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Dutch business culture

Can you give me some key insights into Dutch business culture?

The Netherlands has a formal business culture in which honesty, efficiency, productivity and courtesy are highly valued. Expatriates from some cultures may find the Dutch businesspersons direct, blunt and not what they may be used to. Most decisions and agreements are made in open meetings rather than behind closed doors. Contacts and networks are important and you should try to arrange introductions through a third party. Find below additional information:

  • Appointments should be made well in advance. Normal business hours are 09:00 to 17:00, Mondays to Fridays, although many workers start and finish earlier. Always turn up on time, as punctuality is expected
  • Conducting business affairs over lunch is unusual in the Netherlands. Lunch is usually a quick snack, where most office workers bring their own sandwiches from home
  • Normal business attire varies considerably between industries. Unless you are aware that informal dress is the norm in your business area, wear a conservative suit for interviews and meetings
  • People should be addressed by their personal or professional titles with family names, unless you are invited to use first names. Academic titles are not normally used in speech
  • Team structures tend to be flat, without much hierarchy, despite different levels of pay scales and responsibility
  • Respect is gained through speaking one’s mind and being direct, thus avoiding wasting time. This directness of approach can sometimes be misconstrued as aggression or even rudeness but it is a tool for enabling the meeting to efficiently reach an agreed solution
  • The Dutch can have some antipathy towards those who use pre-meeting lobbying techniques in order to arrive at group position to expound in the meeting. This pre-meeting lobbying, endemic in many cultures, can be seen as devious and underhanded and lead to accusations of ‘hidden agendas’ and inflexibility
  • There is a relatively strong separation made between work and private life
  • Colleagues do not tend to socialise very much immediately after work, and most do not invite business guests into their family life at all

The ACCESS trainers network also provides Dutch culture training. Other websites such as or can also provide you with information and consultancy services about Dutch business culture.