Working life

The Dutch business world is not a high power distance culture. Relations are often based on trust, and during a decision-making process the views of everyone concerned are heard. Often a compromise is reached that is agreeable to all parties. In the Netherlands, many meetings take place during office hours. It is a much used method for exchanging views in the runup to a decision. This process can take a great deal of time before a decision is made. By contrast, the Netherlands people like to come straight to the point during an appointment or meeting. In other cultures, it is often customary to get well acquainted  with new business partners, or to spend more time on ‘small talk’ before discussing business.

Practical tips

  • The Dutch do not use titles whey they talk to people. In writing, you can state a title, but this is only done in official letters.
  • In Dutch business it is important to know how to handle a phone call. The Dutch always state their name (and if necessary the company name).
  • Typical working hours in the Netherlands  are between 9 AM and 5 PM (office jobs). Most organisations cannot be contacted outside these working hours. Other working hours apply to industries such as hospitality and construction.
  • There are major differences in how people dress in various business settings. The nature of an organisation is a determining factor when it becomes to a dress code. Banks are known for a ‘suit culture’  whereas casual clothing is usually the standard  for organisations in the cultural sector.
  • The Dutch  speak directly and use ample eye contact.
  • When the Dutch introduce you to someone it is common to shake hands and state your name. Upon leaving you shake hands again and thank the person  for the visit/meeting.
  • If it is your birthday your colleagues/class mates expect you to bring your own cake or treats to share.

Going Dutch

The Dutch are modest, tolerant and independant people. They like to be self-sustaining and enterprising. In the Netherlands, education, ambition and competence are regarded as important, valuable trails.‘Doe normaal’ (just act normally) is a frequently used phrase.

Good to know

  • The Dutch are very open minded people and they will not easily be defended if you do not behave according to the typically Dutch conventions. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, the Dutch people will understand you are a foreigner. To help you understand the Dutch a little bit better, we will give you some examples of typically Dutch (cultural) behaviour:
  • The Dutch generally avoid superlatives. Compliments are offered sparingly and to say that something is ‘not bad’ is to praise it.
  • The Dutch generally call in advance to make an appointment with friends. It is not very common to just drop by.