The Dutch Nyske Blokhuis who sets up a branch in Belgium together with the Belgian Robrecht de Weerdt who has always worked in the Netherlands. At our branch in Turnhout, national boundaries have never been a constraint. It is a good place for Sjors de Koning, who is part of this growing team with clients in Flanders and the southern part of the Netherlands, to work. Sjors was born in Germany, has Dutch parents and grew up in Belgium. He works with both Belgian and Dutch people.
What kind of clients do you have in Turnhout?
As we feel it is important for our attorneys to have the same technical background as our clients, our main focus is on mechanical engineering and electrical engineering, but we also have specialists in all other areas of expertise, including chemistry and life sciences. Now that our team is expanding, we are able to enter into more diverse partnerships.
Where are your clients located?
This means that everyone is welcome, but in particular local businesses. We want to be there for all business in the Kempen region, which is roughly the area between Antwerp and Eindhoven. It is an area which is home to many different businesses. It is a nice cross-section, and we want to work with all of them.
So you switch between Dutch and Belgian businesses. Are those work cultures very different?
The structure in Belgium is different. During meetings there is often a clearer hierarchy and people tend to be more to the point. The Dutch, on the other hand, like to share a lot of information, in meetings as well as on the shop floor. Most Belgians prefer to join the conversation only when they feel they actually have something to add.
Belgians also tend to be a bit more conservative. That can be difficult at times in our particular line of work. When someone has made a good invention, he or she is not always convinced of this themselves. More so than in other countries, you then often have to stress the importance of ensuring that these ideas are properly protected to them. Modesty can also result in you letting opportunities pass you by.
What can you learn from this switching between different cultures?
You should not keep adapting yourself indefinitely, but it is always good to understand each other's differences. You can always learn from new things and different cultures. The Dutch are very direct, for instance. They speak their mind. It is good to be able to take some of that on board, despite the fact that it gets a bit much for me at times.
In this line of work you have to deal with many different people and nationalities anyway. But people from the same country are also different. The fact that you come across all kinds of different people from all kinds of different backgrounds, not just when it comes to colleagues, but also when it comes to agents and clients, helps you grow as an individual and in your professional role.
So are you gradually becoming increasingly Dutch or are you still a real Belgian?
I would like to think that I have the best of both in me.