This is a personal story and experience when it comes to Uncertainty Avoidance in the Netherlands and Belgium.
In earlier posts on this topic, I have tried to describe what Uncertainty Avoidance is. Only last week I was confronted with the very practical experience when you’re moving country. In this case a move from the Netherlands to neighboring country Belgium (more specifically it was my mother moving from Amsterdam to Brussels; moving closer to where I live :-)).
Moving Country is Complex
Anyone who has ever moved house will agree that moving house is:
However, anyone who has ever moved country will confirm that the stress and complexity increase a significant number of times.
It is not just changing the address and communicating that to your Internet provider (for instance), ending your rent, and ending your different insurances (e.g. house and health insurance, just to name a few). I had to end several contracts in the Netherlands and start them all up in Belgium again.
What I did to let this process go as smoothly as possible for my mother is make a simple to-do list, and tick off whatever I had done. Simple and effective. In the end, it did the job!
Uncertainty Avoidance in the Netherlands and Belgium
The cultural make-up of the Netherlands and Belgium are very different on 3 of professor Geert Hofstede’s dimensions of culture. For this post, I will only focus on Uncertainty Avoidance. The scores on this dimension for the two countries are as follows:
- the Netherlands: M(iddle)
- Belgium: H+ (very high)
For a complete overview of all dimensions and all countries click here.
Belgium’s scores are significantly higher than the Netherlands. In the case of the country move that my mother recently did, this difference became very clear in a couple of ways.
Attestation and Signatures
Belgium (compared to the Netherlands) is the country of “Attests“. For pretty much any official document you need an attestation. Usually, with a stamp (of some sort) and of course, your signature, plus you have to add “read and approved” in your own handwriting.
In organizing my Mom’s medical insurance here in Belgium I got told by the Belgium authorities that I needed attestation from the institution that takes care of her pension in the Netherlands.
So when calling the Dutch pension institution to get the paperwork going, I asked the person on the other line if they could send me an Attest of the fact that my mother is indeed eligible to receive her pension.
The response was interesting: “I have heard of the word Attest, but I am not sure what it is or what to do with it.“It brought a smile to my face. The Dutch just don’t do Attestations…
This brings me to my other point: how easy it is to cancel all kinds of insurance, rent, medical insurance, etc. in the Netherlands.
The only one instance where my Mom had to actually physically be present to change her address from NL to B was at her ABN|AMRO bank office.
EVERYTHING else I was able to do remotely from Belgium. I canceled the rent for her apartment, I canceled her health insurance, other insurances, other banks, all her utilities, etc. Simply by sending an email, or making a phone call.
The fact that I could organize 99% of the paperwork remotely for my mother, not needing a signature or anything, made it very easy and very fast.
On the other hand, it is a scary thought that apparently anyone can cancel pretty much everything for someone else in the Netherlands without written consent from the involved person.
I prefer the Belgian way. Even it takes more effort.
image by storebukkebruse
If you’re interested to read more on the cultural differences between the Netherlands and Belgium, Click here. This is a long article in Dutch though.
Want to read more about Dutch culture, read this article.
A dedicated post on the Belgian management style can be found here.
Comments? Leave them at the end of this post
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A common mistake that is made in business or when relocating, is to assume people who speak the same language or residents from neighboring countries have the same cultural approaches to working and living. You presented a great example of one of the many differences that exist between the Netherlands and Belgium.
Thank you Elizabeth for your comment and compliment 🙂
Great post Chris. I really like real life illustrations of cultural differences that really bring Hofstede’s Dimensions to life. Thanks for sharing this one.
Thanks Neville. Whenever I find myself in a situation like that I’ll share it.
BTW, have you listened to the Culture Matters Podcast yet?
Thanks so much ! It helps me to write an assignment 😉
You’re more than welcome 😉