Tuesday, June 15, 2010

You Shouldn't Have!

Here's another unexpected, sweet but sometimes confusing difference in how things work over here.  "Work" pun intended!  I've never been to so many goodbye lunches or contributed to so many birthday/baby/goodbye gifts.  I'm attributing this to a strong cultural value placed on generosity, one that sometimes seems overboard to me coming as I do from an Americanized background.

Some examples:  a short-term contract worker ("locum") comes to the expected end of her time and everyone assumes there will be a lunch, flowers and gift.  An intern approaches the conclusion of his year-long rotation and lunch out with the whole team is a must, as is another collection around the whole building for a nice gift..  Milestone birthdays as well are marked by contributions, good food and expensive baubles.

Now, don't get me wrong.  Please don't.  I'm not stingy.  Nor do I have a heart the size of a shriveled peach.  I care about people. I really do!  I'm just not used to all this celebration and gift-giving for what I'd see as normal comings and goings.  In my previous life, work was work except for the special things (e.g., new babies on a close team, etc).  Interns come and go.  So do contract workers.  There's nothing really special about that.  Except... I must be wrong because here there is.

Case in point, a coworker and I just concluded running a group for parents as part of our overall service to our clients.  At the final session, we each received a card.  Very nice of you.  Thanks, but you really didn't have to.  I so wasn't expecting it!  Nor was I expecting... this:

Really?  Isn't this a little above and beyond?


Amy said...

Thanks for reminding me I have to break a fifty (do they have a neato word for that here like "tenner"?) so I can contribute to something at work tomorrow too! I agree--plus some of us are allergic to the flowers!

af said...

those are beautiful flowers.

imho if you are helping someone (e.g. counseling, teaching, doctour, etc) then i probably wouldn't accept a gift b/c it kinda blurs the line. subconsciously a teacher is going to treat a student better if they give them a gift b/c thats just human nature...

my experience of work here in America has been similar to yours in Ireland, probably not to the extent of yours though.

Temps get parties when they leave the company, they get cake/ice cream on their birthdays, others get parties for retirement, births, marriages, graduations, etc. lots of goings on.

just tonite we were getting money together to buy a girl a present for her baby shower. it's the girl's first baby, she's excited and people stood flatfoot and said "umm let me give you the money tomorrow..." due to the nature of the job i know they have the money
on their persons but they were just being cheap or selfish....

i think all of these parties/celebrations are supposed to build team spirit or whatever...

Kim said...

This is exactly how things were when I worked in England. There were about 150 people in the company, so there was always at least one envelope snaking it's way around the office. I didn't mind if I knew the person, but sometimes the envelope would come around and I had no idea who it was, but still felt like I should contribute. I wasn't making much money there, so that was extra frustrating.

Sirmelja said...

Amy, there really should be a nickname for a fifty. They certainly use it enough! I can't remember actually carrying a $50 bill around ever! 50's are the Irish 20's.

Thanks, AF, I do love the flowers. I just thought it was a little overboard. Plus, I agree, the idea of getting a gift for doing my professional job gives me the squeegees! But, the "line" here is pretty different than what I would have been used to in the States.

Kim, I know, the pressure to contribute to everybody, even people I don't really know that well, can be so annoying.