Dutchman Rick Enders, General Manager of Budapest Marriott Hotel & Millennium Court, Marriott Executive Apartments is more concerned about the human factor than the tides. Diplomacy&Trade has recently published an interview with him.
A few years ago, an interesting theater production was staged by a Dutch-Hungarian company of three actors, who fiddled with the fictitious idea of what would happen if a tsunami overwhelmed Holland and the six million Dutch living in the danger zone were all evacuated to Hungary. I thought I should ask a native Dutch to give his opinion on the matter – someone, who has been living in Budapest for a while, and might feel like elaborating on such a topic. My choice fell on Rick Enders, GM of Budapest Marriott Hotel & Millennium Court, Marriott Executive Apartments, who agreed that indeed, safety against floods is one of the main issues in The Netherlands, where half of the country’s population lives below sea level. “Holland has been fighting back water for more than a thousand years when farmers first built dikes to protect their land from devastating coastal floods. Water and its logistics and the development of flood management technologies are the main sectors for which the Netherlands is world-known. The Dutch are proactive and amongst them, are the best construction engineers in the world. I’ve read that not long ago, Dutch scientists created the world’s biggest human-made wave generator,” says Enders, who himself was born at -1 asl (above sea level), in a tiny village on the coastline in Abbenbroek, some 20 km from Rotterdam, to a very international family, with Belgian, French and German blood in their veins. “My grandfather was an English teacher, who worked in Indonesia at the time when it took six weeks to get there by boat,” Enders reveals, adding that he believes all Dutch are quite adventurous and, as a nation, like to travel. “In fact, did you know that the origin of the word ‘cruise’ is the Dutch verb ‘kruisen’, which means “to cross” or to “sail to and from”? We are one of the leading seafaring nations so it’s no wonder that so many English words relating to the sea or sailing, such as sloop, deck, pump, bow, skipper and yacht, have their origins in the Lowlands.”
Enders says he was no more than 12 years old, when he already knew he was going to travel the world. “At the time of course, I did not know or care how. I knew one thing though: that I would need a lot of money to succeed,” he laughs, pointing out that when he made up his mind to knock on the door of a local restaurant to work for some extra pocket money, that was the first milestone in his career. “I was cleaning potatoes with a mission,” he laughs. Later on, at a pancake house, still at his teens, Enders was asked to replace the chef on the weekends to cook pancakes. Only then, he realized that the restaurant business is actually cool and he chose to pursue a career in the hospitality industry. “Finishing my studies, I started my ‘adult career’ as a chef, back on October 14, 1988, at the Marriott Bethesda in Maryland, and after 18 months I moved to the Grosvenor Square property in London. I stayed in the kitchens of Marriott hotels in Frankfurt and Bremen, where I had my first executive position as Sous Chef and then catering manager. Then came Dubai. Three days after I arrived and started working as Director of Restaurants in January 1997, I was asked to team up with the chef of the hotel’s renowned JW Steakhouse – which really was the best in the UAE, it was full every night. A gastro-competition was coming up the next month, the Salon Culinaire competition. The challenge was to create and serve a three course meal from a surprise basket of meat (it was lamb) and whatever ‘surprises’ we found in the fridge. We won the Silver Medal,” Enders recalls. While at the Dubai Marriott, he managed to open eight new F&B outlets, bringing the hotel’s total to 14. “It was big. And, also, there I was, finally, traveling the world.” Still, when asked what career, other than this, would he love to pursue, his answer comes promptly: professional sailor. This might be some of the old Dutch vibe I’m looking to find in his character. As for stereotypes, Enders notes that along with most of his countrymen, he has the capability to adjust quite easily. “I left the Netherlands in 1988, and I have been traveling ever since, from the US to England, Germany, UAE, Egypt, China, Switzerland, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. But I never felt as an outsider, as a foreigner-foreigner, if you know what I mean. In Budapest, from the moment I arrived in March 2014, I have felt utterly comfortable – despite I don’t speak the language.”
Similarities and differences
Enders says he has noticed certain similarities between Hungary and Holland, or rather between the two cities of Budapest and Rotterdam, and its citizens. “Obviously not the maritime heritage (If you take size and tonnage into account, the port of Rotterdam is second-to-largest in the World, after Shanghai.), but the lively cultural and student life and world-famous architecture are something that these two cities have in common. Recently, Rotterdam was ranked eighth in The Rough Guide ‘Top 10 Cities to Visit’ and fifth in Lonely Planet's ‘Best in Travel 2016’ and was voted 2015 European City of the Year by the Academy of Urbanism. I know that Budapest too, is listed as one of the best cities in the world to visit by Condé Nast Traveler and other leading tourism portals, for the past few years. Rotterdam has earned the nickname ‘Gateway to Europe’, while Budapest is often referred to as the hub of the CEE region, thanks to its strategic location in the heart of Europe. Dutch and Hungarians love their soups, in every form and taste. We have our beloved green pea soup, the Erwtensoep, while Hungarians cherish their Goulash, and both nations often eat these as main courses,” Enders continues, adding he, on the other hand, is missing the unprecedented multicultural vibe of Rotterdam that hosts inhabitants of over 160 different nationalities and features a Moroccan mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb. According to him, the Dutch really are open-minded and believe in letting people do pretty much what they want as long as it is reasonably ‘gezellig’. “This term doesn't have a direct English translation but roughly means a warm, cosy, homely feeling that you are doing the right thing by contributing to the wellbeing of all. For instance, am I going to change the global warming? It is unlikely. But I will do everything in my power to make it better. I believe life is too short to be miserable.”
The GM, who, as of January 2015, is a board member of the Netherlands-Hungarian Chamber of Commerce, also misses the legendary Dutch directness that tends to be present even at the corporate level. “In the Netherlands you are likely going to hear a lot of statements that in other cultures politely fall into the category of ‘better left unsaid’. The Dutch have the desire to be upfront with everything and say things without the wrapping paper,” the GM continues, and, all of a sudden, asks if I knew, it was the Dutch who invented the word ‘boss.’ He explains, “As far as I’m concerned, the Dutch word baas was first used in the 1620’s as the standard title for a ship’s captain. The Americans may have taken the word on as their own to avoid the use of the word “master” which implied slave subordinates rather than free laborers.” On my question of what does a good Dutch boss do to run a hotel well, he replies, “I’m very approachable. I spend a lot of time on the floor, with the guests – trying to find out their needs. But this will give us the theme for another interview.”