Empty Streets in Paris and Amsterdam

French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands both addressed their nations on Monday evening regarding the state of affairs around coronavirus Covid-19. Rutte said that “the reality is that the coronavirus is among us and will remain among us for the time being.” Macron used stronger words than Rutte and than in his earlier address: “We are at war.” He repeated this rhetoric multiple times during his announcement of a nationwide lockdown lasting at least 15 days. “All infractions will be punished,” Macron added sternly. “There will be checks and controls in place.”

Rutte, however, appealed to sensibility and solidarity. “…with all the uncertainties out there, one thing is absolutely clear: the task we are facing is very big and we really have to do this with 17 million people. Together we will overcome this difficult period. Look after each other a bit. I am counting on you.”

The Dutch and French deal with authority and uncertainty in different ways. Macron’s words would have caused uproar in the Netherlands, while he received respect in France. Rutte’s words would have generated less impact in France, while they gained him respect in the Netherlands.

The streets are empty in Paris and in Amsterdam.

These very fundamental and different views on social dilemmas, including our understanding of authority and uncertainty, generate a wide array of strategies to step up efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the culturally diverse European Union.

Not to the surprise of those observing intercultural communication. In the case of France and the Netherlands we have seen, for instance, how Air France and KLM have struggled to not only merge their airlines, but also the mindset of their leadership.