Last week I was lucky enough to visit the Embraer factory in São José dos Campos (state of São Paulo) in Brazil. Embraer is the world’s third largest commercial aircraft maker, after Airbus and Boeing, and manufactures regional jets seating up to 120 passengers, as well as business jets and military aircraft. KLM Cityhopper (KLC) replaced its oldest Fokker 100s with Embraer 190s, twin-engine jets that can carry up to 100 passengers. In November 2008, the first aircraft arrived, and in September last year KLC added number seventeen to its fleet.
At each delivery, KLM Cityhopper sends a special team to the Embraer factory in Brazil. Over the years, it has become a tradition for these teams to take something typically Dutch to the manufacturer. On one occasion, Embraer’s contract manager had just returned from maternity leave, so the team brought “beschuit met muisjes” (rusk biscuits covered with aniseed sweets), a traditional Dutch way to celebrate the birth of a child. The Brazilians had no experience of the tradition, but took to it quickly, as they did with other offerings. Another time, the delivery was in the week of 5 December, according to Dutch tradition the birthday of Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas), who, aided by helpers known as Zwarte Piet, marks this day by bringing children presents and chocolate letters. These come along with a poem in which he tells the children what they have done badly or well. And so the KLC team did the same – bringing chocolate letters and a poem about Sinterklaas. The Embraer people liked the idea so much that they surprised the KLC team even more by leaving Sinterklaas presents on their hotel room beds, together with a note from Sinterklaas describing how he had looked for them all over the place, but luckily had heard that they were in Brazil.
On other occasions, the Dutch team brought tulips, wooden shoes, Delftware or typical Dutch food like “erwtensoep” (pea soup), and taught them how to make “poffertjes” (a bit like pancakes but much smaller, thicker and sweeter, served with real butter and powdered sugar).
Being ignorant of this tradition to bring little pieces of the Netherlands to Brazil, I was ever so happy I díd have something typically Dutch in my suitcase: “stroopwafels” (treacle waffles – usually eaten with a cup of coffee or tea). A small gesture compared to the enormous hospitality we received, but very much appreciated none the less.
It was in many ways an impressive visit to Embraer in Brazil. I’ll tell you more about the company in a future blog.