Bridging Cultural Differences for a Successful U.S. Expansion
Improving Effective Communication and Cooperation: CurTec Bridges Cultural Differences for a Successful U.S. Expansion
CurTec, a Dutch company specializing in the design, manufacturing, and distribution of plastic screw-top drums, pails, and jars for high-value material industries, recently established a manufacturing facility in South Carolina to cater to its expanding customer base in the United States.
Drawing upon his extensive international experience, CEO Bart van Berkel recognized that a major factor in the success of this American venture was the need for effective communication and cooperation between the Dutch and American teams. While it might not be immediately apparent, given the shared similarities between Dutch and American cultures, embracing these subtle distinctions can yield creative solutions, quicker responses, and, ultimately, increased cooperation between the Dutch and American employees.
Workshop: Bridging Cultural Differences
To tackle this challenge head-on, CurTec enlisted the expertise of Annette van der Feltz from Dutch American Connection. Annette conducted two pivotal workshops: one tailored for the Dutch team, which focused on “Effectively Collaborating with Americans,” and another designed for the American team, centered on “Navigating Dutch Work Culture.”
The Power of Understanding Cultural Nuances
These workshops primarily aimed to bring awareness to how typical Dutch behaviors and practices might be perceived differently by their American counterparts and vice versa. These differences, if left unaddressed, could lead to costly miscommunications and unnecessary delays, among others. Simply providing a list of “do’s and don’ts” was insufficient. Understanding the underlying reasons for differing expectations and how assumptions can influence communication is the key to effective communication and cooperation.
Claudia de Keijzer, HR Director at CurTec, vividly remembered her experience visiting the U.S. shortly after attending the workshop. She shared, “I realized that during my first visit to the U.S., prior to this workshop, perhaps I had said things that were received differently than I intended. It is important to leave your preconceived notions at home and be aware that as a Dutch person in the U.S., you need to adapt your communication style. Instead of assuming that I could simply behave as I would in the Netherlands, I recognized that my words and actions could be interpreted differently and the effect that can have on the interaction with others. I have applied what I learned during the workshop and adjusted my message accordingly. While the reception in the US has always been warm and friendly, I noticed that on this second trip, I had a better connection with the Americans I interacted with during my visit.
Streamlining Business Processes
The workshop not only facilitated improved communication but also streamlined new business processes as CurTec established its presence in the U.S. Claudia continued, “I now understand that translating our performance management documents and processes from Dutch to English isn’t sufficient. Communication goes beyond translation. For instance, the American team’s expectations for performance reviews differ from our practices here in the Netherlands. I might have inadvertently put my American counterpart in an uncomfortable position by assuming a one-size-fits-all approach. So, I sent a follow-up email, stating, ‘This is how we do it in the Netherlands. I understand that you may have different targets in the U.S., so please feel free to adjust this as needed.'”
Addressing Cultural Differences
This heightened awareness of differences made it easier to address potentially uncomfortable situations. For example, during the official opening of the U.S. factory, all U.S. employees were included in a lunch attended by the management team and local dignitaries. Although this practice was standard at CurTec in the Netherlands, some American employees perceived this as a cultural difference. At previous employers in America, they had not always experienced the same privileges. CurTec took this opportunity to reinforce the message that at CurTec, every employee is valued and essential to the business.
Positive Impact on Cooperation
Annette’s workshops played a pivotal role in CurTec’s successful international expansion. By raising awareness of cultural nuances and fostering mutual understanding among American and Dutch CurTec employees, the company improved communication and collaboration between the Dutch and American teams, with a positive impact on cooperation between both cultures.
Learn more and join a workshop
For more information about these workshops or customized in-company workshops designed to enhance effective Dutch-American communication and cooperation, please visit Dutch American Connection’s website.
If you are interested in attending the next “Successfully Working with Americans” workshop on October 17, 2023, in De Bilt, the Netherlands, please click here.