Updated: Nov 30, 2022
As a native Hungarian, lived in the UK and US, and I am based in the Netherlands. I mostly work with Americans, Dutch people and Hungarians. I gained enough knowledge about cultural differences and what they can cause.
The book Culture Map by Erin Merey gave me more insight into understanding the invisible boundaries of global business. You can read here the summary of the book and the definition of the eight scales Meyer defined to navigate more efficiently in the multi-cultural work environment.
In this post, using her scaling method, you can read the comparison of cultural aspects between the US, the Netherlands and Hungary on the graph.
When you compare different cultures be aware of cultural relativity, which is cultural beliefs and practices should be understood based on that culture.
4 Common features between the US vs the Netherlands
1. Both nationalities like to communicate in a low context. They are precise, simple, and clear with their message. However, the Dutch culture is more direct and straightforward, than the US. Dutch people want to know right away what your goal of the conversation without any extra information is. Americans are less direct and like to have small talks. The most sophisticated businesspeople in a low context are clear and explicit.
2. When it comes to leading, both nationalities use egalitarian leadership styles, which means the ideal distance between a leader and a subordinate is low. The best leader is a facilitator among equals, acting like one of the team. Organisational structures are flat. Communication often skips hierarchical lines. It’s okay to email or to call people several levels below or above you and to disagree with the boss openly.
3. Americans and Dutch people build trust through business-related activities, which is task-based trust. Task-based relationship means trust builds through business-related activities. Work relationships are built and dropped easily, based on the practicality of the situation. When your work is consistently good, “you are reliable, I enjoy working with you, I trust you.” Friendliness doesn’t equal friendship.
Task-based culture is also known as peach culture.
Peach cultures are said to be “soft” on the outside. They are friendly to people they have just met, frequently smile at strangers, chat, share information (not necessarily deep conversation), and even share pictures. They are very nice and helpful to strangers.
Dutch people's opinion Americans are more peach culture than them. From the Hungarian perspective, both are very peach and task-based cultures.
4. Their last common feature is linear- time which is the way of scheduling. Project steps are approached sequentially, completing one task before beginning the next. One thing at a time. No interruptions. The focus is on the deadline and sticking to the schedule. Emphasis is on promptness and good organization over flexibility. The meeting starts with punctuality and finishes on time. All of my meetings with Americans started on time and finished on time. It’s good to join earlier in the meeting to have a friendly discussion
3 Slight differences between the US & Netherlands.
1. Evaluating Both nationalities like to give feedback just their way is different. As you see in the graph, Americans' evaluation process is between direct and indirect negative feedback. They follow the three positive and one negative principles; therefore, they always start with positive feedback independently of the level of negativity.
In a Dutch work environment, people's negative feedback is provided frankly, bluntly, and honestly, most of the time right away. Negative messages stand-alone not softened by positive ones. Criticism may be given to an individual in front of a group.
2. Persuading When it comes to persuading Americans to prefer the application first approach, with the fact, statement or opinion and later adds concepts to back up or explain the conclusion as necessary. The preference is to begin a message or report with an executive summary or bullet point. The focus is on the “how” rather than the “why”. Theoretical or philosophical discussions are avoided in a business environment.
Dutch people are in the middle, which means first developing the theory or complex before presenting the fact. First, they want to know the “why” before taking action, after the “how”.
3. Disagreeing With a direct mentality, Dutch people are disagreeing in a confrontational way. They see disagreement and debate as having positive effects on the team or organization. Open confrontation is an appropriate way and will not negatively impact the relationship. Dutch people less express their emotions, they like the be practical and efficient.
Americans are less confrontational and more emotionally expressive. They start positively before disagreeing. However, they are still at a confrontational level, because they see disagreement and debate as positive effects on the team or organization.
An invisible boundary between the US & Netherlands.
1. Deciding Regarding decision- making process, it was a surprise the USA's decisions are made by individuals from the Top-down. Usually, in this case, the decision is made before, after or during the meeting and the following decision can be made. The decision is later adjusted and revisited. The process requires flexibility.
In the Dutch workplace, decisions are made in groups through unanimous agreement, which is a Consensual decision-making process. The process takes longer with more meetings, and discussions, no push for a quick decision. After it made no changing it. Good to cultivate informal conversations within the team and check in with others to show your commitments.
Compare the US vs Netherlands vs Hungary culture.
As the graph shows, among the three cultures, Hungarian is distinct.
There is only one common feature between the US and Hungary, the decision-making process from top to bottom. Other scales are almost the opposite of the US and the Netherlands
Hungarians like to share additional and hidden information during conversations. Understanding the whole message by listening to the nuanced and layered lines is the characteristic of the high context communication style. Due to historical influence, the leadership style is hierarchical with a lot of power abused. From this fact, disagreements are mostly avoided confrontation, which leads to the evaluation process with indirect negative feedback. Trust is built through sharing meals, evening drinks, and visits to the coffee machine. Work relationships build up slowly over the long term, sharing personal time with others leads to trust, which is Relationship-Trust. In terms of scheduling, Hungarians are more likely to use flexible time. Project steps are approached fluidly, changing tasks as opportunities arise. Many things deal with at once, and interruptions are accepted.
The recognition of different points of view and their sensitivity is due to the Hungarian background, as well as, the American and Dutch experiences.
Each culture has its own feature and style. When you start to lead or work with a multicultural team firstly be conscious and specified of your own cultural aspects.
What is your multicultural experience?