Work: culturing shock


Can you imagine suits in a place like this? You can spot them but it is not a uniform. That’s just a surface level difference, but it’s really useful to know how things work in a country. Otherwise you can get frustrated!

This is the second blog post of my ‘working in Greenland’ series, where I will give you a silly personal example of how a ‘normal service standard’ was different for me.

At my work, we use a clock-in clock-out system, whereby I can log how much I’ve worked throughout the day. I started officially in mid-December in this position, and by mid-February I still couldn’t log into the system. So I thought it was about time to tell the right person about my problem. They tried everything that they could to fix it, but for some reason nothing worked.

By March, I mentioned this in a meeting – and that I still didn’t have a phone number. Once in a while, I also wrote a short email just to clarify that it still wasn’t working. Not that I cared, I just thought it was my responsibility to fix it.

Finally by mid-April, an email was sent to everyone asking them to make sure that their timesheets were correct. I wrote a simple reply saying that I couldn’t do this… which meant that this time the director placed another phone call on my behalf and got it fixed.

I asked my colleague and friend afterwards how often I should have followed up on this problem. My colleague replied, ‘Once was enough.’

The explanation I received was that there is only one person servicing half the country with this system. Therefore, it’s completely normal for a new employee to only gain access to the clock-in clock-out system after half a year.

If I had known that before, I would not have bothered with looking at it until June.

So there are a few lessons to the story, but one is that a workplace can help to set the right expectations. My colleagues helped as much as they could, but probably didn’t realize that I didn’t know that I should wait half a year as a normal service standard.

If we want to improve then sometimes you have to take these problems up. Complacency is not an option, but it is important to only fight the system when you care about it enough. I’m not saying that we should never improve but that as a new person one should think about how your words and actions will be perceived. Especially as here in Greenland, people are not as vocal as those in Europe or North America. If you say anything, you may be judged. Maybe a few more New Yorkers could help shake up the system 🙂 They would have to be more tactful, though, as making enemies also doesn’t help… You will definitely see those people again.

I think back in amusement to a colleague who went to the Phillipines for a year to work, and when he arrived he didn’t have a work desk or a computer station for around a week.

‘That’s just the way it is’, he said, ‘expect things to be slow around here.’

And with that in mind, it’ll be easier to keep on working.


6 thoughts on “Work: culturing shock

  1. This is a great story. I have been really busy writing over the past few months and haven’t had time to look at anything except boring academic stuff. Your blog really is a welcome break and it just seems to get better and better. You are writing a wonderful ethnography. Do keep posting. 🙂

    • Dear Mark, Thanks for the encouragement! I would say this is probably one of the most boring written stories I’ve had, but it is a learning curve =).

      I’m enjoying your blogas well, it keeps me up to date with the edu world =)

      Cheers, Tanny

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