Transitional Life: Work Culture

Okay, this can’t be much of a change, because I have always worked besides being a student. This means that even in the jobs that do require my permanent attention (with this one, it’s pretty much not falling off my bike), there is a limited amount of hours to spend on work. A lot of people think shifting career perspectives from Dutch to American is not a good idea. I’m not moving for my career, but I take it on as a package deal. American work culture it is. I know there’s nothing wrong with my will to work, so that helps. Even better, I’m really excited to get to work. As my move is falling exactly at a time in my life where work is the next step, it perfectly aligns with the abundance of new opportunities ahead of me.

I don't know this guy's background, so I can't be too mean about his work ethic, but at least he is creative.

I don’t know this guy’s background, so I can’t be too mean about his work ethic, but at least he is creative. He should list that on his resume.

What may not help, is that the internet is very specific about Dutch workers. In fact, googling Dutch work ethic had me finding two blog posts rambling on and on about how the Dutch keep a strict line between their work life and private life. Mind you, nobody said the Dutch were lazy, they were just disappointed with their egalitarian culture, their desperate need for compromises and their inability to pick up the phone after office hours. Of course I’m biased, but that sounds pretty good to me. No doubt it will take some adjusting (again, more from a cultural than a personal perspective), but I’m fine with picking up the phone on a Saturday to force my opinion upon my boss. Actually, I am expecting to work longer hours than office hours would suggest. Irrelevant fun fact: I’ve read that in Germany, working overtime is a sign of incompetence, it means you can’t manage your work.

Dutch, American, German... Everything's better than a French work ethic. Am I right?

Dutch, American, German… Everything’s better than a French work ethic. Am I right?

So what cultural baggage do I further bring into the office? Well, according to this wonderful site: “The Dutch society is egalitarian and modern. The people are modest, tolerant, independent, self-reliant, and entrepreneurial. They value education, hard work, ambition and ability. The Dutch have an aversion to the nonessential. Ostentatious behavior is to be avoided. ” Without wanting to brag on traits that are not really value-laden (well, to me they are), these seem pretty universal. I’ve heard that there are differences between the cultures among all these traits, but at least there’s nothing there that could be seen as too odd. It seems the Dutch are perfectly normal people to do any sort of business with…

Although their handshakes are a bit cheesy, I've heard

Although their handshakes are a bit cheesy, I’ve heard

“One-upmanship is frowned upon.”
“The Dutch are conservative and forceful and can be stubborn and tough negotiators.”
“The Dutch avoid superlatives. Compliments are offered sparingly, and to say that something is “not bad” is to praise it. A person who never offers criticism is seen as either being simple-minded or failing to tell the truth.”
“In many companies the decision-making process is slow and ponderous, involving wide consultation. Consensus is vital. The Dutch will keep talking until all parties agree.”

Okay okay, so maybe we’re not always the most pleasant people. I recommend you check out the list. I keep being surprised with how much I recognize. Also: this is where it comes from why I don’t put my hands below the table at a formal dinner. For those of you who wondered.


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