Working culture in the Netherlands

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Relocating to a country with a different culture then yours can be intimidating sometimes, even more so when relocation is caused by a new job opportunity. Moving to the Netherlands for work is no exception to this. 

The Netherlands is worldwide known for the directness of the people, and for prioritizing efficiency. At Middle Point we want to go in-depth and give you a comprehensive guide to what you can expect in your Dutch working environment, so that you will find your way around in an easier way.

1. Egalitarianism and flat communication.

Working relationships tend to be more participatory, democratic, and consultative. People are evaluated based on what they bring to the table, rather than their work position in the hierarchy. This is not to say that hierarchy does not exist, it does, but that in practice this means that it is very common (and sometimes even encouraged) to participate in work decisions and voice your opinions regardless of your position. Even newcomers will be encouraged to state their point of view! The Dutch culture appreciates teamwork, as business decisions are very rooted in consensus and honesty. However, when you speak up do try to be as precise as possible about the point you are trying to make.

2. Value of time.

Being on time is an absolute must in the Dutch working culture. The Dutch people will have their days, weeks and even months thoroughly planned out by the detail. It will be required of you to not only be on time, but to arrive a little bit earlier. Latecomers will be confronted and seem unreliable. This also works both ways, if an appointment is made with a Dutch person, you can be assured that they will honor it and be there at the specified time.

3. Responsibility and Reliability.

The Dutch phrase that explains this perfectly is “een afspraak is een afspraak”: an agreement is an agreement.

The Dutch people have a strong sense of responsibility and are usually very honest. They value respect and your word will be your bond, confrontation will follow if you don’t keep your word. In a work setting this means that when you have agreed to a series of things, you must follow through. This will also work the other way around, with your superiors keeping their word if they have promised you something.

A general tip is to not make promises you cannot keep or oversell an idea, because it will have a negative impact on you.

4. Directness.

The famous Dutch directness can often be interpreted as harsh or rude by cultures where keeping face is very important. However, for the Dutch people directness is deeply rooted to pragmatism and crystal-clear communication. Beating around the bush will be considered a waste of time.

This can be beneficial for you in a work setting because you will know what is always expected of you and you will not have to guess how your performance is received.

5. Efficient Meetings.

Another result of the directness is that negotiations tend to get right down to business. Unlike other culture where they might prioritize building trust and connection, the Dutch working culture one again will prioritize efficiency and time management. This means that there will be very little, small talk and chitchat and they will start with the agenda right away.

If you would like to know personal testimonies of the Dutch working culture for expats, make sure to read our Success Stories series on our social channels

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