Hello, I am Beate Brinkman, the bbr.harlekin.
I am editor and author for Harlekin.Blog e.V. and my “main job” is support coordinator in an international IT company. So far I have worked in German, Dutch, American and Indian companies and have acquired a great deal of experience of multicultural cooperation. I have been living in the Netherlands as a German for many years and have discovered that the cultural differences between Germans and Dutch alone could fill entire books.
For professional and private reasons, I am particularly interested in multicultural (mis)understanding. Whether it’s about food, language, official conference calls or the organisation of funerals – when the cultures of several countries collide, things get lively. And that leads to sometimes unpleasant, often very funny, but always instructive situations.
In previous posts I have dealt several times with the culinary differences between Germany and the Netherlands – and they also exist in the case of the greatest of all summer pleasures, barbecuing. However, the differences are not so much culinary, but rather ideological. The Dutch are a people of flat hierarchies, they can’t stand it when one person has a greater say than anyone else. This is true in politics as well as in daily life, and I suspect that the royal family is also so popular because their representatives de facto have quite little to say.
A while ago, elections were held in the Netherlands – and as in Germany, this fact had a great impact on all the news programmes and political talk shows in the weeks beforehand, where viewers were confronted with rather contrived and tiring battles of words. The situation in the Netherlands is somewhat confusing simply because it takes four or five parties to form a government (out of a total of 18 (!) parties represented in parliament) rather than two or three as in Germany.
A breath of fresh air came from the Dutch “Jeugdjournaal” – the daily children’s news programme I became a fan of when I started learning Dutch years ago. The top candidates of the six largest parties were guests there three days before election day, along with children, of course (this time only a dozen, due to Corona).
Let’s be clear from the start: This post is not about the excessive use of alcohol! This time it’s actually exactly what it says.
Several years ago, a former colleague and still good friend of mine, a Frenchwoman who lives in Germany, came into the office in the morning completely shocked. She told me that she had spoken to her mother in France on the phone that morning and in the course of the conversation wanted to tell her that she had bought a new bathrobe. But she couldn’t think of the French word for “bathrobe”! She was very startled by this and feared that she was forgetting her mother tongue.
When we were expecting our latest grandchild, my husband and I were asked for our opinion on possible first names. Because the child’s relatives live in the Netherlands and Peru, it should be a name that is familiar in both countries and easy to pronounce in both languages. One of the names on the list was “Camilla” – and I was the one who spoke out against it because of the aforementioned association.
Since “indoor” group sports are not possible at the moment, I have been obliged to look around for yoga courses on YouTube – and without much enthusiasm at first. I found what I was looking for from a young woman from Berlin who explains really well and clearly indicates what matters in individual exercises. A real happy ending for me – in the meantime, “yoga with tablet” has become an enjoyable (and beneficial) part of my everyday life.
However, after the first few classes, I found that the blocks I had to overcome were less physical than linguistic. I had certain difficulties with prompts like “Let your forehead go all soft”, because whatever I had hoped for from yoga – a soggy noodle it was not.
On a metaphorical level, television viewers in the Netherlands have had a lot to digest in recent months, especially during the regular press conferences on Corona. Prime Minister Mark Rutte and “Corona Minister” Hugo de Jonge go to great lengths to convince the citizens of their country of the urgency of the situation. In doing so, the end is laudable, but the means are somewhat confusing.
I have been a passionate museum visitor for many years and hardly any exhibition is bizarre enough to put me off. Friends with so-called “niche interests” appreciate it very much if they don’t want to go alone, because I enthusiastically agree to go even when the rest of their social environment shake their heads in disgust. “Video installations from the 70s? – But of course!” “The special exhibition at the Microbe Museum? – Of course I’ll come!” “The development of weaving in the socio-political context of the industrial revolution? – Great! When do we go?“
In past articles I have written about international cooperation on company level. But there is also a lot to say on a purely private level. In my family and circle of acquaintances I am not the only one who has moved to another country to live with their partner. And during an exchange of experiences with other “impacted” people I have discovered interesting parallels.
So far, dear readers, I have presented many savoury (and mostly fried!) variations of Dutch cuisine. Today we’re going to talk about the afternoon – and the nice habit of ordering a piece of cake with your coffee on the way.
My colleague BCO, who in February in his article “Too much bloody choice!” shared with us his traumatic experience of ice cream selection in the Ben & Jerry’s factory, should be delighted in Dutch cafes, because often the selection consists only of “appeltaart with cream” and “appeltaart without cream”. Life can be so simple!
The Harlequin team says goodbye for the summer holidays. We wish you and ourselves a great time – and lots of inspiration for new contributions. Once again this year we‘ll publish a short article every Friday during the holidays, this time with the motto “Snapshots en route”. Here the first one:
When the trees wear surgical masks…
… you stop in fascination when strolling by. I am often out and about in the woods in all seasons, this was my first encounter with this trend in nature.