Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at SCU DACH in Bern, Switzerland. This was extremely interesting for me especially since it was my first business trip overseas, and only my second time ever visiting anywhere in Europe. This blog post is a summary of my insights from the trip, some travel tips from a Texan, and a few other odds and ends.
Here were the top 6 insights from my trip to Europe:
1. Jetlag is real and it’s a beat-down. I know that this is obvious to those folks who have been traveling overseas for a while but it’s one of those things that from a high level seems pretty silly. Seriously – why would shifting time zones be so difficult for the body to adjust to? It took me about two days before my brain actually seemed to be functioning normal and my best night’s sleep was about 6 hours while I was out of the country (for a visual see the picture after #4 on this list – this is right after I got off the plane to the Netherlands). For my friends from over the pond this blog post is your free ticket to remind me how much tougher you are than I am when travelling.
2. My language skills are pitiful. I speak English pretty well (with an occasional redneck term thrown in to keep things interesting), but have zero language skills beyond English. (True story – at the end of my second year of French, I asked my teacher if I had passed my French class and she asked me “Are you taking another year of French?”. When I replied that I was not she told me “Congratulations you passed!”). Almost everyone I met in Switzerland and the Netherlands spoke English in addition to two to four other languages. This made the travel experience for a Texas tourist extremely painless.
3. Tourist locations. It’s universal – if there is a tourist location to visit close to where you live you probably haven’t been there yet. It’s the same in Dallas. We have tourist spots to go to but we never actually go there. We bring friends there when they visit but we never actually visit them otherwise. One of the pictures below is our souvenir from the Heineken museum which Maarten Goet (@maarten_goet) lives near but had not been to yet.
4. Food and Drink. The food in both countries was excellent and they make good strong coffee which is a plus from my perspective. Serving coffee with a couple of stroopwafel’s is a big plus and having dinner in a windmill with the flying Dutchman and Maarten makes for a great evening of conversation!
5. Law enforcement approach. Specifically in the Netherlands the approach of police is almost the polar opposite of the approach in Texas. On an average day I see police cars pretty much everywhere I go (especially in Frisco where I recently saw four different police cars in a 10 minute drive from my home). In the Netherlands I did not see a single police car, and I only saw one police officer during the days that I was in the country. The Netherlands has automated traffic enforcement through red light cameras, speed cameras, and sensors which track time spent travelling between point A and point B. If you speed you are sent a ticket through the mail (the good news is that these don’t count against your insurance – it’s seen as just another tax which we have plenty of in the US). It’s fully automated and results in a very fluid system. That being said, from a Texan perspective it really kills the game. I understand that speeding isn’t supposed to be a game and that it’s serious, but if you can’t go even 5 miles per hour faster than the limit without automatically getting a ticket commuting gets pretty boring pretty fast. So the life lesson here? Don’t speed while in the Netherlands.
6. Transportation. In Dallas, bicycles are wedged into the existing transportation approaches which are focused on cars. We label roads as “bicycle routes” and we get upset when bikers are using a driving lane to bicycle in. In the Netherlands they have bicycle areas of the sidewalk where the bikers have right of way even over the folks walking (I almost got run over not realizing that the red path is for bicycles not people walking – see the picture below). This said however, bicycles also caused some huge traffic challenges in the Netherlands as you go to a roundabout (another non-Texas thing – I’ve seen 2 of these in the state) and get stuck trying to leave the roundabout because a pack of bicycles crossing. Public transportation in both Switzerland and the Netherlands was extremely well developed – I used more public transportation in the week I was in Europe than I used the entire year in Dallas.
Travel tips: If you are going to go to the Netherlands I recommend reading the following and watching these two videos (great humor plus fun tips):
- Video: Holland vs. the Netherlands
- Video: Holland the Original Cool
- Article: Seven cultural mistakes you will make
- Article: 10 things you need to know about Dutch supermarkets
(Where I live in Texas, fruit is fruit and milk is milk. Crossing the two seems somehow unnatural)
Bonus travel tip: Don’t assume that things will be the same as they are in America. The look on my face when I got into an elevator where the buttons were on the side of the elevator instead of on the front of the elevator was probably priceless. And the idea that the toilet flusher might be on the wall instead of on the toilet itself was equally priceless.
Speaking at SCU DACH 2013:
Speaking at SCU DACH 2013 was a great experience. It was great to get a chance to meet people from other countries who have the same love of System Center that I have. Here’s a few of my favorite photos from the event:
SCU DACH 2013 kickoff:
Carl at the SCU DACH kickoff:
Here are some of the presenters photos from the event: (Kevin, Maarten/Stefan, Kevin/Damian/Stefan)
Followed by myself on capacity planning, and two related photos just for the fun of it. 🙂
I wasn’t at SCU DACH – how can I see what happened (or I was there – how can I get the videos or decks?)
The PowerPoint decks are now available at: http://www.systemcenteruniverse.ch/slide-deck-download.html
And the videos are now available at: http://www.systemcenteruniverse.ch/video-download.html
I wanted to say thank you to all of the attendees in my sessions and to the coordinators of SCU DACH 2013! I am looking forward to seeing everyone at SCU 2014. If you aren’t able to attend in Houston and you don’t have a local location to attend this event – go here to attend a location for simulcast party near you!