In the 19 years since the start of the Dutch Chamber we have seen members come and go. As the idea behind the Chamber is to facilitate a dynamic network platform we try to stay in touch with members who left Sweden when possible. We are curious to hear where they are now and would like to reflect with some of them on their time in Sweden and what this experience taught them.
Board member from 2004- 2007
Then: CEO Itim International
Now: Leadership expert at EEAS of the EU in Brussels
Exactly after 20 years in Sweden I moved to Brussels because of work. I got the opportunity to work for the EU, something I dreamt of when I studied International Relations in Groningen a long time ago. I am seconded by the Swedish government to work for the European External Action Service (foreign affairs of the EU) for the headquarters of the 11 civilian missions the EU has outside of its borders. I work as a leadership expert and support managers in those missions, based in countries such as Somalia, Libya, Iraq, Kosovo etc, with their leadership challenges.
You were one of the very first board members of the Dutch Chamber. How did it all start?
I joined the Dutch Swedish Business Association (DSBA), I think in 2003. After I attended two events I was asked to become a board member. I kind of declined as I felt what the DSBA was representing and offering at that moment was not what offered me added value for my business. However, there were more people who replied the same and the then nominating committee connected us. We soon found out that we had a vision in common for the future of the DSBA and we together accepted to become the board. I think this was in 2004.
Together with amongst others Jasper van Dorrestein, Maria Trap and Arjen Bouterse, we designed a future for the DSBA and soon after launched the Dutch Chamber. I stayed on as board member for 3 more years and then became an ordinary active member.
Active in the sense that I attend events as much as my schedule allows, and sometimes also present at DC events. And it is in this role I think many members might know me. The first 16 years of my career have been solely devoted to managing cultural differences and in that capacity I supported many multinationals inside and outside of the Dutch/Swedish context with their intercultural challenges. I think over the years I have presented around 6-7 times on the topic of Swedish-Dutch cultural value patterns.
What was your biggest learning from your time in Sweden that you would like to share with our Dutch/Swedish network?
My biggest learning has been that your own cultural background never fades. If you have lived for the first 15 years of your life in the same country (in my case the Netherlands), the way one views the world will always be with the perspective of your first culture. So even though I fell in love with Sweden and connect deeply to the Swedish way of doing things, I cannot put my Dutchness aside. I pride myself being culturally competent and know how to navigate between cultures to create synergy, it still is clear to me that for example the Swedish way to avoid confrontation is not one I find easy.
Do you have any advice you can give to Swedes who want to do business with the Dutch and vice versa?
Many things can be answered to this question. But instead of giving a list of do's and don'ts I rather recommend to reach out to each other. Too often we talk about each other instead of with each other to try to figure out behaviours that puzzle us. Here I believe the Dutch Chamber will always have a role to play. To be that bridge between the two cultures. I read the Orange Tables are starting up again. Why not use some of those events, for the Dutch members to bring a Swedish colleague and have meaningful exchange about experiences we have working with each other on a daily base.