The Netherlands

Traditional Dutch Worldview

Emphasis on self reliance and individual responsibility, but also consensus building

Task Oriented
Time and scheduling well organized; results oriented

Strong emphasis on fairness; democratic ideal

Balanced Need for Certainty
Value some stability and structure, but once provided there is considerable autonomy

Strict application of formal rules without much concern for context

Exact Time
Time is a commodity not to be wasted; often organized in compartments

Cultural Note:
Although the Dutch are known for their openness and tolerance, this is being sorely tested by their burgeoning immigrant population, and particularly the Muslims, whose values conflict sharply with traditional Dutch values.

Cultural Assumptions

  • Industry and hard work highly valued and respected
  • Honest, straight forward approach to interaction
  • Value privacy and initial reserve
  • Strong spirit of democracy and independence
  • “Live and let live” motto; tolerance for alternative lifestyles
  • The home is the center of social life; “gezellig” (pleasant, cozy)
  • Thrifty; waste and excess cost is frowned upon

Traditional Dutch Communication Style

Low Context    
Focus on words to convey meaning, messages taken more literally

Sensitive to position and age, politeness valued

Emotionally Restrained
Emotional displays are avoided


Guidelines for Communicating with the Dutch

  • Be prepared for very straight forward and direct communication style. Many cultures consider the Dutch to be “blunt.”
  • Honesty is highly valued and the Dutch expect people to communicate what is on their minds in an open manner. Not doing so can appear “shifty” or “devious.”
  • The Dutch tend to take statements very literally, so be careful what you say or promise. Even an innocent statement of “we’ll look into this problem” can be taken as “you will solve the problem and the matter is closed.”
  • Professional titles are not often used in speaking with business associates.
  • The Dutch value everyone having their opinion or say, so make sure there is time for this sort of participation.

Non-Verbal Dynamics

For the most part, gestures are kept to a minimum, although there will be more in the southern part of the country. Firm handshakes and a warm smile are the common greeting, even with children. Pointing to one’s forehead with the index finger means someone is crazy or behaving stupidly.

There is not much touching between acquaintances or business associates. However, it is common for friends to kiss.

Personal space and privacy is appreciated, especially as it is a high population density country, so personal space closes when out in public.

Business Practices

PROBLEM SOLVING Systematic, linear approach; trial and error sometimes acceptable
MOTIVATING PEOPLE Provide challenges, opportunity for increased responsibility, advancement, personal development
APPRAISING PERFORMANCE Structured, formal, scheduled, tied to salary and advancement
NEGOTIATING, PERSUADING Direct, to the point, forthright, little preliminary discussion
DECISION MAKING PROCESS Often consensus driven which requires more time
PARTICIPATION IN MEETINGS Open, assertive, information should be supported by facts and data
Informed by a spirit of fairness and respect; Displays of authority are not appreciated
HIRING Hiring based on skills and experience; Labor laws protect the employee
CUSTOMER RELATIONS Technical expertise and professional history are important to customer relationship