Nieuws - 10 mei 2012

The Dutch art of dialogue


I set foot in the Netherlands for the first time more than three years ago. Wageningen University was my ticket to changing my life and that is how the story goes - my life changed and I did too. Among all the alterations, one is definitely prominent - the way I perceive communication.

At the beginning of my MSc, the study adviser asked about my career aspirations. The lectures started with a question mark - e.g. ‘What is consumer behavior?' The Dutch students were interested in how I chose Wageningen. My corridor mates wanted to know about the cuisine in my country. Even during an interview with the Executive Board chairman, Mr. Dijkhuizen, I was asked how I liked Wageningen! I was the centre of attention! And as they bombarded me with questions, none of my new acquaintances talked extensively about themselves, owing maybe to their ‘Act-normal and do-not-stand-out culture'. To me, this was a brand new vision of communication.
In my home country, Bulgaria, this interchange takes place in exactly the opposite manner. Normally, people mainly talk about themselves. For instance, if you have new flatmates, they will try to stand out by telling story after story about their lives and the whole conversation will revolve around them. If you diverge from this system, then you will notice right away that you lose their attention.
I now live in Germany, but I still try talking less about myself. I do not do it due to some protocol, but because I am sure the other side has interesting things to say too. At the same time, I grew to believe that dialogue is based on exchange, so if someone just asks about me and hardly ever reveals anything about themselves, then they cannot keep my attention either.
What is best? I'd say - the golden mean!
Inna Ivanova, Bulgarian alumnus of the MSc in Management, Economics and Consumer Studies.