For my work I am in Brussels. Where the rounded and soft sounds of Flemish are alternated with the singing tones of French. Where the temperatures are just a tad higher than in Amsterdam. Where the people are friendlier or the slightest bit more polite. Arriving on Sunday evening, walking gradually up hill towards the Boulevard de Waterloo, pulling my white little suitcase over the cobblestone road. The hotel with all it’s fanciness a total opposite to where I found myself during my last travels.

The piercing tone of my alarm sounds in the distance and takes me from warm dreams to a dark hotel room in Brussels. A small red light next to my pillow indicates how I can switch on the fully automated lights in the room. It is completely dark around me, until i push the ‘curtains up’ button. A sea of sunlight flows into my room on  the 13th floor. With eyes halve shut I pull out my sports gear and push myself towards the hotel gym on the 23rd floor. Thinking to be alone at 6.30 in the morning, I find this bright room, with stunning views on the city, filled with other guests. Including my ‘top of the pyramid’ (male) colleague. Swallowing my uneasiness I start my workout. We are both wearing a tank top and shorts, hopefully this overexposing image doesn’t stay in my brain for the coming days.

Im working with a team of Belgians, Dutch, British, Indians, Italians and Polish. The chaotic cacophony of cultures, languages, habits and preferences make this an interesting but also challenging week. Always amazed and sometimes astonished by the deeply rooted habits of persons and cultures. Not to be naive, but working for an international company you would expect a common way of working or a particular business culture, a way of getting shit done. Well, this is not the case. Especially under high pressure, after long days and numerous iterations, discussions become edgy and misunderstood.

Where the Indians are not always including ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ in their questions, the British feel slightly offended when they are addressed with ”Give me this” and ”Do that”. The Italians live by “piano piano, we will manage”, but when push comes to shove they stay relaxed and have all their work done. As a Dutch I like my freedom, and a trust in doing my own work. So when confronted with a high, or I might even say, extreme level of micro management, I feel my inner calmness almost explode to a persistent level of irritation. From that moment onward, even a normal question is taken out of it’s context and dissected to highlight every level of unfairness.

During one of the lunch breaks where I am escaping the dark, artificially lighted room filled with ego’s, opinions and a feint whiff of sweat, I walk around the corner to a hip salad bar and coffee shop. In the bright sunlight, with the cute French accent of the guy behind the bar, and some hard but true words from my friend in India, perspective of the situation comes back and I realize the world will not stop spinning when this project is not perfect. I look down at the beautifully illustrated coffee cup displaying a simple life lesson;  ‘Life is short, enjoy your coffee’! Where coffee can be replaced by everything that you do, but that I don’t need to explain to you….right?

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  1. […] learning this language I came to know more about Indians which otherwise would have stayed hidden. Earlier I wrote about a multicultural team I was working with, mentioning the Indians would not include ‘please’ […]

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