Before you start

Do you know your start date? Where you need to go? What time do you need to be there for? Who you need to report to? Remember it’s far better to be a bit early than to be late, no one wants to be stressed out on their first day.  

Have you checked the dress code or appropriate clothing for your line of work? You don’t want to end up feeling under or over-dressed. Remember first impressions matter.  

If you’re working from home for any duration throughout your placement, you might need additional equipment at home. Make sure you organise and speak to our employer about this in advance.

Your first day and week

You won’t be expected to know everything on your first day, or even your first month. Your placement year should be about personal development and learning. Make sure to stay engaged and don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

Don’t be disheartened if you find yourself doing what might feel like repetitive or mundane tasks at the start of your placement. It can take time before you find your feet and build trust between yourself and your supervisor. 

You will be introduced to a lot of new faces. Again, be sure to ask questions and show an interest in your colleagues and their work. 

Training is usually done during this period. Make sure to familiarise yourself with company policies and procedures. Key things to keep in mind: what time is lunch, where to go during a fire alarm, annual leave policy and reporting sickness.

What to do, and what not to do

  • Do get to know your organisation’s working culture. Don’t neglect your placement companies’ values. 
  • Do treat your colleagues with respect and how you would expect to be treated yourself. Don’t talk about tricky subjects such as politics and religion. 
  • Do follow the rules and procedures explained in your induction, especially around internet and phone usage. Don’t think you are above the rules. 
  • Do own up to your mistakes and learn from them, your manager will appreciate the honesty. Don’t fail to ask for additional support you might need.  
  • Do be mindful of the language you use and what you might consider to be ‘banter’ at work. Don’t misread situations or be overfamiliar with colleagues. 
  • Do ensure you’re engaged in your work duties. Don’t sit looking bored and disinterested, ask for additional work.  

UK work culture for International Students

Though culture can vary from organisation to organisation, it can be confusing for an international student to understand common practices found within the UK working environment. We’ve compiled some key points that you may encounter during your placement year: 

The standard working week is Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, though this can differ from placement to placement. Do check before you start your role on what’s expected and most of all don’t be late

A common introductory greeting in a professional environment would be a handshake. This should be firm, but not too strong and eye contact maintained. 

Irony and humour are often used to help build relationships in the workplace. However, if you do think someone may have overstepped the line or has used inappropriate language, do speak to your manager or placement tutor. 

‘You alright?’ and ‘how are you?’ These are common ways people greet each other and are essentially a way of saying ‘hello’. A normal response would be ‘Yeah, great thanks, you?’ 

As well as being your supervisor, your manager can also be a source of support and clarification. Don’t be afraid to raise any concerns with them. 

Integrating into a new culture takes time, don’t be surprised if you feel lost during your first few weeks working. Over time you’ll learn all the intricacies of UK work culture and will be fitting in sooner than you think.