The Office: Comparing the UK, Uganda, and US

Three years, three offices, three countries. The United States, Uganda, and the United Kingdom – which one provides the best Office? I report, you decide.

Work Day

  • US – 8:15am to 5pm with 45 minutes for lunch, 40 hour work week
  • Uganda – 8am to 5pm with an hour for lunch, 40 hour work week
  • UK – 8:45am to 4:30pm with 45 minutes for lunch, 35 hour work week


  • US – Business casual, but no suits ever. Mostly slacks, sweaters, button-ups, etc. Casual Fridays with jeans and sweaters.
  • Uganda – Business casual, but suits every now and then especially when teaching. Ladies wore a lot more dresses and skirts than in the U.S. Some folks went casual on Fridays, but not everyone.
  • UK– Technically business casual, but by far the most formal of the three with blazers and suits very common. Never casual.

Office Volume Level

  • Uganda – Always a happy buzz. My colleagues were always chatting, playing music, or singing (in beautiful harmony!). If the office ever fell quiet, the windows were always open and the children at the school next door happily filled the void.
  • US – Fairly quiet, but I sat in a large room with lots of cubes where someone was always either on the phone or talking with someone else. Several times a day someone would yell across the room to someone on the other side.
  • UK – Very quiet. I sit in a fairly small space with only seven other folks, and usually one or two people are out of the office. Chats come up about our projects but usually fade fairly quickly, and I definitely feel like whispering or keeping phone calls short.

Annual Leave

  • US – 13 days of leave + 13 official holidays = 26 days (unused leave rolled over for the next year)
  • UK – 26 days of leave + 8 government holidays + 2 employer provided holidays = 36 days (leave does not roll over)
  • Uganda – 30 days of leave + 10 holidays = 40 days (leave did not roll over)

Personal Space

  • Uganda –  I sat in a room with a counter for a workspace around the edge of the room. Although we each chose a place to be ‘ours’ there was no division of space. There was also a general attitude of communalism in which people tried on my shoes and walked off with my pens. In one very unlucky incident, an innocent coworker was examining my key chain and sprayed himself directly in the eyes with my pepper spray while I was away from my desk. Ops!
  • US – Traditional cubical with a bit of shared space between two desks.
  • UK – Traditional cubical with dividers between each desk.

A colleague in Uganda after spraying himself with my pepper spray. Notice the Casual Friday!

Ladies’ Footwear

  • Uganda – Women wore their finest heels to and from the office, but changed into casual flats or sandals for around the office. Somehow, the modern Ugandan woman can arrive at work without a spot of mud on her shoes despite traversing the most treacherous roads.
  • US – Women often walked to work in running shoes, snow boots, or sandals depending on the season, but then changed into heels at the office. My bottom drawer was always reserved for 3-4 pairs of dress flats and heels in browns and blacks.
  • UK – A more casual shoe is often worn to work like the US, but knee-high boots worn in and out of the office seem to be the footwear of choice.

Income Tax Rates (at Comparable Entry Level Salary)

  • Uganda – 30% Very little to show for this high rate of tax: poor infrastructure, unreliable public services, and corrupt officials.
  • US – 25% This rate is what I’d pay as a single person with a comparable salary, or if David and I were both making this entry level amount in the U.S. Married on one salary would get us down to 15%. Either way, this comes without health insurance.
  • UK – 20% This rate comes with UK public services like free health care. Interesting to see UK income tax rates here.

View from the Office:

View from my London office – no contest there!


2 responses to “The Office: Comparing the UK, Uganda, and US

  1. I think the UK wins based on a 35 hr work week, decent annual, and 20% tax with free health care. Thanks for writing this; it was very interesting.

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