Understanding Dutch corporate culture
When you move to the Netherlands, the working culture may be different from the one you are used to. If you are new here, you can be quite shocked by how Dutch people interact with each other at work. Learning and understanding the corporate culture differences will ease your career integration and ability to work with your Dutch colleagues. To get a head start, here’s what you need to know.
That said, the Dutch corporate culture is known to be informal and direct. You address your boss with ‘you’ and his opinion and feedback in every layer of the organization. Yes, even your boss sometimes receives feedback from employees. Many companies in the Netherlands have a flat organizational structure. Everyone contributes his or her ideas and this is appreciated.
The Netherlands is an example of a low context culture. This means that the Dutch have a straightforward and direct way of communicating. The Dutch find this effective and efficient, but if you come from a country with a high context culture such as Spain, China or Japan, you can find this to be blunt or rude.
The meetings are usually informal and can take a long time. This is because everyone is allowed to speak up and contribute. “I do not agree,” is something you will often hear in the meetings. It is appreciated if you give your own opinions and therefore, it is advisable to prepare yourself well, no matter which level you are at.
The openness and equality of Dutch society is reflected in the corporate culture. The hierarchy is often horizontal, meaning that individual employees and executives are considered part of the team. It is normal to address all your colleagues by their first names without being considered disrespectful.
Punctuality is very important for the Dutch. Whether it is for a meeting or for a team outing. The Dutch take planning very seriously. Do you think you’ll be late? Please notify them ahead and apologize for the late arrival.
5. Dress code
How people dress at work differs per industry and function, although it is becoming more and more normal to show up in casual clothing. Some companies can have a special dress code or uniform and other companies without. It is not surprising to ask what the dress code is at your new work. There are some things you should NOT wear regardless of whether there is a dress code:
- Ripped clothing or with holes
- Dirty and wrinkled clothes
- Flip flops
6. Friday afternoon drinks
When your workweek ends, the weekend often begins. In the Netherlands, there is often a Vrijmibo which means ‘vrijdag middag borrel’ and translates to ‘Friday afternoon alcoholic drinks’. Everyone from the office gathers to have a drink and start the weekend. This weekly event is often filled with beer, wine, and snacks. Vrijmibo is usually at the office or at a bar nearby. It is a nice way to get to know your colleagues better and to discuss things other than your work.