Outsiders can often find meetings in the Netherlands somewhat frustrating and certainly lengthy.
Meetings in the Netherlands are forums for debating issues in a full and frank manner where everybody is expected to contribute and everybody expects to be listened to. The purpose of the meeting is to move towards a commonly agreed approach which can then be implemented. However, reaching this common viewpoint can be a time-consuming business, needing a great deal of input from a number of differing sources.
The positive aspect of this consensual approach to meetings is that, at the end, real buy-in has been achieved and therefore implementation can be really swift.
The Dutch can have some antipathy towards those that they feel arrive at the meeting having lobbied prior to the meeting in order to reach a group position to expound in the meeting. This pre-meeting lobbying, endemic in many cultures, can be seen as devious and underhand and lead to accusations of hidden agendas and inflexibility.
Despite the often free-wheeling nature of discussions in Dutch meetings, protocols are often observed with agendas generally produced and respected and each person waiting for their turn to speak rather than interrupting whoever has the floor.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
If you are currently doing business in Europe it is likely that you will have had some contact with the Dutch. This is mainly due to the pre-eminence of Rotterdam as a port and its position as the gateway to the European Union. This fact reflects the Netherland’s history of one of the great trading nations of the world and also accounts for the fact that the Netherlands has more global, world-class companies than you might expect from a country with such a small population and geographic spread.
The Netherlands is international in its outlook – it always has been. Countries with small domestic markets need to look abroad almost as a matter of national survival and the Netherlands is a prime example of this. The Dutch want to trade – why not with you?
Given the Netherlands’ central position in European business life, it probably follows that you should consider doing business there and that doing business in the Netherlands might also help you to springboard into other European Union countries.
A word of caution though – just because the Netherlands has a long history of international business and the Dutch typically speak excellent English doesn’t mean you don’t need to develop a good understanding of local Dutch business culture. The Dutch can’t be all things to all men and when in Amsterdam you should maybe think about adapting to the local way of doing things. Dutch business culture is just as strong, distinct and all pervasive as in any other country and you are well-advised to do some research before you arrive in-country.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Dutch business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: