UK culture guide for international healthcare professionals

UK Culture

Every country around the world has its own unique and beautiful culture. Even within a country, cultural norms can vary widely by region. These cultural practices and differences are reflected in the hospitals and healthcare systems that exist across the country. In turn, this can have a major impact on access to healthcare, healthcare delivery, patient expectations, managerial hierarchies and so much more.

At Remedium, we’re in the business of moving doctors and healthcare professionals from all over the world. These doctors relocate so that they can come and work in the UK healthcare system. In fact, since 2013, we’ve supported over 3,000 doctors from over 40 countries around the world to find work and successfully relocate from their home countries to Britain. This means we know how much of a challenge it can seem to adjust to a new culture and way of life. In this article, we share some expert advice on how to prepare and adapt to living and working within the UK culture as a healthcare professional.

Great Britain: A melting pot of cultural experience

The UK is a sovereign state consisting of four individual countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. While Parliament is sovereign across the UK, each country has some political autonomy. This includes its own unique history and cultural flavour, with different dialects, customs, music, and languages. Even individual British counties, cities, and towns can have their own cultural practices and norms. For instance, over 250 languages are spoken in London, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world. The top five non-English languages spoken in London are Bengali/Sylheti, Panjabi, Gujarati, Hindi/Urdu, and Turkish. And that’s just in London. Across the UK, you can expect to hear over 40 regional accents that can sound totally different from one another other and often use different word structures to those you might expect. For example, people from Newcastle speak with a ‘Geordie’ accent, which is one of the strongest and most distinctive accents in England. There’s a lot to learn about UK culture.

People across the UK are very proud of living in a multicultural country. People who immigrate to Britain bring with them their own background and experiences and this adds to the diversity and richness of our culture. While this can make it difficult to define a single UK culture, we believe that it is this cultural variety that makes the UK a fantastic place for international healthcare professionals to live and work. It is for this reason that when Remedium’s international doctors make the move to the UK, they quickly find that they are easily able to access the elements of their home culture that are important to them. This includes food and restaurants from their home country, places of worship for their respective religions, and new friends and colleagues who speak their native languages.

The NHS working culture

The NHS is an egalitarian healthcare system which is committed to providing free healthcare to all British citizens at the point of service, regardless of patient background or socioeconomic circumstances. This means that there is greater access to healthcare than in many countries around the world, and even people who are experiencing great poverty are able to access life-saving care at no cost to them. While many British citizens have their own ideas on how the NHS service could be improved, most are very proud to have a system that provides healthcare to those in society who need it most. Remedium’s international doctors who come to the UK from countries with no healthcare provision for those who cannot afford it report to us that this is one of the best things about working in the NHS. Among other things, our doctors report that this keeps their work interesting because patients are from incredibly diverse cultural backgrounds, meaning they get to meet and interact with people from all over the world and that there is huge variety in their caseloads.

Being one of the largest publicly funded healthcare systems in the world means that the scale of the NHS is enormous. It is, in fact, made up of four separate healthcare systems: NHS England, NHS Scotland, HSC Northern Ireland, and NHS Wales. Culturally, each of these systems operate somewhat differently, but very broadly speaking they are each made up of individual NHS Trusts (or Health Boards in Wales), which hold responsibility for a group of hospitals and healthcare providers. Patient expectations, the formality of hierarchy, and accepted working norms and practices can vary greatly across different NHS Trusts and hospitals, so new international healthcare professionals should take the time to listen and learn about how they will be expected to operate.

Remain adaptable and keep an open mind

Culture is relative and can be difficult to define. It can vary greatly from city to city and hospital to hospital. However, remaining open-minded and curious will mean that you are far more likely to succeed in adapting to your new cultural context.

Beyond working in your new NHS hospital, you will also be living and spending leisure time in your local British town or city. You’ll need to have the required English language qualifications to be accepted for your new role. It is also essential to take time to learn local or regional greetings and phrases used in your new town as the huge variety of local dialects across Britain can be baffling for some! This will make it a lot easier to adapt to UK culture.

Feeling anxious and making mistakes is to be expected but jumping into this new challenge will provide a unique learning experience for you and your family. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your managers, colleagues, and friends – they are there to help you succeed. Remedium’s onboarding executives (OBEs)  are also here to help you 24/7 and can also support you with questions about British culture, as well as advising you on more practical things such as banking, accommodation, childcare, and much more.

Supporting you at every step of the way

If you still feel unsure about how to adapt to the culture of the British healthcare system, Remedium can help. Our pioneering CPD-accredited communications and cultural integration course has been specifically designed to support clinicians and healthcare professionals from overseas to acclimatise to working in the NHS and living in the UK. Click here to find out more.

At Remedium, our support doesn’t stop once we find you a job. We support our international doctors with all aspects of moving to a new country, including practical things like finding somewhere to live but also with the cultural and emotional aspects of moving to a new city or town. Register with us today and take your first step of your journey to the UK.

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