What does the Culture Interpreter do?
Since the 60s and 70s of the 20th century, the Netherlands has seen a lot of immigration. In the early years, many immigrants from Turkey, Morocco and Surinam came to the Netherlands. Later, many foreigners from other western countries followed. In 2012, some 3.5 million foreigners lived in the Netherlands. That’s 21% of the entire population. Some 45% of these immigrants were Westerners and 55% are non-westerners. The immigrant population is expected to grow considerably in the years ahead. By 2050, it is expected that the Netherlands will be home to 5.3 million foreigners – 30% of the entire population.
The increase of people coming from a different (cultural) background sometimes causes communication ‘clashes’ in our society. Many cultural differences find their origins in how people are raised and in the behavioural codes embedded in their communities.
The Culture Interpreter and the personal injury sector
Even in a niche market such as the personal injury sector, cultural communication problems can arise. The emotion involved in injury can both accelerate and exacerbate misunderstandings, adding to existing cultural differences and gaps in understanding of the Dutch language or Dutch legislation.
Professional organisations have different ways of dealing with this phenomenon. Larger (government-related) organisations can take measures. There are also many examples of situations in which culture and communication gaps are not taken into account. Many professionals communicate awkwardly as a result of a lack knowledge of specific cultural backgrounds. This often gives rise to a conflict model rather than to a harmony model. In some cases this can make things quite difficult, as the parties involved must make agreements or even reach a consensus together (for instance in settling a personal injury claim).
In many of these cases, the Culture Interpreter is the missing link. Experience shows that communication in the situations described above easily leads to mix-ups. Causes can be: cultural biases, perceptions of self, language barriers, embarrassment, honour, pride or previous negative experiences. In many cases it is an illusion to assume that calling in a translator/interpreter or mediator will lead to a solution.
The Culture Interpreter has developed communication methodologies that remove ‘intercultural noise’ as much as possible, creating a more relaxed atmosphere for the parties involved. The result is that communication is smoother and there is an increase of mutual understanding, respect and appreciation among parties from different cultures. The positive upshot is that these parties can reach a consensus in less time. The Culture Interpreter emphatically avoids getting involved in the injury settlement itself, focussing exclusively on issues of communication.