The UK is a nation of cultural and ethnic diversity consisting of four countries each with a clear identity: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Combine this with a thoroughly multicultural society and the UK blends its rich cultural heritage with a modern and innovative outlook. Knowledge and an appreciation of the basic cultural, ethical and business values of the UK is crucial to any organisation wanting to conduct business in such a varied yet traditional environment.
The British may appear more cautious than Americans and less willing to embrace new ideas and practices. There is a tendency to cling to tradition with no preconceived notion that new is necessarily better. Decision making is structured and often slower than in the States, with major decisions generally made at board level. There is also more of a leaning towards qualitative assessment rather than pure facts and figures in the decision process. Although moving towards US practice, the UK is still far less predisposed to defer to lawyers and less inclined to litigation.
Britons generally know much more about the US than Americans know about the UK – the geography, the cities, the history, sports teams and politics. Britain is a small country and its citizens are well travelled by comparison to the average American. This is partly due to compulsory 4-5 weeks paid vacation in the UK as compared to 2 weeks in the States. Less commendable however are British language skills compared to European counterparts, although there is a wide range of languages available throughout the country. For instance, there are more than 300 different languages spoken by native born people in London. Business meetings will almost certainly be conducted in English regardless of the nationality of those involved.
The National Health Service (NHS) is the publicly funded healthcare system in England. The NHS provides healthcare to anyone normally resident in the UK with most services free at the point of use for the patient, though there are charges associated with eye tests, dental care and prescriptions for instance. The NHS is largely funded from general taxation (including a proportion from National Insurance contributions). Emergency services, including for overseas visitors, is generally free of charge.