It is hard to believe I am starting the third week of my internship here in Ireland. It’s been an awesome trip so far with awesome experiences, great people, and amazing food! After battling through a rough cold in Ireland’s rainy weather, I feel much more adjusted and ready to tackle my internship this week. At my internship, I am very fortunate to be working in a relatively small office. I feel like this has made me gain good friendships with coworkers, leading to conversations about things outside work. It has fostered a friendly environment where I can ask questions to make sure I am doing things right, and it allows me to see what kind of work culture I like. When my boss saw that I wasn’t feeling good, she offered to let me take a half day so I could go home and rest. I was feeling good enough to stay, but seeing her prioritize her employee’s health over a business task to be accomplished was refreshing and kind.
Because of how welcoming and kind the people in my office are, my boss especially, I don’t have many worries about asking questions to clear up uncertainties. But I do definitely experience unclear directions and ambiguity. I’ve experienced this both professionally, but also with more casual things such as lunch break and punctuality. For the sake of my budget, I always pack a lunch for work rather than opting to go out. Generally, I choose to take my lunch at my desk and work while eating, but both my supervisors are kind and insistent on me taking an hour-long break to relax at my desk, go out and go for a walk, or socialize with other co-workers. It took time for me to see they don’t need me working for 9-10 hours straight. Rather, they would prefer for me to be comfortable working and be comfortable around my co-workers.
Another small thing I was unclear about is when to arrive in the morning. As of now, it is 8:37 am, and only me and the receptionist are in the office. But, my hours are 8 – 4:30. It is known that Americans are very punctual, and generally, we expected to be. But one of my supervisors said not to worry about being on time, and it is perfectly okay if I come in 20 – 30 minutes late whenever I need. I realized with time, and after asking both my supervisors when I should come in, that arriving 20 minutes past 8 appropriate, as it is when most other employees are coming in.
Another source of ambiguity in my work is communicating through email to my boss. When my boss works from home, I work from the office we email with questions and tasks. This can cause some confusion, as we try our best to keep emails brief and infrequent. When I have a question, I have to be sure to be clear about what I am asking for clarification and set up my question so she willing to answer in a way I understand. As I said above, the staff I work with is very flexible and kind. So, when asking further questions that they may be used to, they have no problem taking an extra minute to clarify something.
I also find that generally communicating with co-workers and people in Ireland can be a bit tough. The first barrier to this is the Irish language, or more so their slang. There are many words and phrases they use that are different from the English I am used to. For instance, when talking about time, many people in Ireland use the phrase ‘half 8’ or any half time. At first I thought this might have meant a half hour prior to that time, but in reality, it means a half an hour past the time, so 8:30. This caused me to accidentally take my lunch a half hour early because I didn’t ask my boss for clarification. With time, I have started figuring out certain phrases right when hearing them to better understand conversations.
Even when not in the workplace, I have found myself experiencing other uncertainties and ambiguities during my time in Ireland. A lot of this revolving around social cues here. This includes small things like phrases not used in America. For instance, when waiting for service at someplace like fast food, the cashier will say things like ‘are you okay?’ to most Americans, we would interpret that as someone asking if we had a problem. In Ireland, that basically means ‘can I take your order?’
Most of the ambiguities I have experienced here has been small, but can be resolved quite easily by asking questions early, and learning by watching. Being adaptable is really important in these instances, as I am the one out of pace who needs to adapt to and respect the culture I live with.