11 Important Aspects of Dutch Business Culture to Remember while Doing Business in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is a prosperous and beautiful country that will appeal to anyone for making one’s permanent place of residence. And if you get a chance to do your own business successfully in the Netherlands, you can soon become a wealthy businessperson with all the comforts and pleasures of life at your service.

However, to get success while doing business in the Netherlands, while you are not originally belonging to this country, it’s advisable to first learn about the Dutch business culture. Here are some rules of this culture learning which will be helpful to you to work here smoothly.

1. Hierarchy

There is not very rigorous hierarchy in the Dutch business culture. On the contrary, it’s quite flexible, i.e. authority can be easily ignored when necessary. You will see many Dutch companies in which the openness and impartiality in the Dutch society is reflected in the business culture and the top bosses and grass root level employees are considered co-workers. Top executives are not interested in showing off their power, though they have such a power. Also you’ll find that Dutch employees tend to take responsibilities and initiative while working individually.

Although the manner of communication in Dutch business culture is pretty straightforward and informal, there are some strict formalities to observe. For example, if there is a significant difference in age or designation, you’ll have to use the formal “u” and “meneer” for sir and “mevrouw” for madam. In the communication among colleagues, the informal “je” and first names are used.

2. Business Strategy

You’ll also find cautiousness and practicality in Dutch companies when it comes to business strategy. The business culture here typically involves step-b-stop planning. Even the relatively low level in the company will be communicated about the strategic direction.

Managers here are not considered all-knowing. Instead they will know the outlines of the strategies and the details of the strategies will be taken care of by specialized employees. So, s/he won’t be expected to know everything by the employees. S/he acts rather as a problem-solver. Importance is given to bringing multiple specialists together in a team and thus improving the diversity of expertise in that team.

3. Decisions in the Business

You’d like to remember while starting a business in the Netherlands that whether it is the business culture, politics or social life, most decisions are to be made on the basis of consensus in the Dutch culture. The Dutch equality is particularly seen when you can see that suggestions from all workers are considered. Consequently it takes time to reach a decision. However, once it is reached, it’s implemented quickly and efficiently.

4. Business Meetings

The Dutch along the lines of their insistence for consensus particularly love meetings. But meetings are often informal but are held on fixed times and protocols and agendas apply. In the meetings, mainly various options are discussed, consensus is reached and decisions are taken.

All attendees of the meeting should make some contribution, irrespective of their rank in the company. Hence it’s good for you to prepare well. It’s a normal tendency for foreigners to consider Dutch meetings ineffective; however, the Dutch consider them as a device to ensure that everyone is heard.

5. Negotiations

The Dutch are typically straightforward in getting to the business and negotiations are done at a fast speed. They are renowned to be stubborn, tough and forceful negotiators, while honesty and dependability are given the highest importance in the Dutch business culture.

6. Time Perception

Remember that the Dutch tend to keep appointments and are typically on time. Any small talks are considered to be a waste of time and they get right down to business.

7. Keeping Appointments

In Dutch social life as well as business culture, there are structured agendas. Being late for a meeting or missing it is not only considered annoying but also unreliable. Delay of maximum 5 to 10 minutes due to reasons like heavy traffic on the roads is allowed but not taken for granted.

8. Business Greetings

It’s usual to shake hands with everyone present and utter your first and last name. You are expected to make intensive eye contact during a conversation as it is considered to be trustworthy.

9. Dress Code

You may find it really relieving that in the Dutch business culture, dress codes are incredibly informal. You need to wear a traditional suit and tie only in higher circles of business or while working for the government. People in management positions generally wear business suits at meetings as well as special occasions. In the summer however, t-shirts, jeans and blouses are not uncommon in the work culture here.

10. Business Cards

Business cards are often exchanged near the end of or after a conversation. Cards generally consist of your academic title and function, e.g. if you are an accountant Netherlands, you can mention that on your card. Some Dutch business cards even include people’s residential addresses and telephone numbers. However, you usually cannot call them after work hours.

11. Business Meals

Meals are considered a necessity and not a social event in the Dutch business culture. Hence most employees will be seen eating a sandwich behind their computer or even bring sandwiches in a meeting. You won’t find business lunches very commonly, though they are not uncommon. However, there is a growing tendency to take meals with colleagues in a meeting room or going out for lunch with them.

Taking your business partners out for a lunch or dinner is considered a private event, thus it happens rarely in the work culture here. During the meals, the topic of conversation will mainly be business. Talking about your home country or city, sports or cultural events are good topics on such occasions.

Knowing about the Dutch business culture and observing the norms will certainly be useful to you to run your business successfully in the Netherlands. All the best!

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