What do you do?

Having lived in Cayman for 27 years, moving to London has been interesting in many ways.  Some words and phrases around what it feels like come to mind, such as:

  • Out of place
  • Incongruous
  • Discordant
  • Dissonant

(Yes, and these all broadly mean the same thing!)

I’m a UK passport holder and speak with a pretty neutral accent, so people assume “he’s a Brit, like us”, though in many ways I feel more in tune with people from the Caribbean and North America having lived most of my adult life there.

One specific example of the dissonance is that when you meet people in the UK, the first question they always ask is “what do you do?”.  I know this is relatively common as a question, but it is ALWAYS the first question that British people ask you.

So often it seems to come from the social discomfort of actually having a REAL conversation with someone new.

Once that ultimate in small-talk has happened, they will often follow up with “so, are you busy?”.

If the answers are a) {insert simple job title here}, then ) yes, really busy, then people relax and feel they’ve “ticked the box” of social niceties by putting you IN a box.

So, taking a lead from my mentor and guide Ed Percival, who always sought to make a positive impact from every interaction, I’ve start experimenting, so if you meet me for the first time, be prepared for an unpredictable response if you ask me “what do you do?”, which could include a really left field question back to you.

Broadly, I’m really interested in what people feel passionate about, no matter what that is. Sure, it might be to do with their job, sure they may be busy with that. However, I choose not to box people in and instead look to ask an instinctive question at the moment that encourages them to talk about something that lights them up.


What do you do? What do you dream about?