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All the residents have their own life stories, experiences and cultural backgrounds. At Startblok, we see this diversity as a unique opportunity for personal development. We can all learn from each other’s view of the world, customs and ways of communicating.

Ten variables of culture

By Philippa Collin, Intercultural Communication Lecturer at Inholland University of Applied Sciences

Being aware of your own cultural background, is an important tool in the process of living together with people with different cultural backgrounds. What’s `normal’ for you might be very different from what is `normal’ for your neighbour! Below you find ten variables of culture. Which cultural values are familiar for you?

Read the variables here

Ten tips for living together

By Hans Kaldenbach, author and trainer of Intercultural Communication (

The following tips can help you create a pleasant living environment at Startblok Riekerhaven:

  1. Be aware that it is in your own and others’ best interest that everyone you live with feels welcome and accepted in the residential group.
  2. Groups will form naturally. Like-minded people tend to stick together. Be careful however that groups do not become cliques. When that happens, people can feel left out.
  3. Feeling left out or excluded is painful and the centre of that pain is located in the same part of your brain as the pain you feel if someone were to stab you between the eyes with a knife. You may know from personal experience how awful the feeling of exclusion can be.
  4. Living together also means dealing with feeling frustrated and annoyed sometimes. Do not keep these feelings bottled up inside, but try to talk about what’s bothering you. Choose a suitable moment to bring it up, in private and face to face. Chat a little before speaking your mind.
  5. Show an interest in others, even when the topic is a taboo. Be aware that typical Dutch directness may not always be appreciated by people from other countries and can be considered to be extremely rude.
  6. Try to become aware of any feelings of cultural superiority that you may be harbouring. Or, dare we say it, is acknowledging the existence of this feeling a taboo in itself?
  7. Everyone has things they take for granted or believe to be accepted truths. At what time should the house be quiet? What music volume is acceptable? Which language should be spoken when there are people present who do not speak the language? What does a clean floor look like? How many friends can you invite? Discuss the things you take for granted.
  8. Not all Syrians, Eritreans or Dutch people are alike. If you think you know someone or their culture based on ideas you have about their ethnicity, you can make them feel judged. Ethnicity and culture are not the same thing.
  9. Can you tell the other person is a little hesitant or anxious? Go ahead and take the first step.
  10. Try to understand that things may be unclear or strange to an immigrant.

An example: how to `just simply shake hands’?

By Hans Kaldenbach, author and trainer of Intercultural Communication (

The ten characteristics of the firm Dutch handshake:

  1. You walk up to the other person with your arm nearly fully extended in front of you, and you smile.
  2. When you shake hands, your elbow remains bent, however – not with a straight arm.
  3. You have to use your right hand. If it is in a sling, for example, you have to apologize for not being able to shake hands.
  4. Your hand should be vertical, otherwise they will think you are domineering or subservient.
  5. You then have to push firmly so that the crook of your thumb meets the crook of the other person’s thumb.
  6. Now you have to squeeze the other person’s hand firmly. How firmly? In an inburgeringscursus (naturalization training course) it usually takes about three weeks before people are doing it `properly’.
  7. Then you shake the hand firmly once, vertically. A couple of small shakes follow naturally. Holding on longer than that is definitely wrong.
  8. Look the other person in the eye while shaking hands.
  9. You need to have a relaxed smile when you do so.
  10. What is also very important is that your thumb presses firmly into the soft flesh above the other person’s thumb. It’s like the full stop at the end of the sentence: the other person can tell that you really mean it!

The Dutch do not realise that their handshakes have these ten characteristics. They think that they `just simply shake hands’.

“This project is for people that really want to make something of their lives.”

Pim Koot, Socius Wonen