Background to Business in Netherlands

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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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:

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