The prompt for this week is about difficult assimilating into our country’s workplace culture. I was able to finally meet the whole team this Thursday, so I feel like I have the ability to speak on this. Not only was I around management and the data team like I mostly am, but I also met the graphic designers, the marketers, and the client relationship experts.
As an American interning at a data company in Ireland, I really embarked on a journey to assimilate into a new culture and adapt to a different workplace environment. I was beyond excited at the possibility to meet with and learn from new peoples. With preconceived notions of the warmth and sociability often associated with Irish people, I found myself facing unexpected challenges. Before arriving in Dublin, I had heard countless stories of the friendly and sociable nature of Irish people. However, my experience in the workplace proved to be quite different. The initial expectation of vibrant conversations and easy camaraderie was replaced by a more reserved and less outgoing atmosphere. I honestly wondered if I had done something to offend them. We were briefed that questions from coworkers might get more personal than we were used to, but the couple of people I see in the office don’t even ask about my day.
Within the workplace, I encountered a distinct lack of spontaneous social interactions and limited engagement in casual conversations. Colleagues seemed focused on their tasks and less inclined to engage in small talk or forge connections beyond the professional realm. This posed a significant hurdle in building relationships and establishing a sense of belonging within the team. This has been very difficult as one of the more exciting parts of this internship was that it helps people with lung issues both in terms of effectiveness and cost. Yet I do not feel any sort of comradery with the founder or other important members of the team. Not to stereotype or generalize, but I believe these data focused people just are more concerned with numbers and such than people skills. So what I’ve learned is that while Irish people are often known for their warm hospitality, it is important to recognize that cultural traits can vary widely among individuals. Stereotypes do not define an entire population, and assumptions based on them may lead to misconceptions and disappointment.
One of the key factors influencing my assimilation experience was the difference in communication styles. Irish communication tends to be more indirect and subtle compared to the direct and explicit style prevalent in American workplaces. The Irish value understatement and politeness, which initially led to misinterpretations and misunderstandings on my part. For example, there were no jokes or light comments made for introductions or meetings. I was not sure if there was a somber tone or if I should be expecting something different in the presentation as opposed to boring data. I guess it would have been rude to take away from what a person was doing or presenting to do anything other than to listen and ask questions.
Another aspect that posed challenges was the contrasting work-life balance between the United States and Ireland. In American culture, the lines between personal and professional life are often blurred, with long hours and a strong emphasis on work. In Dublin, however, there is a greater emphasis on maintaining a healthy work-life balance. If someone got to the office a couple of minutes late, it didn’t seem to be a big deal. There was no reprimanding or talk about time theft or apologies for tardiness from what I saw. Leeway like this makes great sense to me, especially as someone who is still figuring out the bus system here.
P.S. The featured image this week is from a storefront from Henry Street. The street is just north parallel to the main river (River Liffey) and is the first proper shopping/touristy street I’ve come across. Dublin is largely similar to cities in the UK where shops and housing are not neatly separated into zoned areas, and I wasn’t sure if there was a dedicated shopping district at all, but there is! Anyways, this storefront made every fiber of my business body churn. They sold toys, phone repairs and unlocks, and coffee, all in one place! Their marketing material is obviously not great either. This ridiculous lack of specialization and brand value wouldn’t bother be so much if it wasn’t taking up incredibly valuable real estate on Henry Street, so it must be doing well.