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How to Master Business Etiquette in UK

It’s amazing how many people from the United States travel to the UK for work. Whether they’re actors studying abroad, professionals working in the London offices of their multinational corporation, or people moving to the UK for a change, the number of American-born people living in the UK totals around 177,000 people [1]. That’s a lot of people working in the United Kingdom!

If you are working in the UK, you’ll need to master British business etiquette. Things are done a bit differently "over the pond", so you should know how to work the way the British do.


The British tend to be fairly punctual for business meetings. They will either arrive at the time planned, or even a few minutes early. Time is valued as an economic resource in the UK, so people will rush from meeting to meeting in order to fill their time as best they can.

You should always arrive a few minutes early to your meeting, as that shows that you are a polite, well-mannered professional. If you have a genuine excuse for arriving late, share that excuse with your host and the delay will usually be shrugged off. If you are going to be very late, call ahead to inform your host of the delay, to apologize, and let them know when you expect to arrive.

(When traveling on public transport, make sure to factor in delays, traffic, and weather conditions. Travel time may take longer than advertised.)

For social events, you can arrive up to 15 minutes late without issue.


British aren’t big on gift-giving, but you should always reciprocate when a gift is given to you. Some organizations cannot accept gifts for legal reasons. If you give a gift, make sure it is not costly enough to be considered a bribe or so cheap that it’s insulting.

Good gifts include:

  • Pens
  • Diaries
  • Books
  • Souvenirs from your country
  • Flowers
  • Alcohol
  • Greeting cards

When given a gift, open it immediately and express delight.

Dress Code

Classical conservative is the attire of choice for most business meetings. Dark colors are preferred, including:

  • Black
  • Dark Grey/Charcoal
  • Navy Blue
  • Brown

Women can wear trousers as well as skirts. Men should not wear denim in the workplace, and Scots should not use kilts. Always go overdressed instead of underdressed when unsure of dress code.


Brits have an odd way of communicating. It is a curious mixture of direct communication and understatement. Effusive language is rarely used.

Informal communication is only used when in familiar company, and Brits tend to be modest and direct when communicating with people they consider their equals.


When arriving at a meeting, shake hands with everyone in the room. Keep eye contact as you greet each person.

Doctors and clergymen are the only people to use their titles when being introduced. For everyone else, it’s Mr., Mrs., and Miss, followed by their surname.

Do not use someone’s first name unless invited to do so.

Thanks to the fact that most people in the UK speak English, it’s relatively easy to do business there. Learning the UK business etiquette can be the key to successful relations with our neighbors on the other side of the Atlantic!



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