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Anyone for tea?

January 24, 2010

Newsflash – the English enjoy tea. You’re probably thinking, “you don’t say”. But for an outsider coming to England, there’s so much more to a cup of tea than meets the eye, or mouth. It breaks boundaries and transcends norms in a way you could never imagine. Okay, I’m exaggerating here, but there’s an element of truth to what I’m saying.

It all began with my first London office job. My British colleagues would put the air conditioning on to 16 degrees.  Sixteen degrees is illegal in Australia so I had a bit of adjusting to do. My first strategy was to sit there, fingers numb and chant to myself ‘toughen the f*** up, it’s time to acclimatize woman’. But I became so paranoid that my teeth were chattering too loudly and I also began to grieve the loss of feeling in my fingers that I went to plan B. Plan B worked really well. It involved a snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug approach where I always left a warm shawl and jumper on my desk (even in Summer). Plan B also involved tea. Lots and lots of tea which I ended up making for myself every other hour.  That is, until I realised I was making a faux paus. An English guy told me he got pulled aside at one of his jobs for not pulling his weight. Bad work ethic? No, he didn’t offer to do enough tea runs. And the silly freezing Aussie was so wrapped up in myself (literally) that I hadn’t been offering to make other people tea.

The tea run

This has nothing to do with your role in the company. It’s quite normal for your boss to ask if you want a cup. For a newcomer to this fine land, this can be a bit freaky. At my current job, for the first few weeks, I felt so disorientated about the whole thing that I would always decline, until my manager actually made a comment about the fact I don’t drink tea. It would appear that in England, people notice if you go a day without tea and probably wonder if you’re ill or depressed.

But all’s well that ends well and I now drink tea all day, and make tea all day and my colleagues make me tea all day and the workplace is happy and good.

*Note: the Australian Standard Code of Practice for factory and office work recommends the ideal temperature range of 21 – 24 degrees.

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