The biggest thing we learned at our orientation for Global Experiences was how to handle “culture shock.” Though, I barely listened as I was convinced I wouldn’t experience it. I mean, I was living in London! How different could the culture be? Well I was in for a rude awakening because while everyday life may be similar to an American Culture, it is the work culture that is significantly different.
The first thing I learned is the U.K. government has set up a health care system for its’ citizens that basically handles all illnesses and addictions for free. Having worked in mental health in the past, I truly did not think that there would be a huge difference between the National Health Service and the American health service. In order to continue I must provide a bit of a background. I chose to work in substance abuse this summer in hopes of gaining experience with mental health but a different aspect. I know of services such as AA and NA but I was unsure if there were other services. Therefore, I received a huge shock learning about the vast services for substance abuse in the U.K. London is split into boroughs which each have their own service. Islington, the borough I am working in has 40+ services for substance misuse. At CASA Alcohol, the overall atmosphere is very calm, which is sort of unexpected for an alcohol center. The first thing I noticed regarding the work culture was that work stays at work. At the end of the day, none of my coworkers bring work home to their families. They also rarely talk about their home life at work. The second thing I noticed is breaks are taken very frequently. Often after an appointment, the Key Worker will take his or her phone out and grab a cup of tea or coffee for ten minutes before resuming work. Due to being a university student, I often go long periods without taking a break so my boss often has to remind me that it is okay to leave the front desk for a bit and relax. The third thing I noticed was how relaxed the culture is. Especially in this field, the clients are often treated like normal people even if they are visibly drunk and have friendly relationships with the workers. Therefore, working at CASA has been interesting because I didn’t think I would have any culture shock but I did through the work culture.
A basic day at the office goes as following. The drop in service is open from 9:30 am until 1 pm with the last appointment being at noon. Everyday there is a special support group such as relapse prevention or alcohol awareness which clients who have been assessed can attend. On Thursday’s, only women are allowed in the drop in service as to promote women in domestic violence situations to come in and seek help. Every Wednesday some of the clients go out and bring back sandwiches for the rest of the week stocking up the fridge. If there is any extra food, staff is always welcome to help themselves. There is always music playing in the drop in service to help make clients feel more comfortable. The afternoons are set aside for key working sessions and admin work. Throughout the day, staff take multiple breaks at their own pleasure. So far working in London has shown me just how different the work culture is. It seems to be a more relaxed culture and thus the workers are less stressed out.