The merger talks between ABN Amro and the UK’s Barclays Bank have focused attention on the compatibility of the Dutch and British cultures. In surveys, the Dutch claim to be closest to the British.
There are also many successful examples of Anglo-Dutch business marriages: Shell, Unilever and Corus.
But there are also examples of severe culture clashes; the most recent being that of Apax, the British investment company, and the Dutch newspaper group PCM, which they acquired and then exited.
Apparently, the gung-ho attitude of Apax grated with the careful and consultative approach of Dutch management.
The Dutch seem to have an outmoded view of British culture. They still talk about the reserved and formal British who cannot tolerate direct criticism – while they see themselves as informal deal makers who are not afraid to call a spade a spade.
Apax’s British managers, however, were criticised for their directness and bluntness when dealing with PCM. The British boss of Dutch retail concern Maxeda, Tony DeNunzio, is also far from reserved in his approach.
It’s time the Dutch updated their view of the Brits, and looked more closely at themselves. It’s a bit like the Dutch love of John Cleese. British humour has moved on from Fawlty Towers. And so has business.
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