-’When is your job-interview ? And tell me, have you prepared for it ? Jean-Luc hardly listened to his father. ’Prepared ? What can you prepare for in an interview ? —’What do you know about the Dutch culture, son ? You want to change jobs, normal, you’re almost 30 now, but are you aware that in The Netherlands things are different from here’. — ’I will be working for an American company there’. Too bad that he was so stubborn, his father realized again. Never in his life Jean-Luc had had interest for the Dutch language, something his father regretted, in particular now that his son wanted thatjob of Software Developer in Amsterdam. Dutch would have been a plus. He would not fail to discover it himself, his father sighed, ending the phonecall.
’Why be on time when they keep you waiting ?’ Jean-Luc was wondering, a couple of days later, sagged back in his chair in the large waitingroom of American Device, nervously fiddling with his iPhone. Then the door opened on a kind young lady, ’Mijnheer van der Gracht de Rommerswael — her accent was terrible, he thought — please, our CEO, Mevrouw Bakker is waiting for you. – ’How was your trip to Amsterdam?’ ’Fine madam, a city I know quite well’. ’I see, have you been working here before ?’ —’No, I mean privately’. -’You’re from Brussels, aren’t you ? How come that you don’t speak Dutch or should I say Flemish ?’ Jean-Luc looked surprised, ’You mentioned English in your ad, a language I speak very well’. ’But here we are in The Netherlands, even my American staff speak Dutch’, said Laura Bakker with a broad smile. ’And what do you know about the Dutch culture and our embarrassing directness here ?’ Jean-Luc felt a little overwhelmed. ’Sure madam, but at least we know what the Dutch have in mind, like the Americans, no ?’ He tried to make up for his mistake when Laura Bakker continued ’ Even if many of our Dutch clients speak English, they may be tempted to let you feel that The Netherlands and Flanders are separated by the same language ?’ – ’That’s fine madam, as you can see from my surname, l’m of Flemish origin’. Jean-Luc hesitated before gradually losing his confidence. To become really upset when Madame Bakker told him that her assistant would contact him next week. ’Your surname is just a name, here we are talking about the Dutch and Flemish culture, a topic that would have deserved some wider discussion, young man !’ before she got up and left the room.
In The Netherlands there are no standard patterns but good preparation for an interview often is the key to success. Had he prepared, simply by taking some cultural differences into consideration, Jean-Luc would have known about those tiny differences that separate the Dutch- and the Flemish culture. He could have had a wider discussion with Madame Bakker about communication in both cultures, why the Dutch are so exasperating direct. Unthinkable on the other side of the border!