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ImageWhat's Wrong with Speaking in my Language at Work?

Dear Career Coach

I have been in the UK for about 7 years and I now work in a public sector health organisation. A number of my colleagues are also from Zimbabwe and we naturally speak our language to each other at work. Someone has complained and says it is a problem for them.

I am proud of my language and my culture and I don’t see why I have to assimilate into being British – isn’t it enough that I am doing my job?

What do you think?


Cultural adaptability isn't about assimilating; it's about adapting. By opting to work in the UK, you also have the responsibility to adhere to the rules of the game.

Speaking a language that is foreign to others in the workplace – or even the home – is guaranteed to exclude those who do not understand and give rise to misunderstanding and, potentially, hostility.

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Imagine you enter a shop and the shopkeeper, as he starts to serve you, bursts out laughing and speaks to his assistant in a language that you do not understand. How would you feel? A little concerned, perhaps? Irritated, or even embarrassed? In your colleagues' shoes, if you did not know what was being said, you would also feel concerned that a remark was being directed at you.

By all means enjoy the pleasure of speaking your language with your colleagues, but keep it to when you are outside the workplace. 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do' is an old but wise saying. Speaking English in a British workplace does not detract from your culture; it demonstrates your manners.

All the best!

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