London at a Glance
Insurance and Business Culture in LondoniStockphoto
Socializing with your colleagues is a pleasant aspect of office life in London.
Your National Insurance contributions also come off your monthly wages and are used to build up your entitlement to the State Pension and to some other benefits and social services, for instance if you become unemployed during your time in London.
The UK has a social security agreement with all countries in the European Economic Area, including Switzerland, and some other nations. For a detailed list, please refer to the Department for Work and Pensions website. If you are coming from or are returning to a country covered by this agreement, your UK National Insurance contributions might count towards any benefits you are entitled to in your country of origin.
Your State Pension will become available once you have reached State Pension age. Please note, however, that if you only paid National Insurance contributions for a short time while working in the UK, the amount you receive will be negligible.
As a UK resident, you are also eligible for free healthcare on the NHS, the National Health Service. As soon as you have found a place to live in London, you should register with your local GP (General Practitioner) at their practice or clinic. They will act as your first point of contact should any health issues arise.
In case of an emergency, you can, of course, go straight to A&E (Accidents & Emergency Department) at your nearest hospital. In order to call an ambulance, dial 999. For less urgent out-of-hours advice, you can call the NHS Direct helpline on 0044 845 4647. Dental treatment is only partly covered by the NHS, and you will be expected to pay a share of the costs yourself.
Alternatively, you can opt for a private health insurance. Private Healthcare UK is a good website if you want to get an overview of services available. Most big companies have a private healthcare plan at a reduced rate for their employees.
There aren´t many pitfalls you need to be aware of when dealing with business or social contacts, but the British way of communicating might be something to get used to. As a general rule, the British like to understate and equivocate.
In a business meeting, for example, you will very rarely hear someone speak out in direct opposition to a previous statement. If you would like to express disagreement, disapproval, or decline an offer, you should phrase it as a polite proposition. An unmitigated “no” can be perceived as impolite.
Similarly, don´t expect a straightforward response from people you´re not on very familiar terms with. Reading between the lines is one of the key skills in order to negotiate successfully at a British business meeting.
In the creative and media industries, manners are informal and hierarchical structures are not very pronounced. The financial sector or the legal profession is much more conservative in this respect.
Formal business attire is expected to be worn to the office by men and women alike. Although colleagues as well as business contacts are still likely to address each other by their first names, you shouldn´t automatically make this assumption, but wait and observe common practice.
Let’s now talk about one of the more pleasant aspects of working life in London: the after-work drinks. Socializing out of business hours can be an important part of your job in London.
While only business lunches, dinners or drinks with clients are compulsory, you will also be expected to take part in the occasional communal outing to the pub on a Friday night after work. Some companies have all but institutionalized this weekly social event, and although nobody will resent you for occasionally giving it a miss, it is vital to come along at least once in a while, even if you don´t drink.
The annual office Christmas party is something to look forward to if you can´t wait to see your reserved British colleagues let their hair down!