September 14, 2016
Melissa Williams, HKS Salt Lake City

After two months of living abroad and working in our London office, I’m finally starting to feel like I’ve established a routine so that life feels less chaotic and (slightly) more normal. Somewhere around week 6, I began referring to the flat as “home,” which to me signals the mental transition between adjusting and adjusted. As further confirmation, I catch myself using ‘cheers’ rather than ‘thank you’ and pronouncing ‘week end’ as two distinct words.

By this point, I think I have the names of nearly everyone in the office memorized, excepting a few new hires with whom I haven’t had much interaction yet. It’s been a challenge getting to know everyone! The London office is nearly 70 people strong, and delineates more heavily between architectural sectors than my home office. Most of my interactions are with my project team and my colleagues in the Healthcare sector. Here’s what the current makeup of the London office looks like:

HKSParty

As you can probably tell from the picture, it’s a pretty diverse group of people—so much so that only 40% of the office is originally from the UK. This means that on any given day, I’ll likely have neighbors conversing in Spanish, Greek, Italian... or even Geordie. 

Most of my time has been spent working with the Healthcare sector, which comprises just over a quarter of the entire London office workforce. They’re a busy group! As the HKS Western Europe headquarters, they tackle projects that range from mid-sized clinics in the English suburbs to entire healthcare campuses in the Middle East. I’ve been working with the Midland Metropolitan Hospital team to complete construction drawings for a new 670-bed hospital in Birmingham, so my days are spent fine-tuning drawings before they are sent into the field.

London-Aug-02

Luckily, this is a group that subscribes to the 'work hard, play hard' philosophy, and you can find them at after-hours football matches or snooker games during the week. The office culture also encourages participation in architectural extracurriculars such as the London Open House, the celebration of the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire, mentoring Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust students, or after-hours sketching excursions...just to name a few.

London-Aug-01

Right now, the office is gearing up for the big London Culture Crawl this week to give back to our community and raise money for Maggie’s Cancer Centres. We’ll be taking in some of London’s best sights and experiences overnight as we walk 10 miles through the city. There have been several bake sales, and even a video produced (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUetoHF1hYU) to help meet our fundraising goals. If anyone feels so inclined, you can help contribute to our cause —we appreciate donations of any size!—at https://www.justgiving.com/teams/HKSTeamLondon.

For now, though, I’ll leave you with another list of 10 more things I’ve learned:

  • London is a modern city; how has it not adopted the 3-hole punch system?
  • I plan on starting a campaign for a public footpath system when I return to the US.
  • “This faucet is very hot” is the British equivalent of “Warning: this coffee may be hot”.
  • The tube map is stylized and not indicative of its actual geographical distances.
  • It may be 60° (16°) and raining, but the British will still go out of their way for an ice cream.
  • I wish that the London commuter air-filter-face-masks were standard issue in Salt Lake City.
  • It’s an Americanism to respond to thanks with “you’re welcome”.
  • If anyone looks lost south of Victoria Station, kindly point them to Victoria Coach Station.
  • If over a dozen London pubs claim to be the ‘oldest’, then someone is lying
  • ...and if Dickens drank at all the pubs they say he frequented, I don't know how he got any writing done at all.

*Special thanks to David Savage and Alejandra de Cordoba Estepa for office event photos


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