Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Cultural differences

I have worked, traveled and lived in different cultures for many years, but today I was surprised again by cultural differences.
Dutch people are known to be very blunt, we call it "honest" but I know that in many other cultures we are known as "rude". For instance, when a Dutch person says "hey, when you are in the area next time you should visit my house", he actually means it, whereas in other cultures from America to Thailand it could mean as much as "I hate you and I never want to see your face again." On the other hand, a Dutch person will seldom give a positive compliment if he doesn't mean it and will even say "what an ugly tie are you wearing".
Anyway, I received an e-mail last week from an Indian guy that we have worked with informing me that he will be in Amsterdam (as a tourist) on Monday and Tuesday and if we could meet. I wrote back "that would be nice, I am free Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning". I didn't hear anything yesterday, and finally this morning around 10am he called asking me if we could meet around 11am. I said "yes, perfect as I have another appointment in the afternoon." So 11am he doesn't show up, 11:30, 12, 1230 still nobody and I am literally packing my bag around 1pm when he calls "I am on my way now I will be there in 20 minutes." So I say "I am very sorry, but I really need to run for my other appointment and I will be out of here in 5 minutes". He gets angry telling me he is coming all the way from India and it is a shame and blah blah blah. In my cultural context, I have informed him several times very clearly that I can meet him in the morning, so why doesn't he get the message?


Anonymous said...

My dear AMS, you forgot the universal language - the queen langauge. I think when he said 11AM, he assumed that it means starting his makeup. Or "I am so cute that you need to start waiting for me beginning at that moment."
But it is not only a Dutch thing, really. We are always so puntual here that we have to ask our friends whether they mean "actual" time or "California queen" time. We keep forgetting that the time on the invitation cards is really minus 2 time zones.

happyamsguy said...

This guy is not a queen. He is a very wholesome man, married and children. Anyway, here, even among queens, 15 minutes late is OK, up to 30 minutes is tolerated, and anything more is inexcusable.

Steven said...

It is not really just a Dutch thing.. but also about manners. You were right to be angry. And I'm sorry for being late with the beer!