My time in Madrid so far has been very interesting from a personal and professional standpoint. Assimilating into the Spanish way of life and day to day routine has not been very difficult, having grown up visiting family here. However, I still have encountered new experiences during the program that have been an adjustment. Though I am familiar with the social culture, I have never worked in Spain. This program has introduced a whole new side of the country that was previously unknown to me. Like most new experiences, it usually takes a minute to adjust and adapt, but so far they have been a source of substantial professional growth.
In the context of the workplace, the cultural difference I have had the most difficulty adjusting to is the different perceptions and values placed on productivity. It is hard to generalize Spanish productivity simply, for different sectors of the professional world function with different goals, needs and expectations, as in most countries. However, I can say that my personal experience does support the notion that productivity is approached differently here. From what I have seen, productivity or a fast work ethic is acknowledged but not necessarily prioritized. Especially in a gallery setting, things such as attention to detail, precision and dedication to a project, is valued much higher than simply getting things done quickly. It’s a very clearly a quality over quantity kind of atmosphere. We need to make sure our output looks as thought-out, uniform and curated as possible to make sure we look professional to potential clients.
One of my previous experiences working in the United States was at a media-related retail store. This job was a very formative experience for me professionally, for it’s the long position I have held so far. I draw comparisons between this experience and my current position because there are quite a few similarities. Art galleries hope to sell their art as a source of income, and so it is much like a store in this regard. During my time working in retail I learned to value things such as efficiency and productivity very highly – though of course, quality did play a role in day to day operation too. However, there was a very clear expectation to occupy the entirety of your time at work, to working. Getting a head start on daily operational chores, multitasking and working on side projects quickly and efficiently was always a must in this position. From this experience, I have built a work ethic that is not entirely aplicable to my current environment.
This has been one of the most noticeable shocks in my professional experience here and the biggest change of mindset I have undergone over my stay. To work cohesively in this new environment with my coworkers, I have needed to adapt to their standards and practices. This has been a really fun and rewarding challenge. I’ve really enjoyed approaching my work through a different lense, and strengthening skills such as curation and attention to detail. What I appreciate the most about this experience is that it is not fully “overriding” my old approach to a professional environment, but more so building off of it to create a more rounded approach. Even if I never work in an environment such as this one again, this experience has taught me how to adapt, and be adaptable, which will undoubtedly come in use in the future.