As I write this post, I am starting my eight and final week in Dublin. As weird as it may sound, I feel like I just arrived here and like I have been here forever at the same time. It’s hard to believe that the end is just around the corner, and I will be back to the United States, no longer taking my daily bus ride to D-Light Studios or going to the UCD campus theater with the friends I’ve made from all over the United States. It is a bittersweet feeling, but I am extremely grateful for the opportunity given to me through this program and a journey I will never forget. Living in Ireland, and being in Europe in general, changed my perspective in a number of ways. One important difference that I noticed while working here, which may seem minor at first, was the way success is defined.
Obviously the definition of success is a personal thing, and everyone has their own unique criteria for what they consider a successful life, but I have definitely noticed some overarching differences in the way the cultures of Ireland and the United States define success. Living in the United States for my whole life, the way that success was usually portrayed is much more individualistic than it is in Ireland. I feel like it is often seen as a culmination of wealth, status, and professional achievements. The idea of the American Dream that United States culture is rooted in portrays upwards social mobility as the ultimate success, and the idea that those who come from very little should still strive to make it to the top. After spending around two months living and working in Dublin, I have observed that the Irish view of success is much more varied and nuanced than this. Factors like financial success and career advancement are also important in Ireland, however there is a more holistic approach overall. For example, I have noticed that work-life balance is much more important here, with a more understanding and lenient approach to vacation time and sick days. Adding to this, I’ve also noticed that many of my coworkers have other jobs/hobbies that play a big part in their lives outside of D-Light Studios. The owner of D-Light is a photographer who even runs her own magazine, my supervisor is also a yoga instructor, and my coworker Caoimhe is an artist. Tying in with this, I have noticed a greater appreciation for the arts in Ireland. This has a lot to do with the Gaelic revival and the role that mediums like poetry and music have played throughout the country’s history. A few weeks ago, one of Caoimhe’s paintings was put in an art gallery in the city, so my coworkers and I ended our days early and took a group trip to check out the exhibit and get food. It was a great time, and I cannot necessarily see the same thing happening in a United States work setting.
As the broader view of success is different between the United States and Ireland, so is the smaller scale view of individual success for employees and interns. I feel like workplaces in the U.S. often have a more direct chain of command, with instructions and tasks being passed down from one position to the position below them. On the other hand, the Irish workplace tends to be a lot more collaborative in my experience, and every employee has the opportunity to bring something new to the table and offer a new idea. This difference in culture translates to a difference in what is considered a good and valuable employee. In Irish culture, the most successful employees and interns are those who are generate new ideas and help with the overall goals of the company, rather than just completing their individual tasks in a timely manner. This importance of collaboration goes even further than just tasks. In many ways, the Irish workplace has a more casual vibe than the American workplace, with a more friendly and conversational atmosphere. This also plays into the way individual employee success is assessed here. Although it may not directly affect an employee’s ability to complete tasks efficiently, their ability to mesh well with their work environment and get along with their coworkers is very important. Overall, there are a number of differences between Irish and American culture, and these differences translate into different metrics of success in each country. Generally, America views success in a more direct, individual way, whereas Ireland views it more open-ended and collaborative.