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Pints & Paperwork: An American Interning Abroad in Ireland

Rolling hills. Insanely green and gorgeous views. People as charming as their quaint little towns. These are some of the things that I expected as an American planning to intern abroad in Ireland. I wanted to immerse myself and learn from a culture different than my own. Here’s what I found.

First of all, Irish culture is different from that of the States, but not THAT different. Upon arriving in Dublin, I was slightly surprised at how similar it was to many big cities in the U.S. Aside from no high rise buildings, pubs on every corner, and Irish accents galore, it wasn’t all that different. But, to be fair, Dublin is the capital and by far the largest city in Ireland.

Just as I did at previous internships in the States, I worked nine to five in an office setting and commuted through the city to work every day. Apart from some lovely Irish scenery, it was a pretty standard commute.

The true differences are shown in the Irish people themselves. In my opinion, Irish people are absolutely wonderful. They are kind and courteous yet quick-witted and sarcastic all at the same time. They seem to place a huge value on family and the relationships they have with others, even at work. Some of the most important business meetings may happen in a cozy Irish pub over a pint of Guinness. Trust is highly regarded and egotism is frowned upon. The Irish appreciate more modesty and politeness and place an emphasis on trusting the people they work with. And let me tell you, “Irish time” is no folktale. It’s not uncommon for people to arrive 15 to 20 minutes late to work or a meeting on a daily basis or take their time sipping on tea or chatting at lunch. Different from their American counterparts whom can often be seen cramming in a microwave meal at their desk for lunch.

One of the biggest differences I have noticed between the workplace cultures is the differences in value of vacation or holiday time. In the states, people receive paid vacation time but it seems to be a privilege and not always taken advantage of. To the Irish, holiday leave, for at least a month or more, every single year, seems to be a given right as a human being. Businesses even slow down in July and August because the Irish are taking their holiday time. This time seems to be just as important as the time they spend at the workplace.

I have also noticed that much like in the States, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” This is maybe even more true in Ireland. Being a small country, it feels like everyone has connections to everyone. For example, when I send out letters for work, some people don’t even have a proper address; I will simply put their name, street name, and county and the post man or woman will know that person on a first name basis and where they live.

All of this being said, when comparing the Irish and American workplace as they stand today, it would be unfair not to mention how they are becoming increasingly more similar. Ireland is an english speaking country, the first country that you hit on the way to Europe from the States, has large tax breaks for corporations and it’s not extremely difficult to recruit talented individuals to come work in this beautiful country. Because of this, many large American companies, including Google and Facebook, are headquartered in Ireland. This has had a noticeable impact on Irish work places. For companies to compete with other large companies like Google, they start to emulate them. Because of this, Irish and American work places seem to have less differences every day.

But even with similarities in cultures, working and living in Ireland and seeing the day to day Irish lifestyle has truly changed me. The biggest takeaway I can see in myself is an appreciation for how other parts of the world do things - maybe even just a bit better than American’s in some ways. It has taught me that sometimes to be even more productive I have to take time for myself. To always get to know and appreciate the people that I spend my days with. And lastly to not work my life away in high amounts of stress but to do my work in a way that I can be productive but also enjoy each and every day - not just those epic days that we call Saturday and Sunday.

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