Culture Shock on The Minnow

9 05 2015

This last week, we had a visit from a new member of our team. Due to an organisational reshuffle he was now reporting in to our Vancouver based marketing team, despite being physically based in Venlo, The Netherlands. The main result of our company being split over these two sites is that the Vancouver members are expected to attend regular con-calls and video conferences at obscene times in the morning. The Dutch, being very “socialised” largely refuse to take calls past their 5pm nominal finish time. Being 9 hours ahead, it leaves a vanishingly small window of overlap. Taking a call in your pyjamas, eating breakfast, slurping tea – and hoping “mute” is engaged – is one thing; being physically in the office and attending a video conference at 7am is quite another. I really should start questioning this whole “Canadians are so nice” thing. It was in the small print of my citizenship test though. 🙂

Since all but one of the newly configured team is living in Pacific Daylight Saving at the moment, our newest crew member came to stay for a week and get to know the oddballs he was now working with. I had a business trip to Chicago in the middle of the visit, so didn’t personally get to see much of him, but quickly decided I liked his enthusiasm and lack of world-weariness. (He’ll learn soon enough! It was good to form the “before” impression though.)

Anyway, our boss graciously offered to take the entire team for a couple of hours sailing around English Bay on his 37′ C&C yacht.

C&C 37 yacht - under way

C&C 37 yacht – under way

The wind was up, and we had a few high-speed, 45 degree tilted runs across the bay, weaving in and out of the various empty freighters anchored there.

Freighter and North Shore Mountains

Freighters and North Shore Mountains

At one point, I glanced back over the city and saw a huge pall of black smoke. It looked so dark I thought it might be oil and feared the worst – there’s recently been a lot of highly emotional talk about Vancouver’s oil terminal, pipelines feeding it and the potential development of the LNG industry in BC. Technology (Twitter in this case) answered the question and told us there was in fact a fire at a Vancouver church.

We were a mixed bunch, in possibly every dimension you could imagine. Six in total, we had 4 blokes and 2 women, one of whom didn’t behave that way (this is the West Coast in the 21st century, after all. We have both expressed an appreciation for the on-coming summer and the attendant rise of skirt hems – it’s always nice to share one’s interests!) Five had current certification to manage a boat on the water, though three readily admitted that their memory of the details were sketchy. Personally, I now only claim confidence as far as which way up the boat should be. Three were born Canadian, four had a Canadian passport, one was waiting for a Canadian passport and one was visiting Canada for the first time. Three also possessed European passports – well, 2 plus a UK one, grudgingly European. Of the three Canadian born members, one was of Scottish descent, one of Welsh and one of German. The remainder were born in the UK, France and The Netherlands, Ties to the old world, it seems, run deep.

We had a fine afternoon under clear, breezy skies and greatly enjoyed each other’s company. Eventually we slackened the sails, pointed almost parallel to the wind to regain a level keel, set the auto-pilot and broke out the picnic.

Terribly civilised!

One of the natural-born Canadians then tried to explain to “Dutchie” that “all North American men”, and indeed “a growing proportion of North American women” who were “of a certain age” had a ready answer to a specific question, namely “Ginger or Mary Ann?”

To prove his point, all three “proper” Canadians (apart from our new Dutch colleague, we were all of “a certain age”) readily replied, with Mary Ann winning 2:1 – Ginger getting her vote from our lady crew member “mainly for being blonde – I have a thing about blondes”. One of the blokes modified his reply with “it depends if it’s long term or over-night” and around this point I became aware of a huge gulf in North American vs. European popular culture.

The three of us born outside Canada had no idea who Ginger or Mary Ann were. None of us had heard of The Minnow; Gilligan; The Professor or any of the other various names thrown around. We stared politely while each of the six of us were assigned a character from “Gilligan’s Island”, though we had no point of reference at all. The low point was when half the crew began singing the theme song with much gusto.

Gilligan’s Island

Comments were subsequently made about the altitude of my eyebrows at the culmination of the singing. I think it was George Bernard Shaw (of Pygmalion and other plays) who said that the US and England were two nations separated by a common language. (He was Irish, by the way…. just sayin’.) It seems equally true that US-TV and Euro-TV can be similarly divisive. Despite having different home languages (one each in fact), we three non-locals culturally had a lot of similarities and shared our own common TV. We chose not to sing anything!

As a child I remember lots of childrens TV in the UK that I subsequently learnt was from The Continent. Animated programmes such The Magic Roundabout or puppets like Hector’s House (both French, I believe) were easy to internationalise. But it didn’t stop there. I remember watching a programme that introduced me to dubbing, as I gradually became aware that the lips and sounds weren’t matching. I recently discovered that The White Horses was in fact German/Yogoslavian! Wikipedia also tells me that the UK audio dubbing has been lost except for a single episode. Ah, the vagaries of pop culture….

MagicRoundabout.com: Les Amis

 

Carter Collectables: Hector’s House

 

http://www.fernsehserien.de: The White Horses





A tale of two cities. Well three, I suppose

13 05 2012

So today I got back home from a week in Europe. I was attending a trade show in Düsseldorf, Germany, but staying in a hotel in Venlo in the Netherlands. I already posted photos of the lovely hotel I was staying in. If you missed them, look here.

I spent a little time on the Canon booth. Mainly drooling over the high end cameras and lenses on show, but also in awe at some of the industrial uses their printing equipment can be put to. I also checked out some packaging software vendors and was amazed at the complexity of designs that are possible with rigid packaging such as corrugated cardboard. I was in an amusing conversation with my Canadian born boss and a Southern UK employee. At one point I used the idiom “as bent as a nine-bob note”, which caused the Brit to ask how I knew such an obscure English term.

I looked him in the eye, as my first assumption was that this was a subtle ironic joke. Realising it wasn’t, I pointed out I was plainly a Yorkshireman, and though having been absent from said hallowed ground for a few years, was still fairly well acquainted with the language. He was amazed, and claimed that he’d assumed I was a “proper” Canadian from my accent. This made my boss laugh, as to his ear I sounded exactly like the Southerner. This made both myself and my British colleague give him the Paddington “extra hard stare”, and we all left in separate directions.

Around 6:30pm we headed out of DĂĽsseldorf for London on a Lufthansa flight. The generously proportioned lady next to me complained bitterly about the tea being served with cream rather than milk. Having had it served to me that way several times in Canada, and also in the Netherlands and Germany, I gave her the polite version of “suck it up, Buttercup”, with my mind following with something along the lines of “if you like everything the way it is in the UK… why not just stay there?”

We over-nighted in the Park Inn at Heathrow, to catch the morning flight back home today. I was treated to a proper “Full English” breakfast, which incidentally, is never eaten by English folk except on holiday or at hotels. It turned out the hotel was temporary home to no less than 14 rugby teams, which I have to say behaved so impeccibly I would never have known. On leaving for the airport, I noticed one of the groups there was from Yorkshire. Small world.

I managed to sneak a quick trip to WH Smiths at the airport, and snagged a bag of Twiglets, Cheese and Onion crisps and a packet of Jaffa Cakes. I love BC dearly, but some things I do still miss from the UK. On the plane home, a middle-aged couple sat next to me turned out to be originally from Doncaster. We all agreed it was a good place to be from. They now lived in Nanaimo, here in BC… and the world noticeably shrank a little more.

 





It’s all Double Dutch to me…

9 05 2012

So you remember when I wrote about my last trip to DĂĽsseldorf? No? What do you mean “no”? You don’t hang on my every word?! But you said you would!

OK – hurry up. It’s here. The rest of us will wait…

Anyway, I find myself about to set foot once more within its city boundary. Thanks to Kianys, I am armed with a recommendation for a good meal this time as a bonus. In the meantime, I flew in to Venlo in The Netherlands last night and spent today at my company’s international headquarters there, meeting my new colleagues. I’m staying in a pretty little hotel by the name of “De Bovenste Molen“, which I would heartily recommend to anyone finding themselves in the area.

I was so jet lagged last night I went to bed early, attempted to read a few pages of my current book and then slept soundly, except for the predictable West-East transit false start at 4am. Happens to me every time I fly to Europe from Vancouver. Managed to snag a couple of extra hours despite that, before ultimately being awoken by “Evolving Dream” emanating ever so insistently from my BlackBerry.  [Go on, MM, you can’t say I don’t set them up for you!]

Today was a busy round of meeting the beautiful people of head office, and then a quick spin around the mill pond before dinner. Some of the photos were from aforementioned RIM device and seem a little blurry. Or maybe it’s my eyes. Dinner though was exquisite, if a little pricey.