a blog, keep it anonymous, and then use it as a safe place to vent!

  2. It’s hard to respond to this succinctly because you’ve given precious few details. My own experience as an American working in Britain has taught me to basically keep my mouth shut, focus, and do the best that I can.

    The British will always circle the wagons when presented with Americans they don’t understand.

  3. Woah! That sounds a little too 1984 to me. A master list of things you’ve said!?!? If we were in America, this would just be seen as sarcasm but, in Europe, one never knows…

  4. Just because you’re *not* paranoid doesn’t mean that they are not all out to get you! 🙂

  5. Thanks for sharing. I’m about to start work soon and I suspected as much. But, seeing that they hired me on the spot despite my telling them that I used to vent to the manager quite often when I get frustrated and stressed, I thought it would be a promising sign.

  6. Things to add to my repertoire of British-ism:
    The stoic British stiff upper lip

  7. Yeah, I didn’t really get what you meant by “venting”. I’m assuming it means blowing off steam and expressing your anger and frustration without actually meaning what you’re saying, or giving a more considered, balanced view of what you really think? Because as far as I know, most if not all British people would assume you meant it, and would think you were having a go at them, bitching about your job/other people/Britain, or were just complaining or moaning really loudly and obnoxiously. They would assume you meant whatever you said and wanted to make sure everyone knew what you thought of them. I can’t imagine they’d particularly like it or find it easy to forget anything offensive you might not have meant.

    Venting’s fine, by all means, people need to do it. Just maybe not to the people you’re venting about. Or maybe when you feel more calm give a more balanced, fair opinion so you don’t seem so continually negative. People don’t want to believe you hate everything, they’d feel better if they knew you were just in a bad mood and weren’t thinking rationally at the time.

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