Life Challenges and Ambiguity in the Workplace

Hello everybody!

What a week it has been here in Madrid. Since my last blog post, I have been faced with many challenges, as well as opportunities.

To start off, I was unfortunately pick-pocketed over the weekend and my phone was stolen – I truly underestimated the talents of the pick-pocketers here, and by the time I realized I did not have my phone in my possession, it was already too late. In this moment, I realized that it was not just my social media and entertainment apps on my phone taken from me; but also that I had no way to navigate the foreign country I am in, no way to contact my peers and family for help, no way to tell the time or set alarms, and so much more – I was certainly way out of my comfort zone and felt helpless in this moment. Yet, this helplessness presented me with the opportunity to overcome my dependency on my phone and my parents back home, and solve this issue on my own. With the help of my wonderful host family, I was able to buy a cheap phone, just something that was enough to get me through the rest of the trip safely. And although this was a difficult situation for me, I proved to myself that even in moments of vulnerability, I can and will be able to hold my own.

This also reigns true within the workplace. Due to the very relaxed nature of the business culture in Spain, I have had many moments of ambiguity and confusion during my internship. I am used to a rigid schedule – whether it be a time restraint, or task list with due dates; I am used to a structured system, which is not what I have been presented with in this job. My place of work practices a good amount of outsourcing, most of these employees being out of the country – which also means different time zones. That being said, my main point of contact is a woman in Peru, who is about 7 hours behind my time. This was a bit of a challenge within the first couple weeks, but, her and I have compromised on a system in which she leaves me a task list during her work hours, and I am to complete it during my work hours the following day. Although this provides a solution to the time difference issue, it still is flawed and involves ambiguity. For example, if I ever have a question, or something is unclear to me, responses to my messages sometimes take hours, or remain unanswered until the following day. Here is when I turn to my boss in Madrid, who has always been helpful, but at times when she has a lot going on, her priorities do not lie with my questions and leave me confused once again. This is a small adjustment to the American work culture that I am so used to – and again, another opportunity to learn the differences between Western and European workplace culture.

To overcome this ambiguity, I have specifically made an attempt to clarify my directions right as they are given to me, to prevent any miscommunication. With my work contact and I working at different times, it is important that I am aware of exactly what is expected of me and do my work correctly. This has been successful for me so far, and I hope to continue this trend in the future.

And before this blog comes to a close, I feel obligated to touch on one of Madrid’s greatest events this weekend – Real Madrid winning the Champions League Final. This was, by far, one of the craziest experiences I have ever had and cannot believe I was fortunate enough to be in Madrid during it. I would say American football fans are pretty hardcore, and I have seen many of them firsthand. But, never in my life have I seen fans as dedicated and proud of their team than those of Real Madrid. Before the game, the streets were filled with people preparing for the game and hanging out – and I thought this was crazy (I was not even nearly prepared for what was to come). My friends and I watched the game near the town center (Puerta del Alcalá), and immediately heard the streets erupt towards there when they won. As we followed the crowds, we observed everyone coming from all directions, to celebrate the win of their team. Everyone was chanting and cheering, and I genuinely do not believe I had ever seen a crowd that big in my whole life. This was such a great experience and I could not be more thankful to have been in Madrid and coincide with this celebration – something I will truly never forget.

Hasta pronto,