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
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: