Mardi Huiting-Bijleveld

Cross-Cultural Coaching: How The TMA Method Appreciates Cultural Diversity With Mardi Huiting-Bijleveld

PSF 67 | Cross-Cultural Coaching


No two humans are alike. When you add culture to that, we get to appreciate our diversity even more. This is especially true for coaches who had to move around the world. And in today’s People’s Strategy Forum, we have a guest who is well-familiar with this and has employed cross-cultural coaching using the TMA Method. Mardi Huiting-Bijleveld is an experienced and inspiring life, career & leadership coach, specializing in early grads, young professionals, managers, and executives. She founded Valenti to help people reach their full potential. Mardi moved from the Netherlands to the US, where she found herself working with more diverse clients. In this conversation, she tells us how her clients in the US differ from Europeans and how she was able to work around the differences through cross-cultural coaching. Mardi also shares her thoughts on finding a job that aligns with your talents and passions, appreciating different perspectives, and collaborating. Tune in to this episode and learn more about cultural diversity in coaching and the benefits of the TMA Method.

Cross-Cultural Coaching: How The TMA Method Appreciates Cultural Diversity With Mardi Huiting-Bijleveld

My name is Jules. I’m here to help introduce everybody that we have here. We have a full house. It’s exciting. We’re bringing back a previous speaker as I mentioned. We have Mardi Huiting-Bijleveld and we’re talking all about cross-cultural coaching using the TMA method. If you’ve never been to a People Strategy Forum, I know sometimes we have some new people and new faces, welcome. The goal of the show is to engage, energize, and elevate your employees and your company. We get together every week. We have a panel of awesome hosts as well as a guest speaker and we cover all sorts of topics. It’s always something different. Sometimes we bring guest speakers back when they’ve been popular and there’s been a demand. It’s ever-changing.

It’s not just on Zoom. We live stream to different platforms as well. I encourage you, if you have any questions or feedback throughout our session or future sessions, always write them into the chat for us because that’s where I hang out. I read all your comments and get those questions answered for you. We are also available as a podcast. If you ever have to listen to something in the car, we are available for you there as well.

Let me introduce you to everybody else that is here. We have Char who has been here since the beginning. She has a long background in human resources and working in the corporate world. She is now an entrepreneur working all around the world, especially out in Mexico. She has founded multiple businesses and is currently working on her next business venture. We have Sumit as well. He consults. He is a people strategist. He has a lot of expertise when it comes to all facets of human resources like compensation and talent management to name a few areas. We also have Howard who works with CompTeam, but he also has a very long background working in corporate. He is an expert when it comes to everything strategy and compensation.

He’s all about the compensation software and updating the company so that they’re working at a more efficient level. We also have Sam, who is the Founder and CEO of CompTeam. He is a globally certified compensation consultant. He helps companies thrive in the areas of talent management and compensation. I’m not sure if Wendy is going to be hopping on but she joins us quite regularly as well.

That brings me to our lovely guest speaker who is returning to us. We’re excited to have her here. The last time she was here, she was tuning in from her home in the Netherlands. Since she spoke with us last time, she moved to California. We have Mardi Huiting-Bijleveld. She’s the Founder of Valenti Coaching, which she started back in the Netherlands and then restarted when she made her move to the US.

She’s an experienced life, career, and leadership coach. She uses the TMA method. She’s very experienced with the TMA method. We’re excited to have her back and dive into all this. This is the power of cross-cultural coaching because we were talking about moving. She’s found that as she’s working with more diverse clients in the US. Let’s dive in and get started. Thanks for being back, Mardi.

Thank you for the great introduction. I appreciate you.

Mardi, tell us about your journey and your experiences as you moved to the US from the Netherlands.

It has definitely been a very interesting 2022 for me. I started January with you guys on People Strategy Forum. I’m maybe not sure that we’re going to move because that was a few weeks before the big move was there. Everything was final with the visa and everything. We moved because my husband got a job here in the US. I loved him for decades. Because of my visa status, I was not sure when I was allowed to work again. That was a pretty interesting change because you’re building your career. I built my company and it’s going well, and then you stop it. It was also weird here in the Silicon Valley area to say you don’t work, which is not the norm here. It’s not the default.

In 2023, I’ve learned a lot about what work means to me, what the work I do means for me, and who am I without a job, without saying I’m a coach, and I have my own company. It also gave me the opportunity to do a lot of things that I never took the time for and was always on this wish list. Maybe you guys also have a wish list. These things that you say, “I would love to but I never.” I learned how to bake bread. I love bread and I missed Dutch bread so I started making my own.

I’ve learned how to sew. We converted a camper van. I made my own mattresses and all these things with the sewing machine that I never touched once before. I learned a little bit of Spanish. Please don’t try me. My English is good so I’ve started that language a bit. It was a very interesting year of doing different things than I did and enjoying them. I started to miss coaching as well. Luckily, I was able to get my work permit again and restart everything.

That’s a great experience. I know Char knows this. When we put ourselves in these new locations or areas, we have a sense of growing and developing whether or not it’s in that culture. In your case, a lot of hobbies that you brought in that you always wanted to know more about or something that you discovered.

We travel a lot in this first year because it’s so beautiful here in the US. There’s so much raw of nature that you can drive to and camp in nature. For a day, you don’t see anything else in nature. From my experience in the Netherlands, which is a small country, for a two-hour drive, you’re on the other side of the country. It’s been a wonderful experience to see that much raw nature that’s completely natural.

Look behind you there, you’ve got every single bird in Northern California. When you wake up in the morning in Mexico and you go, “What bird is that? I’ve never heard of that bird before.” Even the birds are found in different parts of the country.

That was so funny. The first bird we saw in the backyard, I was like, “I’ve never seen this bird.” It was a combination of two birds back home but it was completely different. This was a Christmas gift from friends of ours that know that we have eyes on birds. My husband gets something or looks outside because there’s something he doesn’t recognize. It’s also been a lot of fun to discover all these new species. I didn’t know they existed.

I love that when traveling. I’m a big fan of going to Texas. Unfortunately, I don’t know the name of the bird, but I love the bird song that you hear in different areas. Birds have a way of making you feel at home no matter where you are.

They have a different language. Their language is very different than human language. How do animals communicate that way? I don’t quite get it.

What did you say Sumit about getting across the city?

In two hours, yeah.

It is very important when we think about the different experiences in different parts of the world. Here in the US, we have a lot of wide open spaces and a lot of natural beauty and resources and so forth. People can move around without regulation. In other parts of the globe, it’s quite built up and sometimes you even need permission from the government to relocate to certain locations. It’s important to know where you’re at and understand the constraints that certain societies have overall. I know we’re talking specifically about cultural differences, but that’s a significant one because of infrastructure. Mardi, when you moved to the US, what were the big behavioral differences that you experienced among the people that you were interacting with versus Europeans?

It’s a nine-hour time difference, so on the first day that we arrived, we were very tired. We were hungry so we went to a store and then we were waiting for Crossroads. There was this other guy who was like, “How are you? How was your day so far? How was the stay? It’s nice weather today.” He made some small talk. This never happens to us in the Netherlands. People are to themselves, especially in the North, maybe also in the West. People keep to themselves. Here, people make conversation.

PSF 67 | Cross-Cultural Coaching

Cross-Cultural Coaching: In the Netherlands, people are really to themselves. In America, people just make conversation.


It was not only that experience. There were a lot of times like when I went grocery shopping. I was in line somewhere or I walk somewhere. People start talking to you. That was a nice change. People want to get to know you at least for a little bit. They’re interested and that’s been a big change. It made it a lot easier to make friends and connections because the first impression is they were open and interested. That’s been fun.

I totally agree with that because I’m very chatty and talkative, and I haven’t given that feedback. I can make friends with anybody anywhere. I talk to the people in the Uber and the cabs and all over the city. I have been told that Americans can be pretty chatty.

If you’re new, it’s nice that someone is helping you and sharing something of their life. Thank you for your chattiness, Char.

The deal is that I am not bilingual but I am very good at nonverbal, hand gestures, and facial expressions. I can sit and talk with my neighbor Lapita, who’s almost 90 years old. We can talk for hours. As long as I give her a glass of Vino, she’s happy.

I would be interested to hear from you, Jules. Being an Australian coming to the US, what was your experience? Was it similar?

I was agreeing that whole time. Aussies are friendly and outgoing but we’re more reserved. I feel like Americans are a bit more confident. They’re not afraid to be like, “I’m good at this.” They’re not afraid to be different. In the US, if you are different, unique, and trying to be successful or start a business, everyone is like, “That’s awesome.” Having big goals and dreams is supported here versus in Australia, we have what’s called the Tall Poppy Syndrome. That’s why a lot of us leave. The Tall Poppy Syndrome is poppies tend to grow the same weight and height and there’s always one poppy that shoots up above everyone else. That I always struggled with because I do want to travel the world and move to the US at some point. I had these crazy dreams.

People in Australia are like, “Do you think you’re better than us because you want to do that?” I was like, “No. I just want to make the most out of the short time I have on Earth.” Americans definitely want to know your life story. Australians are more like, “Why do you want to know that? Why are you in my business?” Americans are more open to sharing. I come from a Polish family. My parents are from Poland so when I go there and visit, it’s like what you were saying, Mardi. European culture is more reserved. They’re not out there and asking a question. They’re like, “Why are you writing a book?” It’s very short answers or thumbs up. It’s interesting when you go to different parts of the world. I’ve experienced it firsthand. I agree that Americans love to chit-chat for sure.

We have another expression and that meaning is exactly the same. It’s like, “Everybody is in the grass. Don’t show your head above the grass because then, you’re showing off and you’re thinking you’re better than anyone so please all remain in the grass now.” It’s the same thing as the puppy one you have in Australia.

Do you guys have a lot of lawnmowers? In America, we’re mowing our lawns every day. Our lawns have to be perfect every day.

The stereotypical thing that we think about America is the lawn out front with the white picket fence has been a common standard for 50 years. In a lot of the countries up North, we think about frozen rivers, ice skating, snow skiing, and so forth. What is interesting, Mardi, is you mentioned that you noticed what was different. When you moved from the Netherlands to the US, you had to rethink what work means to you. Can you explain a little bit more about that? What do you mean by that? How did work or the concept of work change?

A few years back, I made a choice to start my own company because I had a good job. I could stay there for the rest of my life if I would make a good amount of money but I wasn’t happy there. I knew that people were happy with what I did because I was doing a good job but it didn’t have anything to do with bearing my heart to the world or doing something that was fun. There was a big journey of coaching and that was something I felt like, “This is me. This is being who I’m and helping someone out from within.” I enjoyed it. I remember when I was still doing that other job, I knew that this move to the US is coming one day. I thought, “I don’t care about this job. We can move. I’ll work in a coffee shop or do something else.”

It started to become harder to move because there were not only friends and family that we were leaving behind but it was also something I built. I’m not that business person. It’s not about building a big business. I enjoyed what I was doing. It felt weird to start loving that concept of what I do. When you moved here, it was a weird experience to not be allowed to work. I came from a generation that thinks that everything is possible and we can do anything if we want to, and then I was not allowed to work. It felt weird to not be allowed to do something. What was interesting is people kept asking you from the very beginning if they want to get to know you.

At least, in Silicon Valley, the first thing is, “What is your name and what do you do?” That’s the first question they ask. You start to think that what you do is who you are because that’s what everybody is talking about. That’s what they’re interested in. They’re not interested in what your hobbies are and who your loved ones are. They’re interested in what you do. I knew because I work with people, helping develop their talents, figuring out what their values are, looking at life as a whole, and figuring out what part does work. I thought I’m not attached to work. I’m attached to being a good person.

If everybody keeps asking, “What do you do?” I don’t do anything but I do a lot. I came here with four suitcases and I have to build a household. I’m shopping, which is also a fun job. Questions came to me and starts like, “Am I not good enough if I’m not working?” I started noticing all these thoughts and feelings.

When I started at Stanford after the summer and started with coaching groups, I’m working with a lot of internationals that made the same move. They made a move from another country because either they had a job opportunity or their husband or spouse had a job opportunity. You then see this is also part of this phase that you’re moving to another part of the world and your identity gets a question mark behind it. Who are you in this new situation? I know this coaching thing is also part of expressing who I am. Even if I don’t get any money for it, that doesn’t matter but it’s work that I should do in this world.

I find this very interesting because we do talk about the TMA method and coaching a lot. I also found myself where I wanted to do work I purely loved and enjoyed. Sumit or Howard will know the statistic of unhappy employees who are punching the time clock and hate their job. I’m perceiving, without scientific analysis, that many people are mass-exiting their jobs because they want to find what they purely love. That can even happen mid-career. Mardi, what’s your thought about people working in a job and hating it, and then trying to change their life? Maybe they move or find a new job that is aligned with their talents, joys, and passions. What do you think about that?

I have had the lucky position to talk to a lot of people that were in that transition time or wanted to get into that transition time. It’s either because of burnout so their body asks them to change or make a switch. They felt the courage to go and have some help. I’ve known this from my own experience as well. It’s hard to change even if you know what you like, especially if you’re settled in a certain way like you used to have income. You have friends who expect certain expectations and have their opinions about doing something else. It makes it hard for people to take that. I’m very grateful that I can be a part of that journey to help them find the courage to make those steps and also do it at a pace that fits them.

It's really hard to change, even if you know what you like but especially if you are settled in a certain way. Share on X

I’ve also had clients that had this idea that because of all these things on social media when they wake up, they have to do this big change at one time. They have to click their finger, stop their whole job, and start over while there’s nothing there yet. I’ve also helped people to figure out whether that is the way that helps me to thrive. Does that help to just jump in? Is that person someone that needs to take steps gradually? Maybe start working a little bit less in the job, and start building something before they make that switch. Some people are super courageous and they don’t feel a lot of fear and like that stress. A lot of people also need to take it gradually to make sure that they don’t freeze in the process of doing something they like.

I have to agree with that because one of my coaching clients was a project manager with an IT tech firm. In fact, he felt his eight employees had a higher competency in IT than even he did and he was the manager. As his career coach, he loved art, music, and culture. I asked him to take his time but he got upset one day and quit on the spot. I had to coach him and now he’s super happy. He’s working in an art gallery or an art district. Now he’s the project manager. It’s a little more aligned with his interest and passions. It takes time. It’s not something you can walk into one day and quit. You need to have a side gig or something on the side to help you build up to that big transition. I agree.

I would like to back up because Mardi jumped through something quickly. The fact that Stanford University has engaged you to help work with some of their students. Can you tell us a little bit more about that experience?

I’m involved in the Bechtel International Center. That’s a part of Stanford that is there to support the international community that is linked to Stanford. It might be students, folks with distinct scholar, or professors and their whole families. There are a lot of people not coming along but bringing the whole gang as my husband did. What I do there is a coaching circle. I’m leading these small groups of 6 for 2 hours every 2 weeks in a series of 5 sessions per group. I’m either focused on personal development for people that have family and they’re not allowed to work for example, or they’re happy with what they’re doing but they want to focus on their own development.

I’m also hosting groups that are more focused on professional development. They are focused on either finding a job with their family, how to work together with their boss, or how to work together in their new lab where they’re the only ones from another country. I’m hosting these groups and it has been fine for me because I also made the move. That’s always the fun part of coaching. You learn so much by hearing other people’s stories. You can learn so much about yourself too. It has been fun to engage with a much more diverse and culturally diverse group than I was used to in the Netherlands. I work with a lot of different professional groups like doctors, technicians, entrepreneurs, and more social jobs. Here, it’s culturally different. That’s been a lot of fun and also hard sometimes.

The fun part of coaching is you learn so much by hearing other people's stories. Share on X

I know it’s very important work for you in the context of how a company looks at this. I know that Howard has experience in this too because a lot of Barclays and BlackRock and some of those larger companies are very concerned about when they’re bringing a person in from another part of the world. Making sure that they’re successful in that transition is quite important because there’s a lot of money and time invested, and of course, they’re a key employee.

They realize that it’s not just employee success that is important. It’s also the entire family and the spouse especially. A lot of times, those movements fail when somebody is bringing an executive across from another country, and the executive spouse is passing a hard time in that new area. It can often cause stress in the family and overall failure in the entire transition. It’s quite important.

Before we moved here, I heard that about 50% of the postdocs scholars moved here with their partners. They moved back within a year because the partner didn’t get a sense of belonging or, “This is a life I can’t live in.” In my group, there have been people that said they moved in a few months before they started the group and said, “I’ve been in bed for three weeks because I had no clue and then I saw this and I joined this.” They now have jobs or do courses. Not that I’m magical but it’s magical to get a sense of belonging to know that I’m not the only one in the situation.

That’s the biggest thing in group coaching that you find out. I might be struggling a hard time for real but I’m not the only one struggling with these kinds of things. It can be financial stress and also be careers. I’ve met a lot of people here. They were judges, architects, or psychiatrists back home and they love what I did. It’s a big transition and redefining who they are if they are not doing that job in that country. It’s a blessing to be part of their journey as well.

Companies have found that they spend so much time recruiting the individual that they’re trying to relocate let’s say to the States from overseas. They found that they need to spend an equal amount of time or more time with their families and partners to help them with the transition as well. As you said, if you don’t do that, the whole relationship could fall apart if the partner and family aren’t happy. It’s critical that companies realize that.

For anybody who’s out there in a company that brings people in, the spouses are very interesting. They also have this whole life that they leave behind and memories and stories that they bring. It’s fun working with that group too.

Mardi, for those that don’t know you out there, you are a Certified TMA Practitioner. The TMA method is a great way to get to know your people better and the people that you’re working with and so forth. How have you used the TMA method in your practice?

The TMA method is an integral talent management system method. There’s a lot to the TMA that probably you and Char and maybe other people here can tell more about, but I use it as a coach. In my coaching practice, individuals either have career questions. They have no idea what they want to do. The TMA is sometimes a good starting point. It first back to you. What is your drive in this life? What are your talents? What are your competencies? Start looking at, “Where can you thrive in what kind of job or company?”

I’ve worked with people that have a job. They’re managers for example and they’re starting a new project or a new management team. I would help them be a better team or grow in their job, based on the lessons that they get from their teammates. They get insight into what kind of leader or teammate am I. What are my skills in working together? Doing that individually has been very helpful for them to understand the same language as all the other colleagues. They learn to think about their talent because the TMA method is a great language for talents and competencies and everything.

PSF 67 | Cross-Cultural Coaching

Cross-Cultural Coaching: TMA is a method that has a great language for talents and competencies and everything.


It also helps because I’m also certified as a team professional so I also have the team’s combined information from, “What are your strengths? What is the strength of this team if this is the team?” Maybe the next question would be, “Who do we need more? Who do we need to complement our strengths? What are the pitfalls that we have together that we have to account for if we’re moving forward in this project?”

I’ve also been helping people with their career switch. The last few clients I had, I knew them but they were like, “I’m now in this position. They have a few job offers and they’re all good and everybody has an opinion. Everybody knows what I should do. I like to find the way I think so they ask me to be a neutral partner. I used the TMA to help them make it clear and clear up how I match with this or that offer. I have to talk about this company in order for me to thrive in this position. It’s been a helpful language system for me. That’s how I see the feeling.

At the beginning of the conversation, we’re talking about a lot of the differences in cultures across the globe and so forth. I’ve found that a lot of tools out there fail as being one-size-fits-all. They don’t translate in certain cultures. What makes the TMA method different as a global tool?

The simple thing is it’s digital already. It’s a digital portal that everybody that does the TMA questionnaire can join. Through Zoom, you can work with the TMA method. One of the nice things is they have different norm groups. They have norm groups per language which means that if you would move to the Netherlands for example, you could be compared to other Dutch people to know how I compared to the people and the culture I’m going to work with. It’s the same for the US. I did my own teammate in the Netherlands a few years back. Recently, I redid my TMA in the US and I was compared with the US norm. It’s not day and night but there are slight differences.

Everybody here on the panel, if we are going to work together in the US company, we can all do TMA and be compared to this culture. That helps to align the insights that you get. That’s one of the cool things. TMA in many different languages is available already. Don’t ask me for a specific number but it’s a lot I know, which is also nice.

I’ve worked with a doctor from Germany and I discussed with her, “Are we going to do this in Dutch or German? Where are you planning on working?” It was about her leadership and development as a doctor. We decided we were going to do the Dutch one because she was planning on working here for a long time. One of the good things about this method is that you can use different norms and languages.

I find that hugely valuable. As for those out there that know a little bit about me, my wife is French and my mother-in-law is completely French. People are like, “Did she say that?” Everybody has heard of the phrase of French people being frank or very direct. There are significant differences in cultures. Also, depending on the generations you’re talking with and their experiences as they’ve gone through life. What I love about the TMA method is the ability to sample each culture and understand the nuances and differences and how they are looked at differently as in work in a positive psychological way. I know that you mentioned the book that you’re currently reading right now or studying and that you use in your coaching.

It’s The Culture Map by Erin Meyer. She’s originally from the US and lived all across the world. Someone recommended it to me and then another recommended it. I started reading it and it’s been a blast because I love that she’s very open about the mistake she made in working with different cultures. She did a lot of research on how different cultures differ in all these different areas. The TMA is a method with two different drives that you can get different talents on. It’s a very detailed one. What I like about this culture map are the skills she mentions.

PSF 67 | Cross-Cultural Coaching

The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business

I have one example of my own mistake that I learned and why that was going wrong because of the book. In one of my coaching circles, I did an icebreaker exercise that I did in the Netherlands often. In the Netherlands, it worked perfectly. The exercise is someone starts talking about how their week was and then as soon as someone else in the group notices something that links to something they experienced, that person raised their hands and starts talking. The other one shuts their mouth, and then as soon as someone else finds some link in that story, they raise their hands and start talking. It’s a very energetic way of getting to know each other a little bit in a fun way and seeing there’s a lot of connection there. That’s always the idea behind it.

I did this in this very culturally diverse group with people from Asia, South America, and Europe. I think you might know what happened. There were only 1 or 2 people that were talking and there were a lot of people, especially from Asia, they were quiet and waiting. Even when I tried to encourage them and give them opportunities, it was hard for them to interrupt people. I thought maybe they were still a bit shy and that’s okay. Not everything works well every time, but then I read this book about what is respectful in different cultures.

Mostly, in Asian cultures, the best way of how you can respect another person is to wait before you speak. Make sure there’s some quietness or silence before you speak up. You wait until someone looks you in the eye and gives you a nod to start talking. In the Netherlands, they like it if you speak up if you have an opinion, and make sure that if you think something, share it because otherwise, I don’t know what you’re thinking. I was laughing out loud when I read this in this book. I was like, “That was what’s going on there.”

I love that you share your story. That is fascinating. All of us on this panel made various mistakes, myself included. I do have a tendency to interrupt so I’m also working on that. It would be very fascinating, however, if you do have a diverse company, let’s say Asian, Hispanic, or USA, and to do the TMA in their own language and then cross-collaborate. Have you done that? Have you taken two different cultures and used different languages in groups before?

Not yet with the TMA. I did values like, “What are your values?” It was a very good conversation people are asking, “What does this value mean?” English is everybody’s second language in that case. That was also interesting how people view certain values differently. I can’t imagine if you’re going to do it with a TMA with different languages. There must be one language that you work together unless you always use a translator.

It would be interesting to have a conversation than be like, “How do you interpret this specific talent? What would be your definition of having this talent?” You then share that amongst different cultures. That would be a very nice way of combining and learning about cultural differences and learning about everyone’s individual talent because then you see your perspective is different while you have to find each other when you’re working. I would be very interested in that.

You mentioned that you’re using these teaming. A lot of companies right now are dealing with multiple cultures and diverse situations. Looking at our panel here, we have a person from Europe, India, and Australia. We have those that are different religions and so forth. When you’re talking to a group like this that is very diverse, how do you understand a little bit more about those cultural norms that are specific to them? How do you go through that discovery process?

Erin Meyer also gives a lot of how she does that. I agree with the general principles. Make it talk about it. Make sure that you’re going to discuss what’s your experience in the collaboration. For some people from some cultures, it’s difficult to do because it might look like negative feedback that you’re giving in a group. That will need some preparation to make sure that it’s also okay, or adjust and make sure people can do written statements to break the ice. What I did with these groups at Stanford is asking, “What behavioral differences from what you’re used to?”

It’s a safe question because you’re not judging. You’re stating something different than what you’re used to or you’re also opening up about yourself or sharing something about your own culture that other people in your group can learn. As I said, you can use written feedback in the beginning to share. Maybe a sentence that is often said in your culture or what should you never say to your boss in your culture. Make sure it’s anonymous. You get it in a digital platform if you’re working online and trying to figure out what we need from whom.

You can discuss what is the background and what is the context. These sessions where you talk to each other and share about what are the differences that you experience and what gives you a hard time. For example, from the culture map or the teammate, you can get some language or words that you can start with to find these differences. Also, the things that are the same. That’s what you also see in the TMA. People from very different cultures can experience and have the same drive. It’s also independent.

There are probably a ton of great stories there in thinking about what people experience. I was traveling and we have mobile apps for travel like you get your airline ticket from your mobile app. In this particular situation, I was taking a boat. I had to take a boat and it was from one island to another. It’s like an airplane ticket. It had the scan thing that they would scan in front of the boat. What’s typical in my culture in traveling is that you get this on your phone and you can zap it yourself and you don’t have to give it to somebody else. When I came across this one gentleman, I reached out to zap it in front of him.

He took great offense to that because that was his zone and that’s his expertise. He wanted me to hand him my phone so he could zap it and hand it back to me. Some things are maybe cultural preferences and some others may be individual preferences. Keeping an open mind, I was apologetic once I saw his offense. A lot of it comes from being more intuitive with other people and looking at people in their faces and reading their expressions. We can see more of one another if we’re more self-aware and aware of how they’re reacting. That’s quite important. I would love to hear a bit about Sumit’s experience in this and in dealing with different things. What do you think, Sumit?

We can see more of one another if we're more self-aware, and if we're more aware of how others are reacting. Share on X

The comfort zone in your own space brings a lot of funny stories from the Indian context because 1.4 billion people isn’t a lot of space. Typically, if you’re in a queue for something, it could stretch to 50 people or more. If you start maintaining a one-arm distance or a safe distance among them, it would be 100 meters long view. We don’t have the same concept of space that other people do. That’s one big difference. Earlier, the conversation around being friendly or chatty is funny as well. If you smile and say how are you in the elevator or public transport, people would think, “Why is that creepy person talking to me? I don’t even know them.”

At the same time, it’s fairly normal for a stranger to start asking the person questions like, “Are you married? How much do you earn in a year? What exactly do you do for a living?” There’s no escaping that once you’re on a train or a long bus journey. We’re not as chatty as Americans but as a country, we can be quite invasive with the kind of questions that we ask. I’m sure, most of us on this call would agree that asking how much you earn or whether you are married or not is not a great line of questions.

If our audience has any questions and would love to engage with you more, Mardi, how do they get ahold of you?

If they speak Dutch, they can visit my website because that one is still in Dutch but they can always contact me through LinkedIn or send me an email. My email might be somewhere around here as well. They can always contact me and we can chat more about these themes or other kinds of coaching. I’d be very happy to talk further about that.

Jules, do we have any other questions?

Not at the moment. I’m going to put Mardi’s email in there so if anyone wants to reach out to her, they can. No questions. We’re all good there.

Thank you so much, Mardi for joining us.

Thank you for the invite. It was fun to be here again. It’s interesting to be with you guys.

Listen to those birds. We’re going to have to compare to them and get posters like yours.

We have your website. Do you have your email on there as well?

It’ll be on the website too, but it does do all the translation.

Thank you, everyone.


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About Mardi Huiting-Bijleveld

PSF 67 | Cross-Cultural CoachingMardi Huiting-Bijleveld is an experienced and inspiring life, career & leadership coach, specializing in early grads, young professionals, managers, and executives. With a passion for helping people reach their full potential, Mardi founded her own coaching and training business, Valenti, in 2019.

Mardi has experience in healthcare, academic, corporate, profit, non-profit, and government organizations, which gives her a broad perspective and unique insights into a variety of industries. Mardi has two cum laude degrees, one Master’s degree in Psychology, and one postgraduate degree in Coaching.

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PSF 66 | Workforce ExperiencePSF 68 | Interpersonal Skills For Leaders