Refill your glass – in communication AND culture!

by | Jul 12, 2021 | Intercultural Academy, Intercultural Communication, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Reading Time: 5 Minutes

Original text: Geert van de Ven in collaboration with Alexandra Jandausch (translation)

We are indeed able to determine up to a micrometer if the glass tends to be full or empty. That is just a scientific way of determining the volume of the liquid and has nothing to do with communication. In communication, it is possible to metaphorically refill the glass in many ways. 

It takes two to tango!

A lot of expats who are following an intercultural training with Bilingual Solutions come in with a relatively heavy weight on their shoulders. They feel responsible for initiating, maintaining, and managing relationships at work and in their personal lives. And they feel that it is THEIR responsibility. They are often apprehensive, when it comes to communication, especially, if they work in a language other than their native language, e.g., English or Dutch.

The goal of intercultural training is not to assure an expat that they must do as the Dutch do, when in the Netherlands, but to manage their expectations, raise awareness to potential obstacles, and give them the tools that are necessary to continue developing their intercultural competencies way beyond training. Therefore, we collaborate with Dutch in Dialogue. Language is as much a behavior as culture, and adaptation to a new work environment and life circumstances can only be successful if we consider that starting a dialogue is much easier, if you know the language of your new country. 

Communication is a mix of language and culture

In any dialogue, you do not drink the glass alone, but there are at least two parties involved. So, the metaphor of refilling the glass comes in handy: If you are less eloquent, and you are not yet familiar with neither, language nor culture, your conversational partner is as responsible for the outcome of a dialogue as you. How patient are they? Do they give you a second chance without judging you or being biased? On the other hand, as an expat, you are responsible for taking that second chance at communication: you need to want to refill the glass. 

In communication we are not talking about refill, but about repair then: It is very common, that you interrupt yourself in a dialogue, that you need to take longer breaks to think about what you want to say, and that you use some of the following expressions. ‘Nee, sorry, dat bedoel ik anders’; ‘Nee, laat me dat even anders zeggen’; ‘Eens kijken, hoe kan ik dat beter uitleggen?’ ; ‘ Hè, hoe heet dat ook al weer, je weet wel zo’n …’, ‘Even wachten, het ligt op het puntje van mijn tong, ik bedoel zo’n …’ ; ‘Hè, help me eens even, ik kom niet op het woord. Hoe noem je dat? Het lijkt op…’ etc. 

[‘Ah, sorry, I mean that differently.’, ‘Let me say that differently.’, ‘I need to think. How can I explain that in a better way?’, ‘Gosh, what was the word for that, you know, it’s like…’, ‘It’s on the tip of my tongue, I mean…’, ‘Can you help me out, what is this called, I don’t remember the word.’ ‘It’s like a…’] 

Add a different culture to the mix and you can end up with a lot of frustration and communication apprehension. 

How to master language AND culture

Science and philology will not help you in communication. Refill your glass but take it one drop at a time. Aim for repairing: there is a lot of weight on your shoulders, so take the chance to put away some of the weight and add two experienced sparring partners instead: Dutch in Dialogue and Bilingual Solutions

Our training programs always focus on the practical aspects of communication. We help you refill your glass by providing you with all the tools you need to do the repair: you will be able to thrive in language AND culture.

Contact us to learn more and book your training courses.

Contact DID

Sint Antonielaan 340,
6821 GP Arnhem
The Netherlands

Contact Bilingual Solutions

Keurenplein 41
Unit A1950
1069CD Amsterdam

(+31) +31 6 42 40 68 47 – The Netherlands
(+49) 151 – 46 50 23 60 – Germany