Microsoft helps Americans understand UK

March 15, 2013

Educating employees before they move countries is obviously a noble undertaking. Unfortunately some of the advice handed out can come across as a little unnecessary and condescending when read out of context. Still, Microsoft should be awarded an A for effort.

The United States and the United Kingdom are long-time friends. The two countries share a language, a homogeneous, multi-cultural population and a love for one another’s cultures. And yet despite all this the U.S. and the U.K. are very different countries.

Microsoft has recognized this fact, and so rather than send American workers to the U.K, ill-advised and unprepared, the company has produced a guidebook for these employees to read before they make the trip over the pond into a new life. As a Brit myself, some of the guide makes for amusing reading.

The pamphlet is titled A Guide To Working & Living in Cambridge (Cambridge being the city housing Microsoft Research’s UK facility). It helpfully informs incoming workers that firearms and drugs are illegal in the U.K. It also suggests that while the NHS is indeed free, the “main disadvantage” to this in practice is that there can “occasionally be long waits for certain treatments.”

Next on the list is the humble pub, which is “more than a plain bar,” instead being “homely places full of historical character (and characters!).” And don’t forget chippies, which sell the “national treat of fish, e.g. cod, fried in a crispy batter.”

More differences are outlined, such as terms for housing and the higher price of petrol in Europe. All stuff which an incoming American worker needs to know, but which sounds rather odd when spelled out so blandly in a handbook of this nature.

Despite my slightly mocking tone, American Bridget Hannigan, who moved to the U.K. in 1988, told BBC News, “[This guide is] not a bad thing. If someone has just been transported here I think this could be helpful. There are a lot of differences. It took me about three months to adjust.”

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