Chaeyoung Lim - “In Ireland, time flies when you relax”


Chaeyoung Lim

Chaeyoung Lim is Korean PhD student in Information Systems in Tokyo Institute Technology. He likes exploring new food and beer, reading books, socialising with people from various backgrounds, travelling and dancing. Maynooth is his fourth living city after Seoul (S.Korea), Tokyo (Japan) and Aachen (Germany).

 As a student from Japan, Ireland has been a faraway place for me, just like the Moon. Despite the fact that I have personally liked traditional Irish Celtic music and the taste of Guinness beer, those were the main things I knew about Ireland.

Thanks to my recent progress on a collaborative research project between my school (Tokyo Institute of Technology) and the National University of Ireland Maynooth, I gained the opportunity to work with NUIM. And I got the chance to visit Dublin for the first time and participate in international conferences as well as meet with my potential advisor and colleagues, last December.

pic1 Templebar

Temple Bar: filled with cheerful people and pub magic

In a nutshell, my first impression was filled with positive thoughts only: from very amicable meetings with my colleagues, cheerfully improvised dancing and singing by Irish people in Temple bar area, to the astonishing magic of Irish pubs that changes all strangers to old friends after just a few pints of tasty beer.

Guinness Storehouse: amazing fire performance

I also returned to Ireland for initiating the project, in earnest, in the first week of April. In a month, I managed to have deeper interactions and follow interesting experiences with Ireland, from a resident’s view, not a traveller’s view only. While facing with various cultural differences, I felt that the largest cultural gap is about dealing with “time”, associated with its fact and meanings.

My daily (Irish) life

Like all other travellers, I was confronted with “jet lag” issues, caused by different time zones. As my body could not easily accept 8 hours of time difference, I had to fight against my eyes’ falling shut during the work hours and keeping them opened during midnight. However, such difficulty could be controlled in a week, by the aid of exercise and beer in the evening (it helps get the body tired and sleepy).

A larger difficulty, in fact, was my mental jet lag, caused by a reaction to my habit and cultural understanding of time. In Japan, people usually start working earlier (around 7-8am) and consider calling it a day at around 6-7pm, based on their public awareness that people do work when the sun is up (overtime work is a separate issue). Therefore, they are prone to start thinking about closing their work, when recognising that outside is dark. And they consider overtime work is a natural reason to stay in office to a later time or even on the weekends.

pic2 NUIM

In Ireland, on the other hand, people seem to work more intensively in their shorter working hour, and they tend to be strict on their closing hour of work (around 5 or 6pm) and day-offs for spending their private time with their family and friends.

As a person used to working in the Japanese mode for 3 years, I had to struggle hard to drop my behavioural inertia: I had to work longer, the sun was up till 9pm, I had to come in to the office on the weekends. And I was the only person being in the office during those hours. Thanks to my Irish friends, I learned all about "chilling-out", I am now experiencing the joy of balancing work and private life here. Yet, watching the bright sun on the way of leaving work gives an e awkward feeling still. But I decided to consider it as one of the perks of my daily life in Ireland: “You can have an additional day for relaxing after your working day.”