Understanding Dutch Business Culture and Etiquette

Expanding your business to the Netherlands guarantees accessibility to excellent infrastructures and logistics services and also Europe, thanks to its central geographical position. However, when making changes to the market entry, you need to ensure making a positive impression on the right people and putting your business in the best possible stead for growth and expansion.  

Have you ever wondered what business etiquette is in the Netherlands? After all, the Netherlands is a country of amazing and wonderful culture phenomena. There are certain behaviours that may give off the wrong impression. For instance, small talk before meeting or mincing words are not strong points for Dutch people. 

That’s why it is imperative to understand the business culture and etiquette in the Netherlands. To help you navigate the Dutch rules of etiquette, here’s what you need to know. 

Forget About Hierarchy 

Compared to other countries, the Netherlands has a less formal business hierarchy. When it comes to workplace culture, the Dutch upholds value for social integration. The structure of Dutch companies is often horizontal, where individual employees and executives are considered co-workers. There is a strong emphasis on openness and transparency in the workplace. Dutch companies encourage the same level of respect and engagement with all employees. The idea of this working culture is to involve employees in the decision-making process and their inputs are valued.  

Therefore, you can expect to see a company culture in which the subordinate and the superior have an equal amount of say. It is also natural to address everyone by their first name without being regarded as disrespect. 

Straightforwardness is Key 

There is no dance before the deals. The Dutch are well-known for being direct and straightforward. Dutch bluntness is legendary and it definitely comes into play in the workplace. If a Dutch co-worker disagrees with you — you’re going to hear about it. Dutch co-workers directly communicate their disagreement rather than beat around the bush for the sake of diplomacy.  It is crucial not to take criticism personally. Frank discussions are essential to the productivity of the Dutch workplace and generally expected from Dutch colleagues and managers. 

The bottom line remains: the Dutch speak their minds. If you want an honest opinion from your Dutch colleagues about your new haircut, they would just tell it as they see it. Don’t be offended if they don’t think it is that nice. 

Punctuality Matters 

What’s the best way to stand on a Dutch person’s good side? Respect the agenda. Whether you’re planning a meeting or a borrel, agendas are sacred to the Dutch and take punctuality and planning very seriously. 

Punctuality is considered a rule that is not meant to be broken when it comes to business etiquette, especially in the Netherlands.  If you are late, you should make sure you notify the person you are going to meet about the circumstance and apologies for late arrival will be accepted. 

People in the Netherlands keep structured agendas on every aspect of their life. Equally important, it is essential to make appointments with whomever you are going to meet, whether it is formal or informal. Don’t expect to see anyone without an appointment as the concept of “dropping in on someone” just doesn’t exist. It may catch you off-guard but some Dutch even jot down their leisure time in their agenda.  

Dress The Part 

In terms of dress code in Dutch business etiquette, standards and styles vary widely from one industry to another. Particularly, a conservative approach to your clothing is expected. However, in some corporate sectors, a more business casual approach is adopted.  

If you are unsure of how your attire should be, it has no harm to ask for some clarification before you head off to your business partner’s office. It is favourable to learn in advance, which will help you know how to represent yourself and maintain your professionalism. This can give yourself the opportunity to ease into the physical meeting space with the company. 

Business Meeting with the Dutch 

In greetings your Dutch business partner, you should give them a firm handshake and say your name. At the same time, you should make direct eye contact to appear trustworthy. 

Meeting over a meal is not the common environment to seal a deal or build rapport with the investors in the Netherlands. Taking business partners out for dinner is considered a private event; therefore, business dining is uncommon in the Dutch business etiquette.  

In negotiations, it is necessary to address all the points in a structured and detailed fashion. In other words, your proposal should be presented with facts and rational arguments to sell the benefits of working with your business. There will be no hidden agenda and will tell you what they think very directly. 

Get A Head Start 

Understanding the difference in business culture and etiquette in the Netherlands and your own country will boost your confidence which translates into better business relationships when navigating in the new market.  

Are you seeking assistance from a professional local company who can aid in your international expansion plans in the Netherlands? With more than 30 years of experience, Octagon Professionals is well-equipped to help your business setting up in the Netherlands quickly, smoothly and with minimum risk. Get in touch with us today and find out how we can help you and your business expand to the Netherlands. 

Related Articles

zoekjaar netherlands