Cultural differences between Australia and the Netherlands
As known, I'm spending a few months in Australia to prepare my emigration in September. I'm all alone, without partner sniff, but the good thing is that you're completely immersed in Australian culture. A few differences I've noticed...
I have to say: I’m in Sydney, so not in the Outback or some remote city. Furthermore the people I meet here aren’t very representative of the country. Almost without exception they speak understandable English and I rarely run into the typical gnawwy Australian accent as we know it in the Netherlands. They can all do that accent, though.
Compared to Australia, the Netherlands is far more a country built on security. We have long-term contracts with employers that can’t be ended randomly, we also have magazine subscriptions that are automatically renewed and the same goes for memberships. That’s not so in Australia. It’s a lot easier to lose your job here. That sounds negative, but you’re also hired a lot more easily as the risk is a lot smaller. That’s why people have had a lot of jobs. That has the down side that people are relatively far shorter in service and they develop less of an emotional bond with their employers. The advantage of this is that you’re far more richer in experience, there’s less room for building holy houses and politics. Creativity and innovation can be prioritised. And I think that the potential of a better job for everyone is created that way. However, the feeling that your employer doesn’t give any loyalty to you creates the feeling that a lot of Australians just see their job as ‘a job’ that gives them money so they can live. I think the ideal situation is somewhere between Australia and the Netherlands, and I’m convinced we’ll find that situation (in the network economy).
Another element is the sales element: the whole culture here is more much competitive. The cause for this is, I think, in that something constantly has to be sold. When your subscription ends you have to be convinced to renew it every time. What you see a lot in phone conversations, that you can make all kinds of deals in the conversation, much more than in the Netherlands, I think. Salaries too are far more in a commission basis. For example, in a travelling agency in the Netherlands people have a salary. In a travelling agency in Australia people get a small base salary and a large part commission. That means that their personal ‘sales’ are very important. And that comes back in the amount of speakers on the subject. You find far more speakers regarding ‘sales’ here than in the Netherlands. They come in all shapes and sizes. What you see a lot more too is ‘below the line commercials’: far more aimed at results and less at (brand) experience. That means that here a screen-filling discount percentage comes on tv and at the same time Australians are jealous of European design. It’s just where the budget goes to: design binds emotionally, letting sales reps. call osts (a lot of) money.
Something I haven’t researched so much are all sorts of government bonuses for contracts, like buying houses for example. In the Netherlands about 10% of the buyer’s costs are put into a house. That means that the house first has to rise in value by 10% before you can sell it without making a loss. Strange, really, since the house is still in exactly the same condition. I think that’s all a lot lower in Australia. That makes the risk of buying a house and, if you’re not happy with it, selling it again more acceptable. In the Netherlands that’s completely unthinkable. That also means that people will switch houses more often (again: I still have to research this), that things are bought more often, but that also needs to be sold. Again that selling comes up. And the job market becomes a lot more flexible because of this. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the same for cars.
That competitiveness lends speed to the economy. Everything seems to go fast. Networking is fast too, for example. You say who you are, what kind of work you do and what you talk about. The other does the same and you quickly get: “It was nice to meet you, we could have a coffee or so next week.” only for the speaker to walk away afterwards. The first time that happened to me, I was a little flabbergasted. I really thought “Am I really that uninteresting?” I’m not quite sure how to pour this into a cultural model. Maybe it’s that people traditionally live far apart, so want to meet as many people as possible when there’s a convention. It’d be a shame if you wasted the evening on someone, while in the Netherlands the chances of running into that person again are pretty big. And that this practice continues, even living in a city of five million people, and go to lunch together tomorrow, so to speak.
Beside these elements which connect to the IDV and UAI (individualism and Uncertainty Avoidance) from the Hofstede model the ‘masculine’ dimension plays a part. The ‘hardness’, so to speak. The Australian culture is a lot harder. I saw a program on tv titled ‘RAW’ yesterday. I was just watching innocently while a guy, type Arnold Schwarzenegger, but then the nasty variant, almost kicking off the head of an older, friendly coach. That’s absolutely unacceptable in the Netherlands. Maybe in a movie, but not as a format, in a series at 8 pm. I watched with horror, with this cultural dimension in the back of my head. Today I saw something else. It was about a new machine to sheer sheep. I thought it was a joke. But those animals were thrown into a machine with brute force, go through it and thrown out of the car. In the Netherlands, this kind of documentary is only shown by the Dutch equivalent of the RSPCA to show animal cruelty. This had a man who spoke proudly of his new machine. I think that roughness comes from the general roughness in society, which ultimately comes from the country and finds its origin in the surrounding nature. In that respect, the Dutch are absolute wimps. I was immediately reminded of the Swiss law forbidden one to flush goldfish.
And something funny to end with: The whole economy is traditionally aimed at the US and the UK. Not in the least because of the language of course. When I hear the people hear speak of ‘overseas’ in 95% of the cases, it’s about the US and the UK. I could play a part in explaining the different cultures and what speakers need in other cultures in any case.
To be continued.
That was it in short. If you’ve any experiences of your own with cultural differences between the Netherlands and Australia, let them know!