Acclimating to Irish Workplace Culture

It’s Friday afternoon and I have officially concluded my second full week of work here in Ireland! I can’t believe how time has simply flown by since I arrived. I am starting to get into a subtle routine–waking up at the same time each day in time for work, grabbing coffee, and heading to the bus stop. While this menial routine has started to improve with each day, the lack of routine I have been experiencing each day at work has been a challenge for me in terms of adapting.

I knew that the workplace culture here in Ireland had various differences from that at home in the States–something that I talked about in my previous post regarding ambiguity in the workplace. I had been prepared to be challenged, which certainly stands to be true. However, I had initially anticipated challenges to be associated with not knowing how to carry out particular tasks, or not completing them up to par with my Supervisor. My greatest challenge in adapting to the workplace culture here in Dublin has simply been that lack of routine.

Each day I go into work, I never know what to expect. I am rarely given explicit directions regarding tasks to complete. This has been difficult as I am quite the routined person and would ideally prefer to go into work each day knowing what tasks I had on my list to complete and how to complete them. These past two weeks, I have found myself lacking direction at work and often feeling confused asking myself questions like: What should I be doing? Am I even doing this right? The workplace environment has been extraordinarily relaxed, and I think that is where I am attribute the ambiguity that I have been feeling, making it difficult to adjust.

Just yesterday, my Supervisor had headed out of the office on an errand around 3:30pm; I am scheduled to work until 4pm. I had finished my assigned task for the day, and sat at my desk contemplating what to do. Am I allowed to leave? It is 4pm, after all. After excessive overthinking, I texted my Supervisor basically asking if it was alright with him should I head home. He responded quickly, basically telling me that I did not have to ask.

It has been little things like this particular situation that I have struggled with the most. I am typically someone who needs explicit instruction and direction, especially when beginning a new job in an unfamiliar environment. I know, now, that that is something that may not be fully attainable. Accepting the fact that I must fully adjust, I have been trying to not overthink small situations like this, as they are probably not as grave as I make them out to be.

This ambiguity in my particular workplace culture has also been exceptionally challenging as it is a test to my introverted self. I have arrived at the conclusion that the only reasonable solution is to speak up; ask questions, ask for feedback, ask for tasks to complete. I have never been exceptionally good at using my voice and advocating for myself in any context. Now, I guess, is the time to do exactly that. I typically get the feeling that I am “bothering” my Supervisor when I feel compelled to ask for clarity regarding tasks to complete. Each day I make small stride, however, toward being my own best advocate and reminding myself that I am there to work.

It has also been interesting to adjust to the more relaxed idea of timeliness here in Ireland. I have an hour lunch break and I find myself watching the clock to ensure that I am not taking an extra minute than what I am given. My coworkers, on the other hand, truly utilize their breaks to catch up with each other, and using the hour long break as a loose outline of timing, rather than a strict 60 minutes, no more, no less.

Going into week 3, like I had just previously mentioned, my goal is to not overthink the little things at work. I am allowed to ask questions, and they should not require as much hesitation as I have been devoting to them. I am also getting to know my coworkers very well and they have been more then welcoming. I can use them as a resource as well for any questions and concerns. I also just found out that a new intern from the States will be starting next week. This will be a great opportunity to meet someone new in the office, and hopefully we will be able to bounce questions off of each other, as we both will practically be in the same boat.

I never thought that adjusting to the workplace here would be easy, but the challenges I have been experiencing with a lack of direction, intense ambiguity, and loose construction of timing has definitely been difficult to acclimate myself to. I am very hopeful for the remaining few weeks, however, and know that I will learn and improve each day.

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