Acknowledging intercultural differences in English brand stories

If we go to a birthday party, we congratulate everyone. And if it’s your birthday, you shouldn't have to treat others; you should be getting cake! This is the case in the Netherlands, but it may be frowned upon in other cultures. There are countless cultural differences. As an educational institution with international degree programmes, you need to acknowledge this fact. Alexander van Zijp explains how to do so.

Together with colleagues and international students, Alexander created a translation of the brand story which retained its essence. One of the fundamental aspects for Inholland is viewing diversity as an asset. Alexander: 'A brand story should never be some vacuous story written by a communication department. We really create the brand story together.'

Taking on challenges

Because there are seven international degree programmes, the desire existed to translate the brand story into English as well. 'This way, we hope to create a stronger connection with the international students coming here. We were aware of the fact that you cannot simply provide a literal translation because of the intercultural differences. Together with Loo van Eck, a brainstorm session was organised with international students and lecturers', Alexander says.

The brainstorm sessions revealed striking differences. Alexander: 'Our brand story in Dutch talks about "daring to learn" and "daring to make mistakes". This notion was a real no-go to our international students. There was no way that they could explain to their parents, who were paying for an expensive degree programme abroad, that making mistakes would be involved. So in the English version, we used "taking on challenges" instead.'

Personal & community-based

The students were honoured to have been asked. Alexander: 'It really made them feel that their opinion was being valued and appreciated. They felt that they really had a say, which is just what we wanted. As we claim to be "personal and community-based", we naturally want our approach to reflect that sense as well! For the next degree programme on our schedule, Mathematical Engineering, we will be taking this approach as well.'

If you would like to know more about the approach taken by Alexander and Inholland, you can download the entire Loo van Eck interview at the top right of this article (in Dutch).

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