Being a Personal Assistant in a British company often feels great. Not just because I love everything English (oh yeah, there will be lots of blogging about that too), but because of the cultural differences between Brits and Dutchies. The first and most obvious thing is the way people look. In business, English employees will wear business clothing, usually spotless and clean, even if they had to get up at 4 AM and sit on an airplane for over an hour. They look so sharp!
Dutch people in business, well, they are Dutch. For some reason people from the Netherlands have accepted (and ‘high end people’ even embraced it) that a chino does not have to be black or dark blue, it can be fun and red or even orange! I do not know why, this just happened. Anyway, I was not about to discuss the differences in clothing cause believe me, I am not exactly what you would call a fashionista. So I should move on to my next point: being straightforward. Dutch people are often considered to be very straightforward. I am no exception to that rule, I even think that I can sometimes be more direct than many other Dutchies, but that has to do more with my curiosity than just trying to hurt or outsmart somebody, really!
British people have that stiff upperlip and they have their own set of rules on how to behave when other people are around. It is one of the many reasons I love Downton Abbey so much, that perfectly British behaviour of the characters (except for those ‘horrible’ Americans of course, hihi, it is so much fun to see episodes where Cora’s family is at Downton). That British behaviour is exactly what made The Office such a great series, but of course to a whole other extend than Downton Abbey.
The Office, the tv-series that made Ricky Gervais famous (I love Ricky, not just because of The Office, but also Extra’s, An Idiot Abroad and his truly amazing work for animal welfare), is a mockumentary style comedy series in which we follow the daily life at a random paper office in the UK. Except for the fact that the manager and many of the employees are super weird and hilariously awkward. I must admit that I liked The Office US more, but that was mostly because I discovered that before I ended up watching the UK one. Still, they’re both brilliant and you should watch every episode of it. I actually still need to watch the British one more, because I did not get to finish it yet.
Anyway, life at my office might be a lot less crazy, it sometimes does get a bit insane. A colleague of mine said she always jokes around with her manager -and I have spotted another UK PA being very well, free and LOL-ing with her boss-. Sometimes so much, that they cannot stay in one room for a meeting because they will just laugh every time they see each others faces. That might be a bridge too far, but I must say I have been experimenting with making more funny remarks or jokes around my managers and it does help. I really feel it makes our relationship better and also it makes everybody just a little bit more comfortable.
At first I was a bit hesitant, as I did not want to show too many of my true colors (although the Thor picture, Cute Overload calendar and pink office supplies around my desk might have given away a thing or two about me). I also thought it would not be very professional to joke around, but since I have been more open to it, I have started to become more relaxed about my bosses and that is a great feeling, especially because I noticed that they also seem more relaxed around me.
The only thing I struggle with, is that my jokes in English are a bit more thought through than my jokes in Dutch would be. In Dutch I love to use word jokes (duh, writer!) and funny takes on well-known sayings, but in English that is a bit more difficult as it is not my native tongue. But, on the other hand, when I do manage to make a word joke or a funny remark in the form of an English expression, my managers are extra pleased because they just do not expect it from their Dutch personal assistant. Gotcha!
Even though this whole let’s-have-fun-thing may sound like it is a bit fake, it is not. I am a person that loves to be open, be honest and play around, which is why I am glad I now dare to be myself a bit more around my managers. I really feel it has made our connection stronger, and it is a nice and light way of making workdays that are full of complaints, nagging and other negative elements better to cope with. Business is business, and most of the time I am very serious at work. I would never take it as far as to always joke around, but it is quite challenging and fun to find the perfect balance between the two.