Customs (Do as the Dutch do)

How To Greet

Dutch people will appreciate it if you take the first step in establishing contact with them. When greeting someone for the first time, you shake hands. This is common practice for men, women and children alike. You introduce yourself by stating your first name or first name and surname. Failing to introduce yourself will be considered rude.  

For acquaintances, friends and family, it is customary to kiss each other three times on the cheek (left, right, left). This is generally the case when two women greet each other, or a woman and a man. Male acquaintances usually just shake hands.  

When entering a room full of strangers, such as a dentist’s waiting room or a hair dresser’s shop, use a simple ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ to greet everyone at once.  

‘How are you?’ is not commonly used when meeting someone for the first time. In fact, it might cause confusion and make Dutch people wonder whether they have forgotten meeting you before. Just say hello, and save ‘how are you?’ for the next time you meet them.  

When making a phone call, always state your name (and if necessary your company name). Even when you call a taxi, order a pizza, or ask for information, it is polite to mention your name. When someone calls you, do the same: pick up the phone and mention your name (and company name).  

In the Netherlands it is customary to use the formal ‘u’ (‘you’) when addressing a senior person, it shows respect. When addressing an acquaintance or younger person, the Dutch will generally use an informal ‘jij’ (‘you’).  

Making phone calls

In Dutch business it's important to know how to handle a phone call. In general the Dutch always state their name (and if necessary their company name). Even when calling a taxi, order a pizza, or ask for information, it is polite to mention your name. When someone calls you, do the same: pick up the phone and mention your name (and company name).  

Old phone

Interaction in organisations

The Dutch business world is not a high power distance culture. Relations are often based on trust. During a decision-making process, the views of everyone concerned are heard. Everyone’s opinion counts, and 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 to exchange views in the run-up to a decision. This process can take a great deal of time before a decision is made. By contrast, in 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.  

Woman at computer.


In the Netherlands, tipping conventions are basically the same as in any other country. Just keep in mind that everyone in the Netherlands receives at least a basic minimum salary. In a hotel, it is common usage to tip about 1 or 2 Euros (porter, room service, cleaning lady) every time a service is delivered. In restaurants and cafés, it is customary to tip 5% to 10% of the total bill, provided the service was good. Leaving some small change on a restaurant table is a common way of giving a tip to the serving staff. Most Dutch restaurants and cafés collect all the tips which are received during the evening and split the amount among all the staff who are working that evening (also kitchen/ cleaning staff). If you are not satisfied with the service given, do not give a tip at all. Tips are generally not expected in bars, but are not uncommon. Taxi drivers generally receive a 3% to 5% tip.  

Plant growing out of coin jar.

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