“Would you like some tea?” said a flight attendant with a British accent. “Sure.” I was on board a British Airways flight to London. I fell asleep. I woke up because someone shook me. A man said, “Would you like some tea?” I asked “What time is it?” It was two hours since I had tea. I said, “No, thank you,” and, trying to catch up on my sleep, cuddled into a blanket. After another two hours, a flight attendant woke me up – it was time for tea…
The most important professional experience that I will take from my London SWAP is working with people from a variety of European cultures. In the future, if I have British colleagues/clients/collaborators I will make sure I have china cups (not paper or plastic), black tea and milk for our meetings. Morning meetings should not start earlier than 9:30 am. I will make sure to have a snack before dinner because it will commence only at 8-9 pm, with a liquid dinner as a first course in a neighboring bar. The list of differences goes on.
Given the confidentiality of our casework, it is hard to provide you with a specific case example; however, it is clear that my London case experience has been different from my Boston case experience, primarily in the geographical variety of clients. Many clients had European and U.S. locations and penetrated many western markets. This has led to extensive primary and secondary research required across various geographies. That was challenging, but very rewarding.
Outside of work, London offers many cultural experiences, often free of charge. I made several trips to the National Gallery to be able to see all of the paintings I was interested in. Westminster Abbey is a common tourist attraction, but you may not know that there are free organ recitals every Sunday at 5:30 pm. The sound is grandiose. There are also free musical concerts at the Saint Martin in the Fields cathedral from 1-2 pm, with a variety of musical instruments, opera soloists, and choirs. And of course – castles. The Windsor castle is the most famous one, but I’d recommend visiting smaller, more remote ones, especially in Scotland. It feels surreal, as if you are a part of a fairy tale.
There is a wonderful flower market on Sundays, and farmers markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays that have great produce, meat, cheese, fish—you name it. You can also find a bar/restaurant (maybe more than one) that allows dogs; it has a paw-washer at the entrance.
However, be alert! The roads are meant to confuse. For the first three months, I looked the wrong way before crossing the street. For the first several times I waited for a bus, I saw it on the other side of the road and I missed it!
These SWAP experiences are enlightening for casework and culture, and I highly recommend the six month change of scenery to anyone pursuing consulting at L.E.K.