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Why Should East Europeans Stop Using The Word "Cooperation" Immediately

Last week, I received a letter from an Estonian hotel marketing manager who told me that if I didn’t change a sentence in the review of his hotel, our “good cooperation could no longer be possible.”


What cooperation was that, I wondered? I’d never met the guy, never spoken to him, never even heard of him.


Of course, “cooperation” in Estonian means “might give you money,” meaning he was threatening to possibly never advertise in the future. Never mind that he’d never advertised in the past. Ever.

What’s more important, he couldn’t grasp the idea that editorial could be independent from advertising. The market is rife with “cooperation”: Many Estonian journalists didn't use to pay for meals in restaurants they review, nor do they used to pay for treatments in the spas they write about.


In fact, there’s only one Estonian daily that forbids “sponsorship” of its travel and automotive writers. It’s that sort of cooperation.


“Cooperation” in the Estonian vernacular has long departed from its dictionary definition: common benefit. Estonian marketing managers somehow never saw the dictionary; they only saw the Hollywood movies where the bad guy takes a hostage: If you cooperate, nobody gets hurt.


In the marketing manager’s world view, he has a gun to my head. If I shut up and write what he tells me, he just might consider advertising. He sees himself as so powerful that he doesn’t have to let his hostage go—he only has to think about letting him go.


Cooperation is the most abused word in Eastern European business, and I invite you, dear reader, to purge it from your vocabulary. And next time someone suggests you cooperate, reply that you too have seen the movie, and the bad guy never lets the hostage go.

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