The Pitfalls of Language Without Cultural Context

The Dutch are a no-nonsense, straightforward people, and I always thought the language expressed this national characteristic pretty well.

Not for us those expressions of affection that roll off the tongue so easily in English. Ik hou van je is much harder to say than “I love you” for some reason, which logically speaking is bizarre of course, since the Dutch love their nearest and dearest as much as anyone else. The only reason I can think of is that effusiveness is simply not in line with the Dutch character. We are a nation of farmers and seafarers after all. Fighting sea and soil does not leave much energy for poetry. Continue reading

Christmas Gifts for Clients: Strategies and Pitfalls

business giftsIt’s almost December, and that means it’s time to start thinking about business Christmas gifts. Gift-giving can get complicated fast. There are thousands of websites and stores that offer gift ideas for businesses, but just because you can give your clients a tub of tootsie rolls with your logo on them, does that mean you should? Here are some thoughts on the why, the who and the what of giving. Continue reading

Patriotism and the Power of Words – an Immigrant Perspective on the 4th of July

I was born and raised in the Netherlands but I have lived in the US for over 20 years and got dual citizenship a few years ago. I love my birth country and my adopted country, and my ideal self is fully Dutch and fully American. The reality of straddling two cultures, however, is that you are no longer one and never fully the other. It manifests itself in countless small ways. When I meet new people, for example, they invariably ask me where I’m from because I immigrated too late in life to shake my accent. Yet when I visit family in Holland, sooner or later someone will poke fun at my alleged American accent. I don’t believe it but then who am I to judge anymore? I don’t hear my Dutch accent either.

Because of this dual perspective, though, I think I’m qualified to offer a few comments on this most American of all holidays, the Fourth of July, aka Independence Day, which celebrates America’s hard-fought transformation from colony to sovereign nation. Continue reading