Organisation - October 12, 2017

‘Something typically Dutch is a nice icebreaker’

Lieke de Kwant

Doctoral research is hard work. No harm in lightening things up now and then, thought Justine van Eenennaam. So she made a habit of taking ‘stroopwafels’ with her to the meetings with her colleagues and supervisors. ‘It helps create a relaxed atmosphere.’

Justine van Eenennaam graduated with a PhD on 10 October for a study of the effects of oil spills on the ocean floor.  

Statement: The success of all meetings hinges on whether or not someone brought stroopwafels.

‘Our project group included some non-Dutch people and passing around something very Dutch like stroopwafels was a good icebreaker. The foreigners saw all the Dutch putting their stroopwafel on top of their cup of coffee or tea, and that always got the conversation going.

Secretly it’s a psychological trick of course. If you bring a tasty snack to a meeting, people like you better. It makes for a relaxed atmosphere before you plunge into the topic of the day. Not that our meetings were all that stressful, mind you. But especially if you were feeling you hadn’t produced much in the way of results for a while, the stroopwafels relieved the pressure.

I am not sure how scientifically valid the stroopwafel proposition is. I haven’t received any criticism of it, anyway. At first my co-supervisor was a bit doubtful about my last proposition: “Scientific articles are to a PhD student what horcruxes were to Voldemort: pieces of your soul, granting eternal life in bibliographic databases, unless reviewer #2 destroys them.” He had never heard of Voldemort. Once I told him a bit about the Harry Potter books, he took the point after all.’