Category Archives: behaviour

Rules – collectivism

There’s one thing which annoys me greatly being back in the Netherlands, and that is the overwhelming amount of rules, procedures, policies and people who make sure you keep those rules.

I’m not talking about traffic rules, I do understand about safety.
Rules like, what color my house should be painted or not; if I’m allowed to put sun panels on my roof; can my son (14 year) go to the movies (16+) with his dad.
In the Netherlands there’s a committee which approves (mostly disapprove) the color of your house and if the sun panels on your roof are allowed.
Like they are afraid I’m going to paint my house purple??!! Or put a heavy  sun panel on my roof which it can’t carry??!!
Well, the thing is, in a very individualistic society as the Netherlands, where personal freedom is a big value, people would indeed paint their house purple, not considering the neighbours at all; or think only about their personal benefits of sunpower and not considering if the house can take this new technologies safely; children can go to movies for which they might not be mature enough.

In societies with more collective values, people won’t even think about painting their house purple, ‘what would the neighbours think? How hard is grandpa going to yell?’; or they will consider on forehand if the house would be safe enough for sunpanels as they aren’t insured for things that can go wrong; and when a 14-year-old goes to the movies he needs the permission from an adult, if they think it’s not suitable, they can’t go and don’t try to go because there’s always a cousin, aunt, neighbour or colleague of your sister who will recognise you.
Collective societies just don’t need al those rules and laws because they’ve got their own unspoken social rules. They don’t need civil servants (paid from your tax money) to make up new rules or maintain those rules.

For an outsider it might be hard to understand and know those unspoken rules and sometimes it might even be scary that you don’t know if you’re doing something unintentionally wrong.
My experience is that they will let you know when you do something wrong, not prohibiting, but just common sense and consideration for others.
When a very conservatively dressed Qatari lady started yelling at me, I didn’t understand a word she was saying but I understood perfectly well that she thought my dress with short sleeves was inappropriate for the mall, during Ramadan.
She wouldn’t have yelled at me when I met her in a hotel, because that’s not a public space, or when it wouldn’t have been ramadan or when she didn’t have her teenage daughter with her.

When rules aren’t nailed down there’s much more space for the particular and specific situation at that moment.
If those laws were not so unmerciful, the committee would admit that I don’t want to paint my house purple, but just an ‘off-white’ which would suit perfect in the surroundings of the house and the neighbourhood; That my roof is concrete and perfectly save for sunpanels; And that my son is going to a movie with his father and he knows this boy can handle some violence (it’s me who can’t handle that) and vulgar language (he knows how soap tastes when he uses that kind of languages**).

I realise now that I experience much more personal freedom in a collective society then in the ‘free’ dutch society, as I do consider my environment and the people around me naturally and I acknowledge that people, timing and situation are never the same to fit in one law.IFGAblogperson


** It a Dutch saying “go and wash your mouth with soap” when somebody uses not appropriate language.



Oops, Within the first week with my new car I received 2 traffic tickets for driving too fast. Yep, it’s a small and fast car, -the first time not a family car-. 
It accelerates easy and is very silent so I don’t hear on the motor how fast I drive, which I could tell with my previous cars.

Traffic rules and all rules in general, are pragmatic agreements in behaviour to keep everybody save and comfortable. When everybody knows and follows the rules, situations become very predictable and you can’t make stupid or strange mistakes.
I’m a bit rebellious and it took me almost 50 years to acknowledge that there’s some good in rules.
I even bought a book about the ‘etiquette’, social rules, how to behave in social situations. And believe it or not, even I think it makes sense when you read about the history and the logic behind some of those stupid ‘rules’.
For example; ‘combatting’ the stairs in man/woman situation, a man should be ahead of the lady going up and behind going down so he can’t peek under the skirt. With the steep stairs in the Netherlands and the short skirts girls are wearing, I understand. In countries where women are covered, you won’t find those rules and the rule will rather be that the man goes behind the woman up the stairs and in front going down to help her in case she stumbles over the long clothing.
Or When kissing is part of the greeting ritual, you start with the right cheek. (that would avoid painful collisions).

In traffic situations I do believe some rules are good and do make sense; don’t drink and drive or speed limits within urbanborders.
 I even think sometimes 50km/h is too fast, when you consider how many un-overseen situations with children, animals and bikes can happen. I really think there should be more control in these situations.
But no, there are automatic speed camera’s, who don’t consider the situation but only the procedure; when I drive during the holiday season at night 116km instead of 100km.
This has nothing to do anymore with the benefit of rules, to keep people save. It’s only about follow rules and procedures and making money.

I will get used to that just like I got used to the unpredictable driving with the multicultural driving styles in Qatar, but I’m afraid I will find it hard to accept that I have to follow procedures in case the rules don’t make sense.

A look on multi cultural diner customs

There are a few features which we use to compare- and analyse multiple cultures. One of them is the difference between a collective- or individualistic cultures. 
It’s about preceding needs; the collective needs (the needs of the family, clan or group) or the individual needs (personal needs).
When you are aware of these distinctions, it’s great to see how these show in daily live and how they can cause some awkward situations.

Let’s go for diner.
Untill recently, in restaurants, I always made my own choice and ordered my own food. That’s how it works in most western restaurants but in restaurants with a collective culture you order multiple dishes to share and there’s one person who orders all, after decided what everybody would like to eat.

Knowing this, it makes sense why the chinese restaurants always have such big portions; A portion is to share and not for one person alone.
I always thought it was cheap to give more rice than anything else at the chinese, but now I understand that the rice is in portions to share with everybody, just like all the several other dishes.
There is less distinction between appetizers and main coarse but a choice between meats, vegetables, rice and different sorts of food.
In the individual orientated restaurants, the different coarses give a diversity in the food you order, in collective orientated restaurants it’s the selection of the dishes that gives the diversity.
Collective eaters will take more time to eat from the different dishes, as they don’t have more coarses with time between to wait and digest for the next dish.

I thought that my ‘bonus’ son was picky and didn’t like my food, he on the other hand was nervous because we eat so fast. 
We acknowledged that we had different customs and talked about it.
It’s so much easier to accept different behaviour when you understand.
And we found ways to mix and match our diner cultures. Buffet style diners works for everybody.
It’s so nice to be able to combine those cultures. It makes my live so much more divers and interesting, just because I can appreciate and choose between the advantages of diversity


Diversity versus cultural intelligence

Why my blog is not diversity based
A friend of mine adviced me to tag diversity in my blogs that would score a lot of hits. 
But I’m so tired of the whole diversity topic; “Diversity at work”, “managing diversity”. It’s what I’ve studied, how to train people in dealing with diversity.
Learning people to deal with diversity is like training a dog to sit and give a paw. They only do the trick but not by conviction.
Of course you can train people how to react in certain situations. But that doesn’t change people. Besides situations do change very fast, so the trick will be outdated in no time.

“No” I’m much more interested in reasons

  • Why is it neccesary to learn people to deal with diversity? For most of us already live and work in a divers society, especially the young people. Not only cultural diversity but also gender- and age diversity.
  • Why the groups and people I train are not so divers? Dealing with diversity is mutual not a one way.
  • Why do I see a growing cultural intolerance a growing fatigue of diversity and globalisation

I want to find out

  • How people can build bridges between all kind of different people,
  • How people can live together and enjoy our differences.

Not only you and me but everybody, dealing with diversity is not a one way thing.

Diversity is a fact,if you like it or not, even if you’re not living with cultural diversity, you live with gender- and age diversity.
Not accepting diversity in a society is scarry and leads in extrems to genocide.

I’m interested to see if Cultural Intelligence is an answer. Just like brain intelligence and emotional intelligence have helped us grow as persons, cultural intelligence might help us grow as humans.
In my blogs I try to approach daily and worldwide situations in a cultural intelligent way so we learn to enjoy our differences.


Privileged a new scold?

I’m a white person (no worries I’m not offended, as I am white and I like my cheese too, so no offence if you call me cheesehead) who are a minority in Qatar.
The new scold word seems to be ‘being privileged’, I’m not offended as I think I’m lucky indeed. But the negative tone in which it has been said hurts, as if I’m a bad person being priviliged?!

My children are few of the privileged people who pay a lot of money to join a service trip in Africa, helping to build a school. Take my word, you can have a luxury family holiday instead. 
Service wise I don’t think the children are much of a help, but they learn something out of the experience. Most of all that it’s all about money and not so much about interaction or coming together.
My daughter came home very confused. 
During the trip, there was one moment the children were allowed to play with the kindergarten children and speak english with them.
All the little girls wanted to sit on my daughter’s lap and touch her hair, she’s got long blond hair, you must know.
She asked the girls why they wanted to sit with her all the time.
A: “Because you look like an angel”
“I’m not and I think YOU look like an angel”
A:“No I’m black”
My daughter was only 15 years at that time and the girl 5 or so, she was flabbergasted and very frustrated
“Mam, what on the …….. can you do when people have such a low self-image?”

In the psychology there’s a theory that says that what you say/believe/think/convinced of, tells a lot about yourself.

When people point at me that I’m priviliged, they put themselves, in a roll of accuser or victim at the same time.
Like the theory of mr. Karpman says, it will become a drama when I want to save them. Because, I can not change a situation, at most I can help out in certain situations, using my talents and skills (i.e. sending in money via my daughter) but I can’t save anybody from their own believes/thoughts or convictions and I can’t help somebody who keeps accusing others or pitying themselves.

“What can you do…..?”
“Believe you’re an angel and if you want I would love to try flying together” That might have been an answer.”


Cultivating dog shit

Let me picture a situation;
Me, a white Dutch woman and my dog in a islamic desert country.

In Holland most people don’t have big gardens or yards where we can keep our dogs. So most dogs are inside the house and part of the family.
For the usuall toilet needs, we take the dog outside, into public area’s. Again, there is no space for gardens and yards. Besides Dutch people grow up with the idea that you don’t befoul ‘your nest’. 
Most ‘good’ dog owners will not allow the dog to do his needs on places where people tend to walk/play or sit and pick up the poo and throw it away in special bags, so it won’t bother not-dog-owners. The rain will flush away the rest.
Now in Qatar. I learned most people consider dogs as dirty and scary, maybe some consider the dog as a friend, but certainly not as a family member.
The stares Dibbles and I get, when I walk him outside on an empty plot of land where he can run free, are very uncomfortable.
It took me a while before I figured out that it’s absolute uncommon for a woman to walk outside alone and then there was the dog! They could not picture him worth to take risks of, yes of what?? 
I avoid crowded and public spaces anyway, as dogs are nowhere allowed.

And then I saw a guy how he put out his shoes and wriggled his feet in pure enjoyment in that little piece of free grass where Dibbles just…….. well you get the picture. 
It opened up something in my mind, why do I let my dog do his toilet in public places? I could see the good part of why people keep their dogs in gardens or yards and not train them to do their needs outside.
Yet I’m convinced it’s better for dog and boss to have a walk for at least half an hour everyday. A dog needs physical exercise even more then us humans as they don’t have to work at all anymore to get their food. But I also know not everybody has got the space to keep the dog in the yard.

So there’s the dilemma;
Cultural sensitive as I am, I see and understand why people, who don’t own a dog, don’t like dogs in public/open areas, even if they clean up. On the other hand I also know how beautiful it is to share the friendship and love with a dog. I treasure my walks outside everyday and taking him everywhere I go (In Holland that is and my dog is well trained) He makes me feel save and is my ambassador to other people.

If I would act cultural sensitive I would stop my walks and train Dibbles to do his toilet in a catbin(??), or something like that.
Someway that would be stupid as Dibbles and I would both suffer from not enough exercise and outdoor experience and won’t become a happier and open minded person, as I would hate the whingers who made me imprisson my dog.
So we must think of a cultural smart/intelligent way in which we consider other people as my -wigly toe grass man- but also my needs.
That’s what Cultural Intelligence is about; not just about management, team work and politics, but also about all the small things in life, about living together.


Necessarity of routines

3 Months ago we had to move house, to a different part of the city. Even it was a move in the a city I already knew, it’s only now that I can say that I’m getting used to my new surroundings. After 3 months I can drive home without thinking about how and when the easiest route to come home. I can look around again, check- and enjoy my surroundings.
(Although it’s in the city this area must have been an agricultural area as there’re sheep and camels around the corner!)

My drive home has become a routine!

Routine is doing tasks without -much- thinking/ without taking much energy (i.e. brain energy). 
People need a routine to forfill their duties comfortably. It gives time and energy for more fun things or for tasks that require more energy.
Our morningrush is under control and that means we can have a quiet breakfast, we can even have a chat about instead of ticking of the list of duties for everyone and running to get to school/work in time.
The routine makes the start of the day a lot less complicated and us function better the rest of the day.

In a couple of weeks though the comfortable routine will become TOO much of a routine and turns to become a habit or custom; A regular tendency of practice or procedures, especially ones that are hard to give up (wikipedia).
Everything in live which is “TOO” is not good. A habit can turn into an addiction, which we can’t do without. 
TOO much of the routine means we lose the flexibility to react on changes without being knocked out of our comfortzone, it’s killing our problem solving skills.
Can you imagine the stress it will cause when there are roadworks on the familiar route!?!?