Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Air France KLM

Actually, it’s a near miracle that the 2004 merger between Air France and KLM is still operational. Mergers between or with French companies have often been dysfunctional (eg, Alcatel-Lucent, BAE-EADSOrange-Bouygues, Publicis-OmnicomVivendiVolvo-Renault, Wiki).

On 18 July 2017, Dutch newspapers reported on a failed cooperation between Air France and KLM (eg, Dutch FTDutch Telegraph). On 20 July 2017, the Guardian also reported on the leaked internal Air France KLM culture study by a Dutch and French consultant. The Dutch and French observations about each other’s culture are entertaining, indicative and relevant. 

I suspect that this internal company study was purposely leaked by top management, given this Air France-KLM statement: “The conclusion of this study identifies cultural differences and different visions leading sometimes to difficulties but also a common interest and the desire to find solutions in the interest of Air France-KLM group and each airline.” (eg, Guardian, KLM)

Some excerpts from the Guardian: (1) “The French have the impression that the Dutch think only of money and are always ready to fight for profit. They are not afraid of anything.” (2) “The Dutch think that the French are attached to a hierarchy and political interests which are not necessarily the same as the interests of the company.” These excerpts could however have been said about any Dutch or French company. 

Dutch society is based on consensus decision-making. Lobby organisations for employers (e.g., VNO-NCW) and employees (e.g., CNV, FNV) propose joint solutions to the government. Decision-making is decentralised in order to improve acceptance and support of decisions. This typical Dutch phenomenon has been nicknamed the “polder model“. The relative absence of social classes in The Netherlands is often demonstrated by the Dutch King and Queen. Another striking feature is the absence of Dutch chauvinism and their admiration of other cultures.

French society is almost the exact opposite of Dutch society. It’s highly centralised with an astounding gap between population and the elite, including the omnipresent French aristocracy. The French family name defines one’s future. Decision-making in business and politics is by directive from the top. In general, French employees view their employers as the “enemy”. Starting-up new businesses is not facilitated by the government, unlike the Netherlands.

Hence, the Dutch and French culture collide on many levels, including language. The French regard French as a leading language. The Dutch consider English as a leading language and hardly speak any French. The vast Dutch vacation presence in France is much to the annoyance of the French. In general, the Dutch are viewed as having loud and rude behaviour (extrovert), whereas the French are seen as having arrogant and pompous behaviour (introvert).

Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, King of Holland (1806-1810) was however genuinely interested in Dutch people and even resisted his brother Napoleon Bonaparte, the French Emperor. He was also popular and widely respected in Dutch society, which is still largely based on his legacy.

Vogelvrij / L’Oiseau (2008) by Jack Poels & Alderliefste

artist 1, artists 2, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2, Wiki-3

L’Oiseau (1965) – OST Belle et Sébastien – videoWiki


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