How to work effectively in Ireland as a young, early career 'mananger'?
June 1, 2011 6:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm an American moving to Ireland for a temporary, six-month assignment. How do I fit in and understand the work culture to ensure I'm successful?

I'll be moving to Ireland this August for a temporary, six-month assignment. My office is located in Shannon, but I will likely live in Limerick, the closest city.

Basic info about me: early 20's, male, no SO, American.

What is it like to live in Ireland as an American? I have lived in (or around) some major US cities and have been to Europe several times on family vacations, but I've never been there alone--or--to live.

I believe my work will help find me housing and offer me a car/transportation stipend. I've heard (and read) Ireland isn't too populous, so a car may be necessary to even have friends. Any opinion on this?

How does the general work culture differ in Ireland (and Europe) from the US? The stereotype is that Europeans work fewer hours and take longer 'holidays'--how do I fit in to cultural norms while I'm there?

My assignment requires managing/overseeing some contractors and employees. Not only am I pretty young, I'm also a foreigner--how do I avoid becoming the outcast? I can assert some level of 'rank' (based on expertise and being assigned there, not age, of course), but would prefer to take a more friendly approach, if possible.

Any other ideas on things to do, see, etc in Ireland (and Europe) are more than welcome!
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation around Ireland (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Go with an open mind. I haven't lived in Ireland but I have (American - early 30s; but early 20s when I began working abroad) lived and worked in a number of countries. Some things will be similar, some will be different. Keep an ear open and be willing to learn things particular to your office and Irish culture.

Are you replacing someone from your current office who had that position? S/he may have some input for you based on experiences. Is your company big enough to have a relo office that might help with some transition?

Depending on how common foreigners/Americans are in that Shannon office they may be used to rotating staff in and out, or you could be a novelty to them as well. Do your job well and listen. You must be good at your job if your company is sending you on this assignment. Continue to do the good job you have done and learn by observing what's going on as to how particular things are handled.
posted by TravellingCari at 7:47 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hi. I'm an American living in Ireland. You have less of a barrier than you would in some other places because there are LOADS of us here. People with English or American accents don't really stick out here because there are just so many of us. There is little risk of you being an outcast because you are American or young - we have a very young workforce in general.

Things you can do to help yourself not stick out: 1) Lower your volume 2) Stop talking about how X works in the US 3) Don't tell people you are Irish because your grandmother came from Kerry 4) Do not discuss the Troubles or have an opinion on them because I guarantee you don't know what you're talking about, your opinion is misguided and to a huge extent nobody cares because this is not Northern Ireland.

Practical things: Be prepared for six weeks of poverty. You will need to apply for what's called a PPS number when you arrive. HR can help you; do it fast. Until you get your PPS number, you will be taxed on your pay at the highest rate, which is killing. Once you have a PPS number, your tax bracket is adjusted.

You WILL need a car to travel Shannon - Limerick. I would however seriously reconsider living in Limerick because it's a shithole. I'm sure that varies by area but I would be inclined to spend 2 weeks living in temporary housing and looking around the region to find a place that meets your needs for where to live. I have no suggestions off the top of my head for where that might be.

Prices will shock you. Gas and groceries are expensive. Flights however are cheap! Shannon routes are limited but you can fly from Dublin to hundreds of places - see Ryanair.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:01 PM on June 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm not American but I lived in Ireland for a couple of years. DarlingBri is right on the money, especially about the Troubles. I survived without a car, but that was in central Dublin, so YM will definitely vary.
Cultivating a taste for Guinness isn't compulsory.
And don't stress about it all--the Irish are by and large the friendliest people on earth.
posted by Logophiliac at 9:36 PM on June 1, 2011

I'm Irish working for an American company with lots of Americans. DarlingBri's advice is spot on IMHO, though I would suggest that not _all_ of Limerick is unpleasant. It's the home of gang warfare in Ireland outside Dublin, but there are nice parts and nice people like everywhere else. Shannon can be quite rough at night also, and because it's smaller it's harder to avoid the nastiness, so choose carefully.

The most successful American managers and executives I have seen talk to people and listen to their answers for the first few weeks before asserting themselves into decision-making and processes and structures and all the rest of it. The least successful assume that nothing had been done well before they were dispatched from the Greatest Country In The World to spread wisdom among the huddled masses.

While I believe generalisations about a race are generally silly, I have found it consistently true that Irish people have a mistrust of authority; you might find that their deference for your rank will be skin-deep if you try and assert it through a call to the hierarchy, and you could find it hard to create lasting change. Convince people through debate and data if you can, and only bring down the Sam-hammer if you have no other option.

Can't write more at the moment, but feel free to Me-mail me if you have further questions.
posted by StephenF at 3:27 AM on June 2, 2011

Another American in Ireland here. Nthing that DarlingBri is spot on.

-In regards to a place to live, you might want to check out Ennis; it's a lovely town and looks to be about the same commute to Shannon as Limerick.

-For what it's worth, I got my PPS number relatively quickly (about 10 days); I think it depends on which county you're in, and right now, due to the economy, I don't think there are as many people applying for them.

-To do important stuff like opening a bank account, get internet, etc. you typically need proof of residence, usually via a utility bill or something like that. Once you get accommodation, have the electric company send you a statement straight away.

I think you'll fit in fine; as DarlingBri said, there are loads of us here!
posted by lovermont at 5:44 AM on June 2, 2011

From the OP:
I do have help from HR with relocation and know another employee who was assigned there at one point, but haven't been able to speak with them yet.

This is an incredibly naive question, but is Irish gang warfare just over drugs/money? Or is it somehow 'different' than American street gang violence and crime?

As you might expect, I'm diplomatic enough to be sent to Ireland and not be a liability. Thank you for the reminders about talking with people and learning the local and office cultures before trying to make any changes or implement my grand ideas :o) And I won't mention the Troubles--hell, I didn't even know what that was until I noticed it was capitalized (and therefore google-able).

Hmm…I somehow pictured Limerick as being a really nice place to live. Any other suggestions on where to live? I would like to be around other people as much as possible, especially since I know no one and will be there alone.

Thank you all again…and I'll be sure to leave my (joking) "USA, USA, USA!" chants at home!
posted by jessamyn at 8:39 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

1) Lower your volume

I've just moved to Ireland from New Zealand, although to Cork. I wanted to second this because it is actually the biggest difference I've noticed between working here and back in NZ. People are generally quietly spoken and the overall volume in my workplace is lower than I'm used to, so I've had to tone it down (I'm kind of loud and boisterous). It's nice though, the quiet productive hum makes it easier to work.

Otherwise this is still a westernised country and things really aren't that weird or anything. Personally I've found things pretty much the same as at home but firstly I'm not American and secondly I work in an academic research lab, which tend to be kind of similar around the world anyway. Just listen more than you talk to start with and take note of how things are done around you (which it sounds like you've got covered) and you'll be fine.

I got my PPS number in 24 hours by the way. Ask them when you can ring and they'll give a very specific time when it will be ready (mine was 9.00-9.20 am). Otherwise it arrives in the post in a couple of days. Get a letter from your employer saying who you are and that you're employed by them and where you're staying. Then use that as proof of residence rather than waiting for an electricity bill or whatever (which means you can apply immediately). The other thing to do quickly is to apply for your tax certificate as soon as you have the PPSN (form 12a that's a pdf link), because you're still going to be charged emergency tax until it's sorted (emergency tax is that highest rate thing DarlingBri is talking about, it's pretty evil!). They take a while, I think mine was six weeks although Easter was in there. You're supposed to get back any extra tax in your next salary payment after it arrives, although I haven't yet.

I found the bureaucracy very easy to deal with, everyone was genuinely friendly and helpful and they gave clear instructions and useful information. But government departments and things like the post office are open much shorter hours than I'm used to (probably to save money), and some things close for an hour for lunch, so spend some time finding out opening hours online before setting off places.
posted by shelleycat at 11:42 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've only really passed through Limerick, so I can't speak to what it would be like to live there. I know its reputation isn't great, but as StephenF said, like most cities, it seems to have its good areas and its bad. If you want to get the inside view on the city (and crime/gang activity), you might want to visit this forum on (Actually, you might want to browse other parts of Boards, too; there's lots of useful info there!) I found the Boards forum for where we live, Galway, very helpful for orienting myself to the the city's neighborhoods, and it's been great for recommendations on places to eat, where to buy certain things, doctors, etc. (You can look up Ennis and other towns within commuting distance of Shannon there, too.)

Also, looking at shelleycat's response, looks like you'll have a much quicker turnaround on the PPS number than I did. I think my experience was different 'cause I came here with no job lined up. I am actually a citizen (I got my citizenship through marriage pre-2005, when the rules changed), but the people I dealt with had never seen the citizenship cert I had before—I think that might've slowed the process a bit. Sounds like you're able to get your PPS number much faster via your employer "vouching" for you. I had thought mine came quickly, though—my friend's took weeks when she moved here a few years ago (again, no job)!
posted by lovermont at 1:21 PM on June 2, 2011

jessamyn: This is an incredibly naive question, but is Irish gang warfare just over drugs/money? Or is it somehow 'different' than American street gang violence and crime?

It's gang warfare over drugs and money and also some long-standing family disputes ala Romeo and Juliette, more or less. There is a recent spike in casual knife violence largely centred around drunken disputes when pubs close down, as well, but that's very geographically specific.

Hmm…I somehow pictured Limerick as being a really nice place to live. Any other suggestions on where to live?

Ennis is a good suggestion but I've no idea what the roads are like. Roads, rather than distance, makes all the difference. None of these are big cities; they are large towns, just so you know. Living city centre anywhere has the obvious urban advantages, but also disadvantages around pub kicking out time (see above.) We live in the city centre but I'm from NYC and my husband is from London so we have a very high threshold for that particular flavour of bullshit. YMMV.

shellycat! We're in Cork! We need a meetup!
posted by DarlingBri at 12:48 PM on June 3, 2011

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