This is, probably, in no small part thanks to their commercial history and famed adaptability.

The Netherlands has long been one of the world’s great trading nations and at the beginning of the 21st century this position shows no sign of being eroded — in fact about 50% of all trucks in Europe are Dutch and Rotterdam remains Germany’s main port of entry. This historical internationalism, epitomised by the early predominance of the Dutch East India Company, accounts in no small measure for the large number of MNCs (Unilever, Shell, Philips etc.) to be found in a country with such a relatively small population of 16.6million.

Therefore, the Netherlands with few natural resources (other than natural gas and some coal) is a value-add economy, which takes in goods and re-exports them at a profit. It could be said that the Dutch have been making something from nothing for many centuries and nowhere can this ingenuity be better seen than in the approach to flood defence and land reclamation.

These historical factors have greatly influenced Dutch mentality and produced a society that is on the one hand progressive and modern and on the other hand staunchly conservative in thinking. Change will be implemented when it is necessary and when it has been proved to be necessary — however unless the case is well made, extensively discussed and openly agreed upon, any change could have a disastrous result. (‘Act in haste and your feet might get wet!’)

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