Understanding work culture in Edinburgh

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Updated by vera2019 on 15 October, 2019

If you've decided to move to Edinburgh for work then you're in luck: you can expect pleasant surroundings, friendly colleagues, and a good work-life balance, even though it may take some time to adapt to Scottish business and social customs. Here's what you should be aware of working in Edinburgh.

Getting to know colleagues

Scottish workplaces are a friendly place, and making friends is encouraged. Scots will like you if you are open and friendly, though it may take some time for them to open up to you fully. It is standard to shake hands when introduced to someone new, but generally, it is unusual to make physical contact with someone unless you are particularly close. Don't be offended if this closed body language isn't what you are used to in your own culture!

Most businesses value teamwork over individual projects, so be prepared to work closely with your colleagues. There are strict anti-discrimination laws in Scotland in terms of gender, race, religion, and sexuality. Expect to work with a diverse range of people. Scots expect tolerance of differing lifestyles.

It's not a cliche: Scots do love to chat about the weather! Local sports teams, holiday plans, and Edinburgh events also offer talking points. Scottish humour can be quite blunt and sarcastic at times, so don't be offended if someone seems to tease you lightly - this is a sign of endearment.

Office culture in Edinburgh

Compared to cities like London, the work culture in Edinburgh is more relaxed. Office hours are usually 9-5.30, and it is important to be punctual. The more senior the job, the more overtime outside of working hours you will likely be expected to contribute. However, on the whole, Edinburgh offers a good work-life balance. Be prepared to work hard but don't waste your opportunity to explore the city and its surroundings.

In Scotland, it is common practice to have at least 28 paid holiday days per year if you work full time. Unless you work in hospitality or retail, you will have set Bank Holidays off work. There are nine of these throughout the year, which include Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year's Day. Many offices close in the period between Christmas and 2 January, so you will need to leave holiday entitlement for then.

Going to the pub is deeply woven into Scottish culture, and this also applies to the workplace. After work drinks on a Friday are common with many businesses. This tends to be a casual affair, though most businesses will have a larger, more formal Christmas celebration.

Apart from the legal and financial sectors, work dress code in Scotland is smart-casual as opposed to formal. A smart shirt or blouse with trousers is more common than a full suit. Many offices also permit wearing jeans, though you should confirm this with your manager first.

Workplace dos and don'ts in Edinburgh

In summary, here's what you should remember when starting work in Edinburgh:

  • Do be friendly with your colleagues; don't ask very personal questions until you get to know your workmates better.
  • Do turn up to work in good time; don't spend hours working overtime unless it is necessary.
  • Do look smart and presentable; don't wear a formal suit unless it is commonplace in your industry.
  • Do book off the holidays you are entitled to; don't forget about them as you will lose any unclaimed holiday days.
  • Do accept offers to join colleagues for a drink; don't get drunk at work occasions - it will be remembered!
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