Student - 13 februari 2014

Insisting doesn’t pay off

1

As a freshman on my Bachelor’s programme in Maastricht, I had my first big misunderstanding with Dutch culture. I went to the faculty secretariat because I wanted my high school diploma back. For the enrolment process I had sent them the original document, not a certified copy. My bad, of course. But when I asked if I could have the document back, the secretary immediately denied all responsibility for retrieving the diploma, on her own and her colleagues’ behalf.

Most Italian office workers would start off by denying their responsibility as well, especially when the matter requires more effort from their side. But even though they have just denied it, they might still hold some responsibility, and might still be able to help you. Maybe this is due to our non-transparent bureaucratic system. Thus, when faced with a reaction like the one I got from the secretary, an Italian would always insist in order to obtain collaboration. Fresh from Italy, I insisted too. My diploma must be somewhere, I told the secretary. As they received it in order, someone in the whole secretariat must know...
The secretary blushed, her face became alarmed and angry. She said: ‘Don’t speak to me in that tone, or I will have to ask you to leave the room!’ Oh oh, I was SO unsettled. I swear I was not using an impolite tone. However, considering that I was a foreigner and the one that needed a service, I apologized for my reaction. The secretary returned to her professional and polite manners. She reassured me that she would try to trace the diploma. She did, within just 3 days.

The lesson I learned: insistence will not pay off with dutiful Dutch clerks. Quite the opposite, it might be interpreted as distrust and impoliteness, blocking the cooperation you were trying to obtain. 

Camilla Ponte, MSc student of International develoment studies. 

Re:acties 1

  • Rosa

    Camilla, I would have done exactly the same thing and I'm Dutch. I don't think all Dutch clerks would respond you like that.

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