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Developing A Finer Sense of Dutch

Over dinner with some of our Dutch colleagues during our recent EMEA Global Summit in Amsterdam, the conversation turned to our respective cultures, and how we greet each other. One of the observations about Americans that came to light was this one: When we say, “How was your day?” or “How are you doing?” it feels invasive.

And really - what if someone did respond to “How was your day?” with a lengthy diatribe about a traffic jam on the highway, a boring meeting at work, an interaction with a difficult employee, and a tussle with their kid over doing homework? Most of us (American or not!) would roll our eyes and wish we weren’t so solicitous.

I had another personal revelation in Amsterdam, too. If you know my personality and speaking style, you are aware that I have a rapid delivery and a penchant for connecting with the audience… in fact, as I speak, I often seek their input by saying things like, “Are you with me on this?” or “Sound good?” Well… I was looking for things like verbal responses and facial cues that usually tell me when I’m connecting with an audience – and I am frequently able to use that tool with U.S. audiences. But in this very special part of the world, I was like a painter using a familiar brush to create a picture when another one would have been better. I realized that I was putting my lens on the audience’s reaction – I was missing the nuances of a different culture that could tell me the same thing about our EMEA colleagues, if I knew what to look for.

A good lesson for me, and one that makes me even more aware and more sensitive to our growing and wonderfully diverse community – and hopefully, one that will result in better experiences for the audiences I address. (You’ll have to let me know how I do with this!) I’m grateful to our dinner colleagues and our delegates, because true to their no-nonsense, straightforward cultures, they have deepened my multicultural education… and given me a finer sense of Dutch.

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