Would you like to understand why your Dutch colleague, CEO, or other conversation partner reacts so “awkwardly” in certain situations?
Below you can read about some of those “awkward” situations that can occur when communicating with people from different cultural backgrounds.
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Do you recognize any of the following situations?
Your Dutch colleague asks what you would like for your birthday. What? How can she ask me that?! A gift is supposed to be a surprise! You decide not to answer the question. On your birthday you receive a gift voucher. You do not understand why this is the gift they chose to give you…
You are the CEO of a South African business and have an appointment with clients from the Netherlands. You have set a time but still have a number of things you need to wrap up before the meeting. You do not give this a second thought and reason that the clients will wait for you. The Dutch clients call you again to enquire where you are. When you arrive at the predetermined destination you see a number of friends and are, of course, obliged to greet them. The Dutch clients are irritated. You have no idea why…
You work in a restaurant in Kenya and a client asks you “what types of wine do you have”? You cannot say that you do not have any wine, and you therefore decide to ask a different question in response. You ask “would you perhaps enjoy a beer?”. The client does not understand the message that you are trying to convey and asks a more specific question, “do you have any South African wine?”.
Apparently the client has not understood that you do not have any wine, but you are of course unable to say this directly. You try and convey this message again by saying “we also have lovely fresh juices….”.
You have been in the Netherlands for a couple of months and have had a number of Dutch lessons. Your colleague from HR sees you coming into work and says “Goedemorgen, hoe gaat het?”. You’re afraid that you may not pronounce your reply correctly or that you have misunderstood the question, so you choose to answer in English just in case….
You are from India and have been working in the Netherlands for the past two months. You are the only foreign colleague in the business. You have been taking Dutch lessons since your arrival and have the impression that you are doing well. During the lunch breaks you do your best to talk to your colleagues in Dutch, but they speak so quickly and use different works than those you learn during your classes. You try to indicate that you that you do not fully understand what they are saying, however, this does not seem to help.
You are from Pakistan and have recently had a child. You used to live in the Netherlands, but now live in London. You have invited a Dutch friend to stop by for a maternity visit. What happens? Your friend immediately proposes specific dates. She asks you whether that weekend works for you and, well, what can you say? You can’t really say no. Another friend will be coming by for a visit the weekend before. In actuality, the timing isn’t really great. When your friend arrives you try to explain that she shouldn’t always take everything so literally. She also could have come by to visit a couple of months later. Instead of understanding what you are trying to say, she seems quite indignant…
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