Working in an international environment is enlightening in many aspects, one of which is that you quickly realize that national stereotypes exist for a reason - they are more often than not accurate.
Some nationalities will almost never say "no" or "I don't know." Some start at "no" and work from there - and others are unmercifully honest. Others are so bureaucratic that you don't want to work with them.
The following excerpt is from the 2012 book 'Officier in Afghanistan' ('An Officer in Afghanistan'), written by LCOL Esmeralda Kleinreesink (RNLAF). It makes me laugh, and anyone who has worked with the Dutch will get a giggle out of it - or cuss.
The Dutch C-130 planner I carefully sound out over the telephone puts it quite plainly. No intense looks and meaningful ums, just an outspoken: ‘We offered our C-130 to NATO for ITAS, not for VIP flights. We have better use for our C-130. If this happens I’ll withdraw the Dutch offer. And I don’t think you’ll find any other country willing to make their C-130’s available for this.’
I decide to consult with my pillow on how to tell COMISAF that ITAS and key leader engagement from the air are not compatible. The next morning, however, the colonel delivers me from this problem. For the third time in a week I stand at ease in front of a neatly cleaned desk, this time with the firm intention not to be overwhelmed again.
‘Did you tell COMISAF that he can’t fly?’ ‘No, sir,’ I answer, without feeling any impulse to explain myself. If he wants to play boss-subordinate, he can get it.
‘Then why do I get to hear that?’ ‘Maybe because I talked to one of COMISAF’s staff officers about his travel plans and the staff officer concluded from our little chat that it is impossible to both fly ITAS and COMISAF with this entire party,’ I say.
Flushed and emphasizing each and every word, the colonel says: ‘We are British. We do not say “no”.’
This time I am prepared. Last night I read the standard operating procedure which clearly states that the Chief Air Transport is responsible for the upkeep of ITAS and for planning the air transport capacity which has been made available to NATO. Not my department chief. I am to put the mission first and foremost, not nice COMISAF plans or national interests. Therefore I answer with the same emphasis:
‘I am NATO. It is my call. I do say “no”.’