The Dutch appreciate plain speaking above all else. Subtlety, diplomacy and coded speech can all lead to problems.
Everybody has a point to make and deserves to be heard.
The manager is not necessarily the boss, but the first amongst equals.
Despite their reputation for liberalism, the Netherlands is a conservative society and change is only accepted and embraced after much deliberation and discussion.
The Dutch have a long tradition of internationalism and are possibly more aware of the impact of cultural differences than people from many other cultures. Their language skills are world-renowned.
Decisions are reached through a lengthy process of debate and consensus building buy-in. It is difficult and dangerous to try to circumvent this system.
Historical events (floods, invasions etc.) have made the Dutch cautious and deeply thoughtful in their approach to issues. (If you do things in haste your feet will get wet.)
It is important to be seen as unpretentious in your dealings with other people. Eccentric behaviour is seen as suspect. (To act normal is crazy enough!)
Humour is used and appreciated but not in very tense business situations where it could be seen as frivolous.
There is a relatively strong separation made between work and private. Colleagues tend not to socialise very much immediately after work.
The Dutch as a nation are highly educated and place great value on education. A large percentage of the country’s GDP is spent on the state education system.
Employees tend to stay with one employer for long periods of time, which promotes a company loyalty and an interest in long-term goals.
Dutch labour laws are quite stringent making it difficult to dismiss people. This makes downsizing a difficult and costly exercise.
Conducting business affairs over lunch is unusual in the Netherlands – lunch is usually a quick snack.
The Dutch tend towards informality in business dealings with first names usually used – especially in international situations.
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: