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Business culture in the Netherlands

Adapting to the Dutch business culture is one of the first thing you need to do when starting your new career in the Netherlands. It is necessary to understand the business culture, to make sure that your career in the Netherlands will succeed. Once you know all about the Dutch business culture, you will be able to integrate in your professional environment. It is crucial to know the Dutch business culture while performing managing roles.


The hierarchy in Dutch business culture is relatively flexible. It is no exception that employees ignore authority when they think it is necessary. The openness of the Dutch society is portrayed in the horizontal structure of many Dutch companies. Everyone who works at the company is seen as a co-worker. It is not common for executives to display the power they have, they often choose to be a part of the group. This does however not mean that they do not have any authority within the company. In Dutch business culture it is common for employees to take initiative and be responsible while working independently. The Dutch use an direct but informal form of communication. When someone is in a notable higher age or rank, it is more common to use the more formal ‘u’, ‘sir’ and ‘madam’. When communicating with direct colleagues, the word ‘je’ and first names are used to communicate.

Dutch business strategy

Dutch companies usually make use of step-by-step planning. This is because Dutch companies are cautious and pragmatic about their strategy. Managers are not considered as someone who knows everything. Managers will know the general strategic outlines, while having specialised employees who take care of the details. Dutch managers are seen as problem solvers and facilitators. There is a lot of emphasis on gathering multiple specialist in a group and thereby improving the expertise and diversity of the group.


Dutch business meetings are usually informal, but come with protocols and agendas to keep a form of structure. They are also held on fixed times. During the meetings various options are discussed and decision are made. Everyone in the meeting is expected to contribute to the discussion. It is always advised to prepare for a meeting, no matter what your position in the company is.

While being somewhat informal, Dutch meetings get down to business very quick. The Dutch are known to be forceful, stubborn and tough negotiators. The most important factors in business culture in the Netherlands is honesty and reliability.

Working hours

The standard working week in the Netherlands is 38 hours. Most of the fulltime jobs in The Netherlands are between 36-40 hours a week. Working more than 38 hours can result in either more salary or more annual holidays, sometimes up to 12 additional days. Lunch breaks in the Netherlands are usually 30 minutes, unpaid. Working overtime is not common in the Netherlands.

Dress code

Dress codes vary a lot in the Netherlands. Some companies require a traditional suit and tie, while some companies are used to more informal dress codes. The traditional suit and tie is mostly required in higher businesses or when working for the government. Managers and directors wear business suits at meetings and special occasions. In the tech sector, it is very common to wear informal clothes. When the summer arrives, jeans, t-shirts and trainers are not uncommon fashion items in the Dutch business culture. Be sure to check with your employer about the rules on this topic.

Business cards

Business cards are commonly exchanged at the end of a conversation. Business cards in the Netherlands contain someone’s function, their name and their contact details.

Business lunch and dinner

Lunch is seen as a necessary meal and not a social event. Some employees even eat their sandwich behind their computer, or bring their food in to a meeting. Business lunches are not uncommon in the Dutch business culture, but they are not a frequent event. However, in the last years there is a noticeable change where more people are going out of the office for lunch.

Going out for dinner with business partners is seen as a private event, which is one of the reasons it does not happen a lot in the Dutch business culture. Discussing business will be a big part of the night, but there will also be some small talk. Topics to talk about besides business are your country, family, cultural events or sports.

Ready for your career in the Netherlands? Start here!

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