What to expect in the corporate environment

In common business contact meetings or negotiations will be quick and efficient. Some things can be surprisingly different from the way you are used to. To start with, the Dutch place great importance on planning and efficient use of time. This means that you have to be on time; if you know you are expected in a big building, try to be there 5 or 10 minutes before the meeting so that you have time enough to find your way. Do not stay longer than necessary. If you are delayed, ring ahead, so always make sure that you have the relevant phone numbers with you! Do not cancel your appointment on short notice and do not come in uninvited or unexpected.

 

Some other important things you might need to know:

  • Shake hands before and after meetings.
  • The Dutch tend to get personal soon and talk about private matters at work.
  • Watch out: direct opinions and critical remarks are often made during meetings. If the Dutch do not have the same opinion about something, they will not talk gently around it but they will say instantly what they think about it. They will ask questions that you do not expect, and they do not say "sorry" or "please" very often.
  • The Dutch like a short personal presentation without a lot of paperwork.
  • The Dutch like to solve problems themselves, by phone or face-to-face, rather than through a lawyer.
  • At the beginning of a small business meeting, it can happen that your partner is busy with something else or does not have the right files straightaway. He can even ask you what the meeting is about. Do not see this as rudeness, or that he is not interested. He probably has prepared this meeting, but had not time to check his schedule.
  • Be aware of the Dutch office hours. People dine early over here, about 18:00, so they leave the office early.
  • Be polite; if you have to give a business presentation or product introduction, keep the presentation short and the argumentation brief. In the Netherlands, time is money and the Dutch are provident.
  • Jacket and tie tend to be taken off during the day, but of course, this also depends on the kind of company you work in.
  • Academic or professional titles are not mentioned in a conversation or in general letters. You will find these on your business card.
  • The usual Dutch office lunch is short, cold, and simple. The lunch meal usually consists of some sandwiches with ham and cheese, some milk or coffee and yoghurt or fruit as dessert. It sometimes happens that a business meeting is conducted during lunch so that you will have to eat and talk at the same time.
  • Exchange business cards during or after a meeting or conversation. There are no fixed rules for this.
  • Once decisions are made, implementation is fast and efficient.
  • In the Netherlands, commitments are taken seriously and they are honoured. Do not promise anything or make any offers if you do not intend to deliver what you have promised.
  • Spouses are sometimes included in a business dinner. Business is not generally discussed if spouses are present.
  • In the Netherlands, birthdays are special and they are celebrated at work, too. When it is your birthday, you can bring cake and give everyone a piece of it. Everyone will take time to enjoy the cake, have some coffee with it, relax, and talk together.
  • Most Dutch companies give their employees a present on the day before Christmas. In general, these Christmas parcels contain foods, drinks, and sometimes some practical stuff.

 

Women in business

  • The percentage of women who are employed outside the home is one of the lowest in Europe, and those who do work are generally in lower paying or part-time jobs.
  • Many Dutch women see the struggle for equal opportunities as just beginning, even though small strides have already been made. Equality between women and men is a policy priority.
  • Foreign women will not have trouble doing business in the Netherlands. It is common and acceptable for businesswomen to invite a man to dinner and pick up the bill.

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