The Netherlands

Background to Business in Netherlands

The Netherlands has weathered the economic storms which started in 2008 better than many countries and certainly better than their southern European neighbours.

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!’)


This country-specific business culture profile was written by Keith Warburton who is the founder of the cultural awareness training consultancy Global Business Culture

Global Business culture is a leading training provider in the fields of cross-cultural communication and global virtual team working.  We provide training to global corporations in live classroom-based formats, through webinars and also through our cultural awareness digital learning hub, Global Business Compass.

This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in The Netherlands only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.

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