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07 March 2024

Coming to work in the Netherlands? Bear in mind these stereotypes!

Dutch stereotypesIf you start working in a merely Dutch environment, there are a few peculiarities about the Dutch (and the Netherlands) that you might want to know beforehand. And no, we are not talking about there being more bikes than people in the Netherlands, or how everyone is wearing wooden shoes. We are talking about workplace culture and how to find you way around there. Forewarned is forearmed!



Your first day at work

An important first thing to keep in mind: be on time. Punctuality is very important for the Dutch. Make sure you arrive well on time. If you can’t make it on time, let your manager know that you’ll be late and why.

What’s also important to keep in mind: leave on time. A healthy work-life balance is crucial for the Dutch. The Netherlands rank third out of 41 countries on the OECD Better Life Index for work-life balance. There is more focus on output: It’s more important to get your work done, than to make a massive amount of hours.

The Netherlands are known for frequent meetings. These tend to be informal, but again, do start and end at a set time. The focus is on cooperation and compromise to achieve shared goals. It is expected that everyone in the meeting shares ideas and opinions, regardless of their position. So, be on time and come well prepared!


That brings us to the topic of communication

People in the Netherlands are known for being direct and honest. Don’t take their feedback personal. Think of it as an opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue and come to a mutual agreement.

While the Dutch are known to be open and straight-talking in their communication style, their body language is low-key. Personal space is very important. Don’t stand too close, for example.

And even though roughly everyone in the Netherlands speaks at least some English, it’s always good to try to learn some basic Dutch. It shows respect and willingness to integrate.


The everyday work culture

So, you got through your first day ánd your first meeting? There’s more to know!

Let’s touch upon the subject of hierarchy for example. Hierarchy is only subtly present in most workplaces, and there is a general expectation that everyone’s views and ideas matter, regardless of your position in the company. Decisions are therefore made in all levels of the organization; employees usually have a high degree of autonomy and independence. The emphasis is on collaboration and teamwork. This also means however that overly competitive behavior is not appreciated. As (senior-level) management is always approachable, excessive hierarchical formality is usually discouraged.

As mentioned earlier, decisions are made together. This involves compromising, and the fact that the word poldermodel is actually Dutch says enough. It focuses on the importance of achieving shared goals, in spite of possible differences.

And last but not least, the Dutch love organizing and planning. This means state-of-the-art business strategies, highly efficient meetings, strict organization and planning, but also, that so-loved work life balance.


All in all, the Dutch are known to be open-minded and tolerant when it comes to welcoming new cultures in the workplace. Make sure you are open as well; show interest in your new colleagues. In their work, but also in their personal life. It will be highly appreciated if you learn at least some Dutch words or small sentences (Lekker! Gezellig!) But most importantly, be your authentic self. And wear your wooden shoes, of course.