Working with Dutch people in business

Working with people from different countries creates exciting opportunities to learn about different cultures and widen your network.  

Here are 8 tips on how to make a good impression when working with people from the Netherlands.  

1. You are part of a team

Dutch people are very collaborative, with a lot of cross-level communication and teamwork, which is expected of everybody.  

2. Age and rank are respected 

When people know each other well it is normal to kiss each other on the cheeks three times (first one side, then the other).  

When addressing people, if the person is older or a higher rank than you, the formal use of ‘you’ is used. Men expect to be addressed as ‘Meneer’ (Sir), and women ‘Mevrouw’ (Madam). 

3. Expect to be told exactly what they think 

Dutch people are known for their direct approach to communication, even during business meetings. This means there will usually be no small talk and no hidden agendas. When you are speaking with a Dutch person, what you hear is exactly what they mean, and they will expect the same from you in return.  

Direct eye contact during conversation is important as this is seen as a sign of trustworthiness. 

4. Be on time

Dutch people are punctual, which means they are either on time or early to a meeting. They don’t appreciate their colleagues being late, and they will be offended if you miss an appointment. The Dutch use the phrase ‘time is money’ which means that their time is valuable and should not be wasted. 

5. Informal dress is accepted

Although dress code expectations differ between industries, informal dress code, such as a shirt and jeans, is generally accepted for most meetings. More formal attire such as a suit and tie is only expected for meetings with very senior ranks, for example, with governmental officials.  

6. Lunch is a quick snack 

Don’t expect long chatty lunches with co-workers, and business lunch meetings are unusual. In the Netherlands lunch is usually a quick snack from a nearby café, the office canteen or brought from home.  

7. High level of English

Dutch people often have a high level of English, therefore interpreters will rarely be used.  Before a meeting Dutch people will introduce themselves with their first and last name. Business cards are used regularlyand are given before or just after the meeting.  

During meetings, Dutch people like to be low-key, which means loud speaking and excessive hand gestures are seen as disruptive.  

When a meeting is coming to an end, expect to be asked if there is anything you would like to add to ensure everybody has had a chance to participate in the meeting.   

8. Small gestures, big impact 

Finally, here are a few more tips to bear in mind when interacting with Dutch people in a work context. 

  • Always knock before going into an office  
  • Keen your hands out of your pockets during a face to face conversation 
  • Avoid talking about salaries. 

Glossary 

Collaboratively: involving two or more people or teams working together 

Small talk: polite conversation about unimportant matters 

Attire: clothes, especially formal ones 

Chatty: involving informal talk 

Canteen: a restaurant provided by an organisation such as a college, factory, or company for its workers or staff. 

More from the corporate blog:

Find out more

All articles Next article

Post your questions and comments: