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I moved from the US to Dublin, Ireland, for 4 years and realized how damaging American hustle culture can be

TikTok screenshots of Donahue traveling Europe
I didn't want to always be hustling like the people around me and getting no paid vacation time.
  • After moving to Dublin, Ireland, Kayleigh Donahue fell in love with the laid-back work culture.
  • Going back to the US has been a shock, and she thinks more time off makes her more productive.
  • She told Insider's Aimee Pearcy why she started documenting her journey to inspire others to move.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Kayleigh Donahue, a TikTok creator who moved to Dublin, Ireland, from the US and lived there for four years. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I am originally from Rhode Island in the US, and I first moved to Dublin, Ireland, for a semester in autumn 2016 while I was in college studying psychology and theology. I'd chosen to go to Ireland because I went there on vacation with my family in 2015 and it left a good impression on me. The people there were so kind, and there was just a good vibe in the air.

I loved my semester abroad so much that I decided to go back to do an internship during the summer of 2017, and returned when I finished college a year later. I stayed for four years, going on to work as a social worker and staying through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It was working full-time abroad that made me realize it's possible to not buy into the American idea of work as a constant hustle. Now, I'm sharing that message on TikTok end encouraging others to experience life abroad.

Irish work culture made me more productive

When I first started full-time work, I would stay at my desk through lunch because I felt that was what would be expected of me in the US, but this was totally different. My coworkers would ask, "What are you doing? You need to leave the office. That's so unhealthy." 

At first, I didn't understand what they meant. But I began to realize that taking time off — whether it's paid vacation or daily coffee and lunch breaks — is considered completely normal in Ireland.

I was shocked by how laid back the working environment was compared to the US, and I fell in love with the lifestyle. I was also a better worker;  even though I was taking more time off, I found that I was more productive because I got to reset. 

Dublin, Ireland.
Dublin, Ireland.

I started sharing my experience online to inspire others to step out of their comfort zone

When I first heard about TikTok, I refused to download it because I thought it was ridiculous. But while I was alone during the pandemic, I decided to start making videos documenting my experience of living abroad. My story seemed to resonate, and many people told me that they think about moving abroad often but they're scared to do it. 

I also give people tips to encourage them to take the leap to move abroad if it's something they've been considering. 

For example, lots of people say that they are held back by the idea of being away from family and friends. But in my experience, it's not as hard as people think to make new friends once you move, especially if you live with roommates and are studying, although I also met people through apps that connect you to like-minded people looking to make friends in an area.

Ultimately, the worst that can happen is you don't like it and you decide to go back home, which is the message I continue to share with my 95,000 followers.

I moved back to the US to be with my family but it's been difficult to adjust to the intense work culture 

While I was in Ireland, one of my friends died and it sent me into a spiral of wanting to be near my family more. My grandparents were getting older and I was missing family gatherings, including my dad's wedding, which I had to watch over FaceTime. 

In August 2022, I decided to move back to the US. Working my first full-time job in Ireland was a blessing and a curse because I got so used to that kind of way of working. Coming back to work in the US has been a big adjustment. Back in Ireland, I had 29 paid vacation days per year. In the US, I've only had four paid days off in the past year. 

My boyfriend, who is Dutch, was able to get sponsored by his job to come with me. He has experienced a similar shock going from working in Europe to working in the US. He told me that he feels like Americans just do stuff to be busy and that they could get the same amount of work done in half the time. 

The US is my home, and I'm very close to my family. I wanted to move back to see if I could actually enjoy living here, but with the idea that it is temporary. In the future, I plan to move back to Europe with my boyfriend. If I didn't have that opportunity, I might have stayed in Dublin. 

Read the original article on Insider

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