Nov 30, 2022Liked by Michele Hansen

I moved from the US to the Netherlands less than 3 months ago. All of these points ring true in my experience. The "Dutch Directness" as its colloquially referred to, is similar to the outspoken nature of Americans but with no mention of the shit sandwich. They are happy to tell you how they feel about any topic and leave it at that. No need to go back and forth and come to a consensus unless the situation requires it.

One thing that has surprised me is the transparency present in TrustPilot scores. I work for an eCommerce company that prides itself on a roughly 4.2⭐️ rating. In the US, I would expect a lot of effort to be spent getting that number up to 4.75+. But the Dutch view feedback differently. If customers are more likely to tell you when things are going poorly, it makes sense to expect a lower average score. In the US, we've both seen the product reviews on Amazon that say, "Fast shipping, but doesn't really work right, but it looks nice. 3/5".

The product doesn't work and you gave it a 3?!?! That dynamic doesn't exist here. On the other hand, we have some contract employees in an East Asian country with a wildly different view of hierarchy. It can be tough to switch your mode of thinking to be empathetic and effective when communicating critical feedback around performance and expectations.

Here is another book about this subject written by a friend of mine. It was a good read as we were considering immigrating away from the US. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13577633-subtle-differences-big-faux-pas

Expand full comment

This is an infinitely fascinating topic, and something that I'm struggling with now having moved from New Zealand to Germany this year.

While not represented in this book, I'd say that New Zealand takes a lot of the best and worst things from Australian (quite non-hierarchical imo, to the point that could be considered disrespectful to other cultures haha) and UK (painful beating around the bush) culture - then add that same Danish dimension of relatively few degrees of separation.

In NZ, we definitely take hospitality and customer care fairly seriously. Service workers are baseline expected to be friendly, helpful, even to go out of their way a little to make you feel welcome (especially in a nicer establishment). There are obviously exceptions to this, but I think the rule generally holds.

This is categorically not my experience in Germany (at least, in Berlin). I've found the customer service baseline here to be...extremely MVP. Generally, you'll get what you need, but it's unlikely to be with a smile. That's fine by me! The points we really struggle with is when service is just... obtuse to the point you're not even sure this business really wants your custom. If you don't know exactly what you want, and how to ask for it, you are unlikely to get it. (You might even be blamed for not knowing :') )

For me, I think this is a big shift from being seen as a superior as a customer in NZ, to being seen as an equal here - plus a very high expectation for directness that's not so comfortable for Kiwis.

I haven't interviewed anyone here as I'm working remotely primarily with people in the UK, but it's been really interested seeing how this difference in cultures plays out with some of our clients from different EU countries as we start to expand.

Expand full comment