It is around 4pm on an ordinary day when you suddenly find out that the film you have wanted to see for ages is on tonight in town. But only tonight. And since you cannot download it from any internet source, you will have to go to the movies tonight. “Fine”, you think, as you wanted to go out with some friends anyway.
Back in 1980, Greece and the European Union (that was called the European Economic Community/EEC) at that time were conducting final talks that led to the admission of Greece to the EEC the year after. One of these talks took place in Athens in the Greek capital. The EEC-delegation headed by a top civil servant -a Danish woman- was welcomed at the airport by their Greek hosts. These were all older men with grey hair and a bit of a belly (what the Germans appropriately call Wohlstandsbauch). While trying to identify the head of the EEC-delegation, they were obviously looking for the older man, a peer like them in that group.
“But if there is no selection to get admitted, what is this study program worth?”, someone suggested at an international forum on academic matters. This point of view is typical of some cultures in which competition, selection and individual rewards are quite common.
You arrived late in class and although you managed to sneak in via the door at the back, the teacher spotted you and shouted at you “Make sure you are on time, next time” while you were trying to mumble some excuse. As a result, you felt excessively individualized and ashamed, and experienced a loss of face for this unexpected feed-back. Indeed, in your culture you would have been able to enter the classroom unnoticed.
We are all coaches. Good parents coach their kids in a way that they become more friends than parents; inspiring leaders and collaborative managers coach their employees into being responsive and responsible team players. At the TU/e, versatile teachers now coach their students in their educational and personal development, and some Dutch students at TU/e also coach their international peers to help them integrate more quickly and better into our community. And let’s not forget that 17 million Dutch people often act as the coach of the national soccer team. Incidentally, it’s rather quiet in this respect at the moment…
"Les 12 points du jury français vont à la Chine!" France’s maximum points going to China in the Eurovision song contest is still fiction. But as we just saw last Saturday with Australia as a guest participant, there’s already some opening to globalize this annual mega-show. This year’s vintage largely turned into a platform for predominantly Anglo-American loud music again supported by swinging and swirling dance, and flashing and sparkling light shows, next to a few bizarre solo national(istic) performances. And again, the results proved to be a mix of predictable attitudes by countries casting their votes based on (past) political or cultural affinity, and of more objective and only artistic considerations.
“We all need symbols in life. Whether animals we venerate, monuments we admire, or real or fictive characters we worship”, I wrote in a previous column when I was trying to identify the Dutch symbol par excellence: the fiets.
“Do you have anything else other than milk?”, I cautiously asked looking at the range of milk but also cartons of fruit juice and of course the standard coffee and tea displayed on the table in front of me. “Oh yes, sir, we also have butter milk”. I silently sighed and ventured to ask for just water with some sarcasm in my voice. “Oh I’m sorry, but we don’t have water”. No water for lunch? After insisting a bit, I finally got some water from the faucet in the nearby pantry, along with lots of apologies. Probably a recognizable situation for many internationals in the Netherlands.
In the past months, as I was cycling past ‘Parkview’, the new student housing building on our TU/e-Science Park, I’ve seen the building rise at the high speed of one floor a week. The weeks passed by until the 13th week when much to my surprise construction suddenly stopped. I counted and recounted the numbers of levels, indeed thirteen (13), no more and no less. I immediately wondered who would like to live on the 13th floor of a housing building here in the Netherlands.
Alaaf vs nihao… was the choice I had to make regarding these two major cultural events that were back to back and overlapped this year. Indeed, the Chinese Spring Festival a.k.a. The Lunar New Year met Carnival a.k.a. Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras last week. But choosing was easy because Carnival has never meant much for me (not my culture… and I don’t like beer), whereas Chinese festivities as a whole trigger my curiosity and nourish my intercultural hunger. So I quickly decided to devote my time and energy to participating in the Chinese Spring Festival.
In my latest column in January, I described the cultural differences in greetings (bowing, kissing or shaking hands) around the world, and we saw that the Dutch and the French, for example, practice greetings or express wishes in different ways. Now let’s go deeper into the topic and examine habits in the more intimate, romantic and passionate kissing, a.k.a. French kissing.
These forms of greetings are actually the title of a book that reviews various business practices and greeting forms in about 60 countries. Needless to say, such general informative books are quickly outdated. But not so when it comes to greeting practices, the topic I want to tackle in this first column at the beginning of this new year 2016.
TU/e-employees will soon receive their Christmas gift box as a traditional sign of gratification for the hard work performed in the past year. The big tutti quanti box has been replaced by a smaller box with the traditional wine (and not one, but two bottles!) and a Bijenkorf gift card. This box is simple, easy to take home, and it fits the Calvinist approach to gift-giving. So far so good, although…
We all need symbols in life. Whether animals we venerate (like lions, roosters, cows, dragons, etc.), monuments we admire (i.e. Tour Eiffel, Gateway of India, Brandenburger Tor, etc.), or real or fictive characters we worship (such as gods and goddesses, kings and queens, celebrities, and Santa Claus and the like…). So what would count as a symbol for the Netherlands? Sinterklaas and his zwarte pieten? “Oh no, please, not again…”, I hear you say, right? This is far too controversial and doesn’t stand for the unity of the Dutchies. There’s fortunately one symbol that embraces all Dutch cultural characteristics and hence isn’t subject to any controversy: the fiets!
On my way back from a meeting, I walked passed our new supermarket on the campus. I stopped. I turned around. It was high noon. I was hungry. Would this new shop feed me? I was curious, but also anxious. Well, the first impression was one of a shock. In front of the shop a pink crocodile (or was it an alligator?) was staring at me, with its mouth open … hmm… maybe it was hungry, too. Not very welcoming to customers… Fortunately, it was chained down to a huge nearby plant. Jungle? Yes, the concrete jungle in Flux.
We all know the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC s), which aim at unlimited participation and open access via the web. Well, in August TU/e experienced various types of MOOCs I’m going to describe. One of them, unlike the real MOOC, was characterized by a limited participation and controlled access to our campus: a peaceful invasion by our new international students which resulted in the presence of Many Outlanders On Campus.
Friday afternoon in a big Dutch city: a quiet corner near a busy road. People had gathered for a very special reason: to collectively commemorate their missing dear ones.
It was one of those rainy days in downtown Amsterdam and a car, one of those big Mitsubishi station wagons, stopped for a red traffic light. The car behind, one of those big Volvos a.k.a. “the tank”, could not stop on time (the story doesn’t say if it was because of the slippery pavement) and crashed into the station wagon.
Earlier this week EP-NUFFIC launched what is meant to be “your first step towards mastering the Dutch language. It shows you how much fun it can be to learn Dutch” and also helps you discover some typical aspects of culture.
“Help yourself with anything in the fridge, I’ll be back in a minute”, said my host as he was strolling away passed his kitchen door. This was in America where in traditional rural areas the kitchen is part of the public space of the house, visitors come and go through that rear door, and so is the fridge as equipment there. And they mean it: do take that beer yourself out of the fridge! as good peaches with a large public space usually do.
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At this university there are students who are not taking any classes, but they are still forced to pay the full sum of their tuition fee. How is that? When you take a look at what they are doing instead of following courses, their reasons become clear. They form one of the most important cornerstones of the TU/e, they are the student board members and part of student teams.