10 Differences Between Working in the US & UK – Hotelier Edition

  1. VACATION: First of all, the UK offers more vacation time. UK law requires workers who work a 5-day week to receive 28 days of paid annual leave (approximately 5.6 weeks) so people are just on holiday all the time! It’s awesome. I’m supposed to use 7 days of holiday leave before the start of next year and I haven’t even passed my 3 month probation! In the US, I got 21 days off a year (10 days of vacation, 8 mandatory holidays (that I had to use in that pay period), and 3 personal days (that I could only take within that trimester). So we can’t rollover vacation so that means that you are forced to go on holiday. I get 29 days a year off and I can’t wait to use them!
  2. THE UNION/THE PAY: There are no unions for hotel workers. Okay, there might something in London, but I’m not in London. The American union system allows protection for hotel workers to keep their position and not get overworked. Of course there are pros and cons to union hotels, but to me it means that managers are not “afraid” of the union or being unionized and that the standard pay for entry-level employees can stay at minimum wage. I am working an “entry-level” position and I was given a “salaried wage” on my contract and no overtime pay…which is something I am not used to (especially for an entry-level position).
  3. CAFETERIA: Free lunch from hotels are the same everywhere. Mass produced food just is never great. The main difference is that they don’t serve rice everyday. 🚫🍚😩 Fish is still served on Fridays, but at least it’s Fish and Chips.
  4. TERMINOLOGY: Your bank is a called a “float.” A bellman or houseman is called a “porter.” Your mailbox or cubby-hole is called a “pigeon-hole.” Orientation is called “induction.” (lol, when I hear “induction,” I think of sorority/fraternity induction ceremonies)  A rollaway bed is sometimes called a “Z bed” and a baby crib is called a “cot.” The cafeteria is referred to as the “canteen.” (I don’t know why, but when I think of a “cot” and “canteen,” I automatically think that it’s referring something in the military…and the military does not sound like a luxury hotel.) A vacuum is called a hoover. The “rota” is the schedule and “holiday” is vacation. Also, as most of you know, they use “CVs” here instead of resumes.
  5. HOUSEKEEPING: The room attendants are so young and beautiful. People all over Europe (and the world) work in these hotels and the housekeeping staff here are so young! I’m so used to working with a much older housekeeping team.
  6. THE GUESTS: European and British guests are much more polite and well-mannered. Maybe it’s because they’re more well-traveled or they teach their kids etiquette, but there are definitely less guests that are yelling at you and having a tantrum when an upgrade is not available here. Also, they often arrive before check-in time and NOBODY demands for their room to be ready at 11am. AND…the guests say “thank you,” “that’s too kind,” and “Cheers!” after every interaction. It’s quite nice. They’re so thankful. Oh Americans, we have think we’re entitled to everything.
  7. LEAVING THE JOB: In the States, I’ve always had a job offer with “at-will employment,” meaning that I could be dismissed by my employer for any reason and that I can similarly leave a job without reason or warning. Of course common courtesy states that I’ll give “2 weeks notice.”  In Edinburgh, I was given a contract that states that I have to give “4 weeks notice” and an additional week for how many years I’ve been with the company. For example, if I worked for the company for 8 years, I would have to give 8 weeks notice. I wonder how things work when you’re going to work for a competitor and when the new company needs you to start immediately.
  8. LANGUAGE & CULTURE: In the hotels that I’ve worked in, there are many languages spoken, usually with an abundance of Cantonese and Spanish speakers. Now, I hear a multitude of many European languages. Many of these languages, I’ve never heard spoken so I don’t even know what they’re speaking. Most EU Nationals can also work without any special visa in the UK (which I find so interesting compared to the US where it is SO difficult to work if you’re not a citizen) so the staff is literally from everywhere. Only 4 out of the 16 people on staff (25%) for the front desk are actually Scottish. Also, I think I’m the only Chinese (or of Chinese heritage) person working at the hotel. For the amount of Chinese people in Edinburgh (who are probably mostly students) and the number of tourists from China combined with British history in Hong Kong, I was surprised that there were no other Chinese workers. I’ve met another Filipino, an Indian, and some Thai ladies, but I think that’s it for Asia. I’ve only met 1 person with Latino heritage (from Mexico) so far. Also, there is only one other American in the entire hotel (but her parents are British).
  9. APPLYING/JOB SEARCH: So my situation and story is a bit different, but I think the hiring process is very different. In the States, you have to check the job vacancies on the hotel website, apply online (which normally is a very long process and may even ask you to take a quiz or personality test), and wait for a manager to reach out to you. Here, people literally drop off their CVs (we receive a bunch everyday) at the front desk, not even knowing what positions are even available. Now, I’m used to people coming in to see if there are jobs available, but it’d be like a very small amount. One day that I worked, I received 5 CVs.
  10. THE EXPERIENCE: Working here is definitely different. First of all, we can send up luggage to guest rooms without the guest physically there (without any complaint from the bellmen/porters or guests who are so trusting with their stuff). Room moves and dead moves are so easy! Another different experience is that nobody is pushing you to leave after your scheduled shift or giving you a lecture if you arrive to work an hour before your shift. I remember I had a colleague that got written up for arriving an hour before his shift because in the handbook, we could only arrive 15 minutes before one’s shift. I am also used to managers pushing you to leave so they don’t have to pay you overtime. Since there is no overtime pay (even if there is overtime, it’s not double time or 1.5 time pay), nobody is pushing you to go home. This is probably because American employers are afraid of lawsuits. Also, people always talk about what they’re going to do or where they’re going or where they went on their last holiday unlike Americans who never take our vacations. Another difference is that people talk about rugby and football (soccer) here a lot instead of baseball, basketball, and football (NFL). I mentioned something about Michael Jordan and a colleague replied, “Oh, is that the one who plays basketball?” (WHAT?!?!) Lastly, the upsell program has a lot more flexibility, which is very nice.

Well, that’s it for now… This is a short list from 3 weeks of working.

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