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.
A native of Strasbourg, I’ve lived 33 years in the Netherlands and worked 30 years at TU/e. I teach intercultural communication in various forms and also help develop further our Community. As such culture and communication are part of my entire life and they activate my 5 senses all day long! And I like to share these impressions and experiences. So stay tuned for more!