10 tips for doing business with the Dutch

Introduction to Dutch business culture

The Dutch are pragmatic, open-minded, tolerant but (in the eyes of a visitor) outspoken, egalitarian, organised, efficient and practical. Loyalty is highly valued. If you can exhibit these qualities, you will make a connection with your Dutch counterparts. You should also be prepared to engage in long debates and back up everything you say.

The Dutch are, despite their outspokenness, fairly shy and reserved and do not appreciate loud behaviour, close physical contact, constant touching during a conversation or exaggeration. Hard facts and a solid background will impress more than grandiose claims and plans. The same goes with your general demeanour. The Dutch can identify with frugality and are uncomfortable with lavish spending and ostentatious displays of wealth.

Once you have reached agreement on a point, it is essential to keep your word and stick to the agreed deadline.

Dutch people have a great respect for privacy. If you are new in The Netherlands, it’s up to you to introduce yourself to people, and they will in turn introduce you to others. But you should set the social agenda, as the newcomer, or you will be left alone.

Finally, never waste a Dutch person’s time. Punctuality is essential at all times.

Top 10 tips on Dutch business culture

Here are 10 essential tips for making a good impression when doing business with the Dutch:

  1. Keep it low-key. A self-effacing approach is better than someone who boasts about personal achievements.
  2. Be efficient. Although good relationships should be built, the Dutch do not like to waste time and prefer to get straight down to business.
  3. Be on time. Punctuality is essential, for social events as well as business.
  4. Prepare for a frank approach. The Dutch can be very direct and may say things that visitors regard as shocking. This is not intentional; it is simply their straightforward communication style.
  5. Respect the bottom line. The Dutch are profit-orientated and careful with money.
  6. Be pragmatic. Plans need to be practical and realistic rather than wild and over-ambitious.
  7. Keep to your word. Commitments are taken seriously so do not promise what you can’t deliver.
  8. Respect private time. The Dutch make a clear distinction between personal and business life so respect a contact’s right to weekends and evenings.
  9. Be a good listener. A good communicator knows how to listen to others’ opinions, which is expected.
  10. Get the name right. Do not call The Netherlands ‘Holland’ – Holland is a region of the country.

Learn more about the Dutch with our quick video guide:

Do you regularly work across cultures? Would you like to improve your ability to communicate and influence with colleagues and clients from other cultures?

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dutch business culture

About the Author

Terence Brake

Terence Brake is an author in the global learning & development field and has over 20 years experience helping executives to work better across cultures.

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