From here to Tokyo and beyond….sharpen your cross cultural competency

10th December 2020 0 By Nandini

Try telling your expat friends, ‘the Dutch are very hospitable’ or ‘the Dutch love to spend their money’. 

You should get some interesting responses!

Turning stereotypes around can show you the underlying truth when grouping people on the basis of their cultural background. This handy tip is to be found in Esther Janssen’s book ‘Van hier tot Tokio’. If, as a Dutch person you are still convinced that there is no such thing as a ‘Dutch DNA’, then Janssen has some surprises in store for you! She writes in Dutch for the Dutch, who have a long, long history of working (and succeeding) internationally. The historical context for Dutch success overseas is outlined, from the VOC to the present times. However, as Janssen argues, we could go even further, if we willed ourselves to be more culturally competent. Over twenty years of experience (and counting) in intercultural training and coaching for major companies and her past career working internationally for the government give her the authority to speak on the subject of the challenges involved, and how one can overcome them if one is looking to succeed abroad.

A dose of Amsterdamse humour like…. ‘been to the hairdresser ? When is the job going to be finished’ came as a shock to the nineteen year old Janssen when she moved from Limburg across the great rivers northwards. This anecdote early in her book by way of introduction to cultural differences, even within this tiny land, expands and opens up to take her reader on a journey across the world – from here to Tokyo and beyond.

The book is quite firmly rooted in intercultural theoretical frameworks (of which she elaborates on one – the Lewis model), and grounded in case studies and their detailed analyses. There are tips – hands down, practical and low threshold to implement. Not in the least, the narrative style expressed with respect, the humour, the clear structure and wonderful images make it highly readable.

A major part of the book is structured to spell out five success and failure factors of the Dutch in the realization of their international ambitions. Janssen shows how each of these success factors, not tempered with other characteristics can, when taken to an extreme end up as weaknesses. So for example, the success factor  ‘trustworthy’ is offset by naiveté, when the right checks and balances are not in place. And she spells out what those checks and balances are in a very convincing way, for each of those five success and failure factors.

If you’re Dutch, looking to expand your horizons or if the subject of cross-cultural competence is of any interest to you, then do get hold of a copy of this book. You will learn from it, while you enjoy reading it!