Soon we will be going to Texel. We will search for new information and we will probably present our ideas to the local people. Although our ideas are made with the best intentions and although we try to fit the people and the context, it is still possible to make big mistakes. Miscommunication could be one of the main causes of this. Why?
The island is a completely different part of the Netherlands than the places where we, students, come from. We are all university students and about the same age and with an interest for sustainability. The people of Texel have an entirely different background; they live on an island, are probably not studying at a university and are not necessarily interested in sustainability. Though they have a very strong ‘islander’ feeling, which we don’t have. Their motives for being on the island are thus completely different than ours.
The customs are likely to be subtly different that ours. I regularly experience a minute cultural difference when I am going back to my parents who live in a rural area in the east of the Netherlands. The neighbouring farmers there communicate differently than what I am used to in Delft. Their rhythm of communication is slower and the way of putting yourself in a conversation is a bit different.
I expect a similar kind of differences with the people on Texel. I think it is important to keep this in mind while communicating with them. Our ideas could be great, but when the locals are not addressed in the right way, it is likely for the ideas to fail.
“C’est le ton qui fait la musique”.
Edward T. Hall has written a book about this. In “The dance of Life” he describes the cultural differences between ‘white’ Americans and people descendent from Pueblo Indians. The way in which people interact socially is completely different. Hall talks about many projects that have been introduced by ‘white’ Americans to help the Pueblo descendants. Many of those have eventually failed due to misunderstanding and a lack of knowledge.
I don’t mean to say that the Texel people are totally different. I just try to underline the awareness we all should have when working on the island. How can we communicate so that our ideas have the best effect and how can you get the most useful information? How can we address the people the best so that they are more open to the ideas we suggest?
I think that when we are able to address the Texel people in the right way, we can have a much more open conversation. They probably will evaluate the ideas with less prejudice and this will have a positive effect on the end result.