By: Marc Wessels

Doing international business always involves intercultural differences, and the Dutch are no exception to this rule. They have their own unique way of doing business, and to be successful on the Dutch market, it’s important to be aware of the cultural norms and values that apply there. The more in tune you are with the Dutch way of doing things, the more successful you’ll be.

Building trust through face-to-face contact

Taking Dutch directness as a given, how do you navigate business transactions with these North Sea neighbours? Building trust is key. Doing business with a Dutch company is almost always preceded by a relatively informal introductory meeting with the decision-makers at the organisation in question. Being able to a put a face to a name is seen as a prerequisite to establishing a new business relationship. So don’t be surprised if you are invited to drop by for a face-to-face meeting after an initial telephone conversation. To the Dutch, the foundation of any productive partnership is mutual trust.

Long-term business relationships

When engaging a potential business partner based in the Netherlands, keep in mind that Dutch companies tend to prefer long-term partnerships over one-time deals: another great reason to invest in a business relationship built on trust.

Professional language

Communication during business meetings in the Netherlands is characterised by an emphasis on clear and correct use of professional language. A strong accent or an otherwise unintelligible speaking voice is usually not appreciated. The Dutch want to know where they stand and that they can rely on you to do as you promise.

Business etiquette: arrive on time

If there’s one thing the Dutch truly appreciate, it’s punctuality. The Dutch are real planners, and appointments – once made – are set in stone. So if you have an 11 o’clock appointment, try to arrive five or even ten minutes early – if you show up at 11 on the dot you risk being considered ‘late’, because the first few minutes of your meeting will be seen as unproductive. Arriving late is an absolute breach of etiquette in the Dutch business community, and appointments will sometimes simply be cancelled if this happens.

Preparing for a meeting

As described above, the Dutch love their diaries and are sticklers for punctuality: meetings start and finish on time. Small talk is usually considered a waste of time, so try to get to the point as quickly as you can, and make sure that you arrive prepared. Poor preparation leads to ineffective communication, costing everyone involved time and money. So to avoid making a bad impression, it is crucial that you have thoroughly familiarised yourself with the subject of the meeting and that you know what you’re going to say.

Making business decisions

When you do business with a Dutch company, things might go a little differently from what you’re used to. In the Netherlands, it’s common practice for important decisions to be discussed internally first. This means that you, as a business partner, will only be involved in the practical-implementation side of things, as the real decision on whether or not a deal should be made will have already been taken. And don’t be surprised if a company’s CEO joins one of these implementation meetings either – the Dutch favour egalitarianism over hierarchy.

Pace of progress during negotiations

Time is money, so meetings tend to be rather streamlined. This also means that negotiations in the Netherlands rarely drag on longer than they need to. No one beats around the bush and decisions are made quickly. There’s often little to no room for delay or uncertainty when negotiating with a Dutch company. A friendly chat about the weather or your holidays is far less common than it is in the English-speaking world. The Dutch like to get to the point and they like to get there quickly.

Relocating to the Netherlands?

Brexit Amsterdam offers translation services and training courses to help you make the transition as smoothly as possible: