Dutch formality in Japanese eyes

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【This wouldn’t happen in Japan】

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Please take a look at the photo below. This is the shot that impressed me most during my stay in a conference held in the suburbs of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The session was attended by Professor Geert Hofstede, who is well known to the world for his work of the Six Dimensions of the National Cultures. His theory is taught as the basis of international management in business schools worldwide. He is the man on the right side in the photo.

Inviting the great Professor, the session must be formal, at least if the same happens in Japan.

This was not at all the case the Netherlands in my Japanese eyes.

Amazing point 1: Do you see a red package at the bottom of the lectern? This is the gift for the Professor just passed to him a few minutes ago. As the gift is heavy, the MC of the session (the lady in the middle of two men in the photo) took it from him and put here.

I knew she did it for kindness but couldn’t believe it. In front of the distinguished Professor, putting the gift for him on the floor? If it were in Japan, she would have carried the gift with both hands in respectful manners and put it on the distinguished cushion placed on a side desk prepared for this purpose.

What amazed me more was the fact that The Professor was not upset at all. Look at how calm he was in the photo.

Amazing point 2: The second gentleman from the right in the photo is a senior executive of IBM BeNeLux. He was a keynote speaker of the session. He was dressed in jeans in such a session in front of the great professor!

I know I was looking at this scene in the Japanese value set.

I know I shouldn’t judge the Dutch culture applying the Japanese criteria.

It’s a great fun to see in what ways attitude to the power and authority appears in different countries.

I enjoyed the relaxed Dutch ways!

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Author: Yoshiko KURISAKI (栗崎由子)

I am Yoshiko Kurisaki, Japanese, executive consultant specializing in cross-cultural management between Europe and Japan. Being based in Geneva, I travel between Europe and Japan. Culture may be a stop factor in business. That said, if you go beyond that, culture is a vaIuable source of inspirations and innovation. I help European businesses to turn cultural barriers to innovation.   栗崎由子(くりさき よしこ)、ダイバーシティ マネジメント コンサルタント。二十余年間欧州の国際ビジネスのまっただ中で仕事をしてきました。その経験を生かし、日欧企業むけにビジネスにひそむ異文化間コミュニケーションギャップを解消し、国籍、文化、性別など人々の違いを資源に変えることのできるマインドセットを育てるための研修やコンサルティングを行なっています。文化の違いは”面倒なこと”ではなく新しい価値を生み出す源泉です。日本人の良さを国際ビジネスに生かしながら、違いを資源に変えて価値を創造しましょう。ジュネーブ在住で、日本とスイスを往復しています。

3 thoughts on “Dutch formality in Japanese eyes”

  1. Wonderful insights! Thank you for sharing this! I too was at the conference and did not notice this aspect – so thank you for sharing this from your perspective!

    As a US American who is living in China, I noticed that there was another curious situation. This was the 50th year anniversary of the esteemed professor’s research. I was surprised that there was not MORE “fanfare” and was shocked that they “just” gave him a book as a gift. They said it was about Dutch history and he could read it with his grandchildren – this was emotionally “touching”. But, it seems like they should have done more (for example, the Chinese would have had an elaborate celebration). Thank you for sharing your expert insights!

    1. Dear Liddy,

      Thank you very much for your kind words.

      I’m glad that the article was interesting for you!

      It’s my pleasure to make people aware there is another way of thinking by alerting how one culture is seen in the eyes of another.

      Observing culture gaps is fun and a healthy medicine to remind us of an unconscious bias we may have grown in our minds. I’d expect to hear from you on China in American eyes.

  2. Thank you, Ms Kurisaki, for this little cross-cultural demo. I used to teach Prof Hofstede’s work in university classes in the Middle East and these are exactly the kinds of examples that would bring wide-eyed wonder to my students and make our differing cultural values more tangible for them to understand. And I envy you, I would have loved to have been at your conference with Professor Hofstede!

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