Respect is shown through speaking one’s mind and being direct. Little respect is given to those who appear devious or underhand in what they are saying.

This directness of approach can sometimes be misconstrued as aggression or even rudeness – but is, rather, a useful tool for enabling the meeting to reach an agreed solution.

Paradoxically, due to the consensual nature of decision making in the Netherlands it can be sometimes difficult to get a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’. This seeming unwillingness is more a sign of no decision having been yet reached than any subtle politicking.

It is important to appear unpretentious. Whatever you are, do not think of yourself as something special. Therefore self-promotion of the type that might be found in the USA is seen as being distasteful and will probably be thought of as arrogant.

Although humour is often used in business situations, it is not all-pervasive and discussions are often very serious with irony or sarcasm being interpreted as lack of commitment.
Remember that even though the Dutch speak very good English, much humour is culturally-based and unintelligible to other cultures.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in the Netherlands

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in the Netherlands. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.

With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in the Netherlands and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.

Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips