A group of Dutch tourists asks a Malaysian if Lumpur is far from where they are. Seeing they look tired, he sympathizes and replies: “Oh no, sir, it’s not far!”. After 2 hours of walking, they still haven’t reached Lumpur. Their reaction full of frustration: “See, you can’t trust those Malaysians, you asked them a simple question and they just give you a fuzzy answer!”
On a hot afternoon in Japan I once asked my students in class: Don’t you think it’s hot here? I had already taken off my jacket, so I couldn’t decently take more off, and much to my surprise I saw all those students sitting next to the windows stand up and open them. I realized these Japanese students could just read my mind or else “between the lines”. Would this apply everywhere in the world? Probably not.
Saw Hussein (my favourite Turkish student) the other day again and guess what? He was having lunch with some other internationals, Chinese, Indians and some of the other ‘usual suspects’, and there were even some Dutch eating their croquet and drinking their milk. I was delighted, this is what my dream is about: a fully intercultural scene where all cultures mix (not this current multi-culti where people stick to their own cultural groups and hardly mix).
You may remember that two weeks ago Hussein went home to take his shower after sports, not being able to reconcile values like privacy and intimacy, but only compromising about them. Well, he did get back on time, though for his Professional Skills training offered by STU. These are hands-on sessions programmed either as independent units or embedded in bachelor or master courses. They form one of the many ways to help the many Husseins (and Jantjes) integrate into our community and also serve as examples for the next layer (after the physical environment/ infrastructure on campus) of the onion we started to peel: education and communication aspects.
Hussein is from Turkey and has been studying at TU/e for about more than a year now. I met him the other day and asked him how he is experiencing our campus and Community. To cut a long story short (indeed!), he mentioned what struck him most were the showers at the sports center. He described them as large and open halls where representatives of the same sex stand there naked. Just a little bit too much for him to happily join the other Adams in this collective freshening up process! What can he/we do about this?
The annual ‘Wervingsdagen’ a.k.a. ‘Bedrijvendagen’ are on their way again and on Sept. 29 we are invited to join the kick-off borrel with some free bees (ouch! do they sting?). Checking their website proves that there will be gratis drank and they also promise us a significant amount of free beer! Clear case now: although these recruitment days are targeted at all TU/e graduates this invitation seems to be addressed primarily to the (male) locals who of course will traditionally enjoy the free beer! And what about other large groups in our community? Will they feel attracted to join and enjoy the free beers? Not so sure.
“So what do you appreciate in Dutch culture?” When I pose this question to internationals of the TU/e community in a training, it is often followed by an awkward silence… To break it, I often quickly add: “… and by the way you don’t have to say food!”. This always creates some spontaneous laughter, as food is often seen as an issue by newcomers in Holland. Then after some thinking most participants will confess they appreciate the strict time perception (monochrony) or the direct style of communicating of the Dutch, or more individualism than where they come from.
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!