Guide to the Dutch: Society and working culture

Guide to the Dutch: Society and working culture

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Are the Dutch really flexible and direct? For those living in the Netherlands, we take a look at Dutch attitudes to work, family life and time management to ease integration.

How we look upon and judge the lifestyle and workplace of other cultures depends on how we view the world from our own cultural background.

The Netherlands is a small country with a limited internal market, consequently the Dutch look across their borders for markets. They started out as worldwide maritime traders in the 16th century and today they are still significant players in the global economy.

'The Netherlands' means 'Low Lands'; a large part of the country is situated below sea level. The Netherlands is often referred to as Holland, but Holland is actually only the northwestern part of the country.

Dutch society

With almost 17 million inhabitants – 16 829 289 (January 2014, cbs.nl) – the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe. Everyday life is structured down to the smallest detail. Private life and work are carefully planned and nothing is left to the unexpected. Ad hoc changes are not appreciated.

The Netherlands is a democracy with a tolerant, open society. Although up to 40 percent of the Dutch say they have no religion, Calvinism still strongly influences their values and beliefs. This Protestant Christian religion, introduced in the 16th century, dictates individual responsibility for moral salvage from the sinful world through introspection, total honesty, soberness, rejection of pleasure and the enjoyment of wealth.

Therefore, extremes are absent in society: political extremes, extreme emotions, extreme richness or extravagant lifestyles. Some money may be spent for pleasure, but frequent vacations abroad, comfortable houses and safe cars are preferred above luxury items.

The Dutch are mistakenly called stingy. But in reality they simply hate to waste everything from food to money. Maybe it is this virtue that made this small country an economic world power.

Egalitarian society

The Netherlands has an egalitarian society. Status and respect are obtained through study and work and not through family ties or old age. Every person is equal and should be treated accordingly, which may be difficult for foreigners to understand.

As a Brazilian general manager living in the Netherlands remarked, "I am happy that my Dutch personnel did not throw me out of my office the first week I worked in Amsterdam. As top manager in Rio, I barely spoke to my lower personnel. I was used to giving orders and being served.

"In Amsterdam I learned to exchange some words daily with the cleaning lady, to discuss all the work with my managers and to kindly ask my secretary what phone calls came in for me. I am now used to making my own photocopies and coffee. Once you know the rules here it is very pleasant and productive to work in such an open society."

A visiting Japanese CEO asked, "If the CEO is pouring his own coffee, what kind of power can he hold in the company?"

Many Americans think the Dutch way of working is time-consuming as no one can be given a quick order without explaining why.

In order to deliver good work, the Dutch like to consider the risks and consequences of everything they do, well in advance. They want to have detailed information. In the case something does go wrong, the Dutch individual will take full responsibility for the consequences. In the case of success, of course, they will take the full credit.

The client is not always right

The Dutch work hard in their 36- to 40-hour week. Work is streamlined to make the client's life easy but at a steep price because foreigners often have the impression that Dutch people are not very service-minded.

This may seem so because in most countries, the client has a preferential position above the sales person and therefore in that particular situation, a higher status. In the Netherlands, however, goods and services are exchanged on an equal basis. Sales persons feel free to openly disagree and criticise their clients.

Consensus

The Dutch are famous in the Western world for the many hours a week they spend in meetings. Decision-making processes are complex.

Everyone involved needs to be heard. In the end a compromise will be reached in which every one agrees. Once agreed upon the work can progress steadily. Therefore, changes are usually lengthy processes.

The global traveller

The contrary takes place when Dutch businessmen and women travel. They usually have the individual authority to close deals on the spot without consulting the home office.

Dutch global traders are much more flexible abroad than at their home office.

Dutch directness

The Dutch directness in the communication with foreigners regularly causes misunderstandings. Unable to make things understood through context and unable to read context, the Dutch express themselves verbally.

They speak in a friendly tone in rather short, clear, sober sentences lacking any form of politeness or courtesy.

The Dutch are distrustful of very polite conversations, afraid that an unpleasant message may be hidden which they are unable to detect.

Being very nice may awaken the suspicion that one is in need of a special favour. Politeness may also cause irritation as it is considered a waste of time.

Loss of face

The Dutch expect others to be open and direct like them. They will tell you what they think of you and criticise your work indifferent of your status if you are a superior or a subordinate.

In some cases, they expect you to be honest and direct in return. If you detect mistakes in their work and you do not inform them about these mistakes, they might get disappointed with you.

The Dutch do not necessarily feel ashamed when you inform them of a mistake, and can appreciate that you give them the opportunity to correct and thus improve themselves. The Dutch feel that in the end, one learns from his mistakes.

Loss of face is a rather unknown concept in Dutch society when compared to other cultures.

However, expatriates have reported that being direct back to the Dutch doesn't always sit so well.

Time off

The Dutch love time off to spend with their partner, kids and friends, for vacation or to study. Therefore they will prefer to reduce working hours instead of having an increase in salary.

Vacation days, depending on the labour contract, run from 21 to as many as 35 working days a year. Expatriates on foreign work-contracts in the Netherlands often complain they are always in the office while the Dutch are on vacation.

Working hours may run from 9am to 5–6pm. Those who are unable to handle their job within the office hours may not be fit for the job.

As work is very well structured within organisations, much work is done during regular working hours. Except for those at management level, employees are reluctant to work overtime.

Concept of time

Being very organised and time conscious, one may have to plan business appointments up to four weeks ahead, with bosses, clients and colleagues.

As for your private agenda, with some friends you may be expected to plan an evening at the cinema six weeks from today. There is generally no such thing as just 'dropping by to say hello', although this depends on your friend(s).

The family

Despite having a very open and individualistic society, when it comes to the family nucleus, it is a hermetically closed circle. The family nucleus is detached from the extended family.

Adult brothers and sisters usually see each other only on birthday celebrations, weddings and funerals. There is no moral obligation to take care of extended family members or elderly parents.

Contradictions

With all this planning and structuring, little is left to the unexpected. Therefore Dutch people do not excel in improvising. However, they have an adventurous mind and dare to take risks in business, which requests flexibility.

Despite the strong Calvinist background and a disapproval of extremes, homosexual marriages, sex on TV and legalised soft drugs are part of daily life.

The Dutch may have great work relationships with their colleagues, but they rarely invite them to their homes. Work and private life are strictly separated.

Also, Dutch businessmen do not feel obligated to entertain foreign business visitors after business hours.

Being an egalitarian society, personal and academic titles are not used on business cards. Only corporate Holland will print the academic titles of their managers on their business cards.

People may start retiring as young as 50, up to legal retirement age of 65 years old (to be gradually raised to 67 by 2021). The elderly are not respected in the corporate world. However, the Business Insider ranked the Netherlands in their top 10 list of places to retire.

Elderly people may never be consulted for their wisdom but they are well taken care of in comfortable old-age houses once they are unable to live on their own. If you are wealthy or not, everyone gets equal treatment.

The Dutch are open and will enjoy lengthy discussions over a beer in a bar with mostly anybody. This relationship ends when you say goodbye at the door.

However, once you do have a Dutchman (or woman) as a friend, you have a friend for life.

 


Eleonor Breukel / Expatica

Updated from 2012.

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53 Comments To This Article

  • Niels posted:

    on 23rd September 2016, 15:45:22 - Reply

    I don't think you really understand the dutch. We are not tolerant in a way that we embrese everyone who lives in the Netherlands, tolerance means we let you live your life, please let us life ours. And if you come to the Netherlands, with your high education and better salary and so on you really do not make our hearts beat any faster, you are not judged by the degree of what you did, but by the degree of what you do. And yes, if you have something to offer, your welcome, if not please do not waste our (and your own) time. But that is not exclusifly for the Netherlands. I am Dutch, and I really dont see the things you all say. Ofcourse there are nice and less nice people, there are people who hate everything and everybody, but , at least in my opinion, the most of them are normal people with normal problems trying to make get the most out of life for them self and their famely .
  • Mara posted:

    on 14th May 2016, 12:27:27 - Reply

    Only all the people living outside of North and South Holland ;)
  • Mara posted:

    on 14th May 2016, 12:43:03 - Reply

    In what way is nudity on tv extreme? I do agree on the use of legalized harddrug though: 4.693 people died because of alcohol and even 19.030 more by tobacco. In contrast to heroine which killed only 38 people, cocaine 28 people, GHB 20 people, MDMA / Amphetamine 10 people, medication combined with other drugs killed 68 people and cannabis a total of 0 people in 2014 in the Netherlands.
  • james posted:

    on 20th March 2016, 20:43:34 - Reply

    The Dutch may pride themselves on their rudeness - sorry! - directness. That would be okay if they didn't mind you being 'direct' back at them. But they don't like that AT ALL.
  • Ceara posted:

    on 1st December 2015, 22:35:58 - Reply

    Geert Wilders is hardly a racist, given his own mixed Dutch-Indo heritage. He wants immigration to slow down in NL - the same way many people want it to do in their own country/state/town. It is human nature - as people here have noted in the Dutch habit of never inviting outsiders home. His party now polls at 39 seats and rising because Paris massacre & Molenbeek terrorists. Same for much of EU. Don't be parrots. You have a mind: think for yourself
  • Tralala posted:

    on 2nd October 2015, 18:10:54 - Reply

    Another standard stop is: "Sorry, it was not meant that way."

    Why not think before doing something? "Sorry" will not repaire the dammage.

  • Robert posted:

    on 27th July 2015, 23:45:14 - Reply

    Does anybody now why the Dutch always want the chicken, the chick, the egg and the omelet when it comes to negotiating?
    I have clients that will not deal with Dutch people because they are stubborn.
  • Mish posted:

    on 18th July 2015, 06:22:05 - Reply

    HI, I've been living in Australia for a few years and have found it quite hard to make friends, so it's not just the Nl! I would like to know - would Dutch people go to a cafe run by an Australian, or would they not support it for that reason? Thanks
  • sarah posted:

    on 19th July 2015, 11:48:47 - Reply

    @ Angelin from post 12th March 2015- Thank you for your comment and I totally agree with what you have shared. As foreigners in a new country, we tend to forget that we are in a different culture and start making demands, on how this new culture and country (whether short or long-term), should or must treat us as a Foreigner. It is totally ridiculous, if one really thinks about it? As new comers into a new country and Culture, it would be preferable to consider, realize and admit to ourselves, that as foreigners it is difficult to become flexiable, adaptable and be open-minded to a new way of behaving, thinking and living? NOT so easy. It is sooooo much easier to DEMAND, that the people of that country, Adjust or Adapt their way of Behaving, Thinking and Living-style, to what SHOULD and MUST be comfortable for US? It would be healthier to consider as Foreigners, that we are in their Homeland NOT in our own. This is probably one reason "Why" we chose to come to a new country and culture, because we wanted to experience this difference. Once we are here, we realize that there is much to learn, adapt and adjust, in a new way of behaving within a new social, mental and working environmental culture. Not so easy, because we have become conditioned, from the social, mental, living and working conditions from our countries. This why all the comments being made about Dutch behavior, etc. is becoming soooo irrational, very immature and silly...Geez! Life is very short, try to be open minded, try not to demand and have unrealistic expectations. People are people every where in every part of the world, good and not so good, this is reality...Enjoy life! We only have one!! Peace Sarah. Living in Denmark (Danmark).
  • Jacky posted:

    on 12th June 2015, 09:58:43 - Reply

    Yes, and it is unbelievable that the Dutch Prime Minister actually allows Gert Wilders to travel around the world promoting hate, since Gert is Minister himself. This means that the Prime Minister aproves of Gert's Nazi political views towards Muslims.

  • Jacky posted:

    on 12th June 2015, 10:00:52 - Reply

    Esther, I've been living here for 10 years now and I agree with everything you posted about the Dutch.

  • Itshows posted:

    on 22nd May 2015, 16:31:52 - Reply

    At least a dentist can make a living here, unlike in the UK :). Since when are Bulgarians a race? Why would you care what one politician does or say? How does that represent a whole country? You dont know much if anything, all you do is generalizing and sounding like a complete tool.

  • Lakesha posted:

    on 22nd May 2015, 04:45:15 - Reply

    As a descendant of the Dutch Nalls of Alabama..the traits and the characteristics transcend the times..those characteristics are all true..I have all those traits in me..the Dutch are very misunderstood..to deny them these characteristics would make them conformist and legalist..they like to enjoy life and work less..n time or tolerance for complexity..work is only for a paycheck..we made our friends as children..public n private lives must be separate..n their is no inferiority complex..we really don't give a care about you...unless s we want your position or we want our way and are not getting it..n yes we about that money. We talk about America. Because we know America is wrong..but we accept the import and exports because we don't have time to reinvent the wheel..and US more than likely has the best deals..the customer can never always be right about a product cause ethey are not an expert on the product..just because a customer thinks they know what they want..don't mean they ate always going to get it n in that they are not always right ..n no ideology should have ever taught a customer that..its a billion people in the world if you don't buy it..someone will..is their motto..I have the spirit of my gggrandfather a Dutch Nalls form Holland....
  • Esther posted:

    on 27th March 2015, 12:37:10 - Reply

    To Peter above- I have a feeling you wouldn't get along in any country you would reside a san expat in. If you want to be liked-be likable. The Dutch are not all the same, they vary from region to region-and surprise! like most people from person to person. As fart as your claim that we are second hand people-the Dutch are the leaders in the world in art and architecture. I live in the States and am married to an American, but overtime I visit the Netherlands I am so proud of my country's art history and sense of architectural style and design. My husband loved it-he loves the directness of the dutch and finds dutch women very beautiful. In your field-the medical field it seems, yes the Dutch can be very arrogant. Doctors in Holland(when I grew up) thought they were God, but that is by no means the case in Holland only. There is definitely a drive towards "doe maar gewoon" which means: don't give yourself any airs, that said, a lot of dutch people are kind and fun and helpful, as we discovered in Amsterdam. [Edited by moderator]

  • Angelin posted:

    on 12th March 2015, 08:16:35 - Reply

    @Peanut
    You are the typical Dutch. Just because you traveled, you think you are entitled to see yourself as an "unbiased" viewer of Dutch behaviour, which is why you say that Dutch should be excused for ill treating expats.
    Well, I got news for you. The issue is that it doesn't come from *both* ways: government seems to be okay with politician Wilders setting up a website on which all Dutch are given a platform to tell on bulgarians (who are LEGALLY working!!!!) working in NL. You see, the thing is: in the UK if you do things like that, government issues a warning and puts you behind bars for racism. In the NL, government does not do anything, and that just means they silently ENDORSE racism.
    Now, there isn't a country in the western world where this kind of governmental endorsement of racism happens so openly. You can't blame new expats to turn their back on the Dutch and just make as much money as they can off the Dutch to move on and invest their moneys elsewhere in more welcoming places, where you are respected for your top education, rewarded for your top education and get a red carpet treatment for bringing over your life savings.
    NL hates expats, and foreigners. They call themselves "open", but they are only "open" to business which could potentially bring them wealth. Foreign companies like Google, sure they are welcome. But as a human, even a wealthy one, even if you offer to be milked through the horrendous NL taxes, on a non-biz level, the Dutch simply hate expats, and they are allowed to display this on a daily basis. Which is why no expat or at least most of them don't see the point in doing their best to integrate. If the Dutch want to live in hate (towards LEGAL migrants), regardless of an expat's efforts, then, expats will just give that same disloyalty and feeling of 'annoyance' right back to them the same way they got it. There is a reason why a few years back HSBC's expats review showed NL as THE most unwelcoming place for expats. All expats know that reason is the fact that Dutch can't live with anyone not born in NL and holding ethnic NL genes. In the UK and USA, that is called racism.
  • Peanut posted:

    on 31st January 2015, 02:50:06 - Reply

    I hold a Dutch passport, but lived all over the world and had to learn to find my way in the culture of my passport country. So I can view the Netherlands from both the position of a foreigner as well as a native, so to speak.
    As for some comments in the comment section.. Sorry if you had bad experiences in the Netherlands, but that's not something that won't happen in any other country. One can find hypocrite, ignorant, chaotic, loud, difficult, stingy, closed minded people everywhere, in every country, in every part of the world. The fact that you met some in the Netherlands doesn't mean that if they happen to be Dutch, they suddenly represent the whole nation of 17 million people. (Not to even mention the notable differences in culture between the various provinces.)
    If you see or meet some idiots from your country of origin, you separate yourself from them because you think they do not represent you nor your whole country. And rightfully so.
    Changing that same attitude as soon as you come to a new country and take that as a base to form your opinions, doesn't make an awful lot of sense. Especially not when it displays the same kind of ignorance or closed mindedness you claim to dislike so much in the Dutch.
    Not all Dutch are the same, neither are other people from other countries.
  • HerrVonSohland posted:

    on 11th March 2015, 16:35:02 - Reply

    One thing is true: we are direct. For the rest: I'v never read a piece so full of nonsense as this.
  • Martina posted:

    on 1st March 2015, 19:03:22 - Reply

    The Dutch culture described in a few lines. Great article. I live in the Netherlands since 2011. I stopped from my job because of the bullying. I got sick and I could not work any more. I completely agree with the article, when Dutch people feel that you are superior in a way, or better than them in what you are doing, they will try to bully you/put you down in order to feel superior themselves, instead of trying to work as a team and try harder to reach a better level altogether. They turn their back to you, also in personal level, in case that they find out that you are superior in any way (Master, PhD or anything similar). Dutch friendship is non-existent, in my eyes. It reaches only the beer-drinking level and it doesn't go any further than this, unfortunately. Making friends at work is something that you can simply forget (I see that with my Dutch husband also, it is not a matter of being an expat). And it can happen that friends and family call each other once every three months. Hospitality is not something that you can expect, at least if you are coming from "warmer", Mediterranean countries, for example, you can see the difference. It has happened that we went to a Xmas dinner, we were 6 adults and one kid at the table and we were served 4 small tortillas cut in half for each one of us, some rice and cucumber. I had to eat A LOT of vla after the dinner because I was starving. Someone asked about Customer Service, the quote "the client is always right" is not applying to the client in the Netherlands. Sometimes I say "you know, I am paying you". So they realise that I am a client. Especially when I call the customer service of companies of products that I have bought. Another characteristic, that is mentioned but in other words, is that they cannot think "out of the box". They can think from A to B but not from A to Z. That is pretty severe in the case of healthcare, sometimes your condition falls out of a protocol and in this case they just lose it and they do not know what to do. So I guess that for me, this is the most important thing. However, I have a lovely Dutch husband, friends that come from other countries (because I do not consider a friend someone who is either not calling at all and I am the one who always has to call, or people who call you 2 times a year), I love the weather and the nature, but there are many, many flows and indeed, if you are open about them, they don't really like it. Because they can be straightforward (I call it rude, and there is a difference between those 2 that they cannot see) but if you are, they get indeed offended (and you hear the all time classic, if you don't like it, go to your country).
  • Elise posted:

    on 8th March 2015, 18:44:50 - Reply

    I had lived in NL for 11 years and made a total of 2 Dutch friends, even with a (then) Dutch husband. I was not accepted into his family ever and the exclusion of anyone or anything different was rather off-putting.
    The Dutch are a very intolerant people to anyone or anything that is not exactly cut from the same cloth as they are. That said, they are like the lemmings in Star Trek. One faceless whole swimming in the same direction.

    I wish you would have gone further into the reactions of Dutch taking responsibility for their actions. They do not. They hide behind others. And another glaring inconsistency is that the Dutch do NOT like when you, the foreigner are honest in the same way as them. They can dish it out and cannot take it at all. They are sorry, hypocritical to a large degree and very small minded.
    I hope they learn to have a larger spirit of forgiveness and understanding.

  • DilonLes posted:

    on 21st December 2014, 05:31:55 - Reply

    Great article, but I don't see why you felt the need to group gay marriages with "extremes" such as drug use and sex on TV.
  • pepe posted:

    on 1st November 2014, 21:38:06 - Reply

    @Herald, please take your Philip Morris cancer industry to a country that cares. I am glad they left.
  • Rendoss posted:

    on 2nd November 2014, 18:39:53 - Reply

    I am doing a research paper on the Netherlands, and I want to know whether or not the section in the article is right about "the client is not always right". Could anyone help me?
  • remco posted:

    on 13th October 2014, 00:21:56 - Reply

    i was born and raised in the netherlands, and i haven not been out of europe yet. this means i dont know any better than the culture i grew up with.
    the thing that bothers me the most is that nobody wants to stand out, when you have a very loud personality you can expect some people to start talking behind your back.
    mediocrity is wat people strive for, not all, but a lot do.
    another big problem are immigrants, especially those with an relgion other than christianity, which is absurd in my opinion. i think it is more fear and misunderstanding of each others cultures than actual racism, but that still does not make up for the things we do.

    the good thing is that there is a big portion of people who are a lot more open minded, so that makes up for the rest of the people. im also sure that this is a common problem in al lot of other countries as well.
  • carrico posted:

    on 10th September 2014, 13:58:21 - Reply

    Helen: Einverstanden. To err is human. Get rid of those damn coins. Basically, the Dutch men are idiots, just like me. LOL>
  • Helen Demeny posted:

    on 4th September 2014, 14:03:47 - Reply

    I agree with 90% of your article EXCEPT the point where the Dutch take responsibility for their actions. NOT TRUE. As they require a consensus from a meeting, then no one person has responsibility and if it was a mistake, it is said to be human error and that everyone made the decision. As for being stingy, they ARE! When it comes to giving a few euro's for a goodbye present, that is all they give in coins, heaven forbid that they give more than 5 Euro. I do find them interesting and they constantly make me laugh.
  • carrico posted:

    on 3rd September 2014, 14:35:04 - Reply

    Thekman: Been coming to The Netherlands since 1984 as a middle age 38 year old. Because I'm just as , hmm, ironic as the Dutchies, we get along just fine. Helps to appreciate their beer. However, I came as an expat American teacher in Berlin( West). My work with kids perhaps prepared me to be 'tested.' Now my wife and I return as often as possible. Lekker.
  • Herald posted:

    on 3rd September 2014, 12:55:27 - Reply

    @ Sander: you must be one of those angry Dutch men for saying 'if you don't like it in NL, piss off'. Well Sander: I am american and do i have great news for you! Merck pharma company AND Philip Morris tobacco company, quite rightfully DID decide to pack up, close the Dutch plants, sack the Dutch whiners working for them (Philip Morris workers asked a 6% raise less than a year ago- in the middle of the Crisis! just how foolish can a Dutch be?). Aren't you just thrilled to see our large multinationals leave your pathetic little country?

    On a side note: The Dutch found a way to circumvent the bad press cumulative about them. They opened up a government website not that long ago called "Iamsterdam" and let me tell you, they ARE very happy now, because no reviews about experiences with the Dutch are allowed on there :) so it is a 100% propaganda website, how nice!!

    If that doesn't tell you about Dutch's inabilities to take on criticism- then i don't know WHAT does!

    Just like the Dutch soccer coach once said wisely: " the problem with the Dutch, is that on the job.. they won't do as they are told, instead, they will question the task over and over and leave no opportunity to undermine the boss' authority" . So, yes! do NOT attempt to be a manager for Dutch staff - you WILL regret it for as long as you live, and they will always come out as winners no matter if they collectively call in sick on you and 'refuse' to get on and deliver the work - even if Head Office in USA wants results..trust me: the Dutch have never -ever- cared less.

    It happened to yours truly. Which is why I wish Philip Morris, Sotheby's, Merck and all GE Plastics the best of luck with the moving out of NL and sourcing truly deserving workers from elsewhere, outside the Netherlands.

  • carrico posted:

    on 1st September 2014, 14:31:43 - Reply

    Just a side comment: Have really enjoyed the conversation this article encouraged. Have learned a lot. Here's an idea for another: The influence of art on the Dutch. Not only did their commercial outlook emerge in the 17th century, but their artistic as well (Rembrandt and others). I think the Dutch have a keen outlook on art and architecture.
  • AlexFromAmsterdam

    on 31st August 2014, 15:39:51 - Reply

    There's no such thing as "The Dutchman". You may find cultures differ a lot in different provinces. Hollanders are indeed known to be honest and direct (in a good and a bad way), while Limburgers for example will be friendly to your face and talk about you behind your back.

    The Netherlands might be a small country, but as "the Dutch" don't even all speak the same language (Dutch is the national language, while Frisian, Papiamento and English are official regional languages) it's basically impossible to have one and the same culture throughout the country.
  • Thekman posted:

    on 30th August 2014, 02:27:33 - Reply

    I note that this article pointed out the the Dutch don't really respect the elderly in the corporate world. This surprised me.
    Could anyone with more knowledge about this than me advise if this is the same in the workplace generally or just confined to the higher management levels of corporations in the Netherlands?
    The reason I am curious about this is because I will be moving to Amsterdam in three years time (family reasons) and by that time I will be 55 years old, and I am trying to establish if when I get to AMS, if I will be able to get any work (at middle management level), or if I will need to become self employed.
    Thanks in anticipation.
  • carrico posted:

    on 29th August 2014, 14:41:40 - Reply

    An insightful essay. Me: I agree. Love the Dutch brevity. Was that a mistake, the bit about 'loss of face'? Or does it simply demand emphasis? Cheers for the editor, by the way. I think Expatica is evolving. Would like to see more 'overt' editorials, direct feedback. Just keep it terse, don't worry about face-losing.
  • Peter l posted:

    on 7th August 2014, 16:51:43 - Reply

    Daisy and Daniel are well aware of the real Dutch culture, the one most Dutch try to hide but cannot. IT is a culture of envy. Fundamentally the Dutch have an inferiority complex, (and so they should since this is a society where mediocrity is the highest standard).

    Their envy means they will try to drag down anyone who is better than them to their level. If one starts for example to praise Americans. one can rest assured a smirk on a Dutchman's face and a nasty remark about Americans is not far away. This despite that they 90% of products and services they use, of inventions, of what sustains them in their lives, originates in America.

    A profesor of medicine had teh audacity to say mena things about American colleagues to me, while most of his colleagues and he himself need to go regularly to conferences in the USA, read American medical journals, are surrounded by American devices and treatments, in fact only copy what Americans provide them with. It is the typical envy of the second hander. The Netherlands is a country of second handers and tehy resent that. They resent needing others who are better than them to stay alive..

    It is indeed not specifically xenophobia (although they often hate Americans and Israelis), but they will also hate anyone locally who is better than them, who shines, who does not conform to their participative mediocrity.

    Example: In a conversation with a family member I was trying to share how great I was doing and mentioned several things, like losing weight by exercising. Each time I was cut down. I quote some: "You lost a lot of weight? How terrible that you gained so much!". or "You are sharing medical treatment advice with fellow patients? You have no business doing that, You're not qualified." etc.

    They have a real dark sense of life here. People are a threat to them and so is the rest of the world around them. They are expert cynics.

    Why are they so direct? To bully, to put down others. It is pure bluff. Be more direct. Tell them how you are better and how mediocre and envious and inferior they are and why, and you will see them back off in horror. They are not used to a non-egalitarian approach. Of course you will never get invited again as they are now in fear of you, bu that is no loss.

    It is also true that there is really no meritocracy here, but a 'who knows who' mentality. A corrupt culture where justice does not matter. Try finding a health care provider on time and get a decent treatment here if you do not know such a provider who will let you jump the long wait lines here.
  • Anonzm posted:

    on 23rd March 2014, 12:24:33 - Reply

    @ Daniel

    This is not true, there was NO social discussion about it .... there is NEVER ANY social discussion about real problems in The Netherlands. Why not? Because there are no problems to be discussed about! Isn't it a world-known fact that The Netherlands is such a tolerant country? Didn't the dutch propaganda machine make that clear to everybody?
    That is why there is no discussion, was no discussion and will never be!
  • Anonzm posted:

    on 31st January 2014, 09:11:01 - Reply

    My collegue who has a Ph.D. and is making 100.000 Euro after tax a year was thrown out of a restaurant in Delft, because he was Eastern-European. "We don't want your type of people in here." [Edited by moderator]
  • Daniel posted:

    on 16th January 2014, 16:46:48 - Reply

    @Daisy I'm a Dutchie and I agree on most of what you say -- only there are two things I'd like to point out. Firstly there was a HUGE social discussion about that complaint-website (which by the way I found appalling), and the man who took the initiative thereto (Wilders) is NOT supported by a majority of Dutch people.
    Secondly, what you noted about the work atmosphere. This is not xenophobic, it is widespread and it happens to everyone, not only to expats. The Dutch work culture is about who you know and not about what you can. Of course, expats are less likely to get well acquainted with influential people in companies than non-expats.
  • Sander posted:

    on 15th December 2013, 14:11:12 - Reply

    If you don't like it here, please leave
  • sharon hill posted:

    on 5th December 2013, 13:29:02 - Reply

    Srebrenica: the soldiers tried to prevent it with the toyguns they had. But the rest of the NATO refused to offer support. In a different city there were Dutch Marines with real guns and real mortier abilities. They DID prevent a mass murder by the Serbs. The commander of that marine squad was fired without honors..... why!?
  • Daisy posted:

    on 5th December 2013, 11:01:23 - Reply

    @Jeron, the Dutch are world famous for being stingy, so that means they do NOT like to share with newcomers. In fact, my experience is that if you work for a Dutch company even for just a couple of months as an auditor sent from Head office, the dutch staff can be exceptionally jalous of everything you are: the fact that you travel for the company makes them jalous, the fact that YOU and not some Dutchie makes the bucks doing auditing makes them jalous, the fact that you are smarter (i ran their midskilled bookkeepers) makes them jalous. And when you invite the Dutch over, they will never invite you to their homes, let alone for a coffee. I have audited many of our entities in several countries, but the dutch are by far THE most xenofobic population I have ever come across. At the time, they were apparently trying to turn perfectly legal and tax paying polish skilled workers into second rate citizens by allowing a Dutch member of parliament (Wilders) open up a website (!!!!!) for the Dutch to write down their complaints about the Polish. Turns out the main complaint was that they did not want the polish to have a right to access Netherlands in the first place and that they resented the hard working mentality of the polish. The Dutch then went on bashing quite publically all Romanians and Bulgarians for even trying to come to NL by starting up 'stay at home' campaigns which were endorsed not just by the population but even by their politicians. And if you even dare to be 'direct' to the Dutch at work or anywhere, they will quickly show you your place: you are not dutch enough to be allowed to express your opinion... argh,what fool must I have been, thinking I would truly be equal.
    How can anyone 'like' the dutch or their government after they do this to their law abiding tax paying skilled workforce who have been invited dutch bosses ??????? There is no excuse for this xenofobic populace. None whatsoever.
  • me posted:

    on 20th November 2013, 21:54:33 - Reply

    @guest I am dutch, u are not generalizing but just give your opinion based on your experience and that is the only correct way to express. We might read and learn from it :-)
  • Jeron Lagrosas posted:

    on 26th October 2013, 05:45:12 - Reply

    About the article above. I guess that is very true. I was there last April to June 2013. The article said, other people think that Dutch are stingy. I think you can say that if you are not close friend. But if you are, ohhh men, you will gonna full in love with Dutch people. They are so generous, loving and caring. You might disagree with this, but sorry this is my experience when I was there. Pilipino culture and Dutch culture are way different. But I like some of the Dutch culture. When I was there, I said to myself. Every country has a unique culture. If I will live there for such a long period of time. I will follow what is good for me and for others. This is what I noticed. The people there are not friendly. I like how organized they are. If you wil live there. Choose the way of life or culture that can Glorifies God. God bless you all and God bless Netherlands.
  • Cori posted:

    on 30th June 2013, 18:02:04 - Reply

    I find the Dutch as neighbours and acquaintances very pleasant people and it is very easy to live here compared to other countries. Otherwise I would definitely say as an expat that it is difficult to form long-term friendships here.
    My experience in the workplace is that lack of organisation leads to inefficiency and time wasting. Dutch people are often very direct but if you are just as direct they do not seem to like it. They like to know a lot about your private affairs but may not reciprocate. They enjoy apparently a good gossip. I did not find general conversation high brow at all and most people seem not to be interested in culture. I agree very much with Guest that if an idea is not good it never originated from them, but if your idea does well they will take credit for it. I have met very many incompetent people here who managed to talk themselves into positions of responsibility - this is because some employers don't take the time to check qualifications properly so that if you dig below the surface you may well discover people who have no idea at all of what they are doing and are not qualified; this was a unique experience. However, the Dutch people that I did meet that were good, were excellent, so that there seems to be excellent or mediocre, not very much in-between. I have enjoyed living among them but am now ready to leave the country in search of new pastures.
    Remember, if you are considering working here and are not young but very well qualified it is not a good idea, as you will often end up resolving issues created by lesser experienced or qualified people and changing jobs frequently, which will not do your CV any good. This is a young employment market looking for young people from the Netherlands or Eastern Europe or elsewhere to fill jobs.
  • Guest posted:

    on 19th June 2013, 11:10:30 - Reply

    I read all the comments above and I agree with Peter L in Leiden most. I have lived in The Netherlands a few years now, and find so much of hypocrisy and double standard here. Not all Dutch people are the same of course. Please forgive me if this sounds like a generalisation. I find the intellectual Dutch is always looking for opportunities. When they notice that you have something to offer they become close to you. On the contrary if you have nothing, you are none, you are just a member of the society. At work, they never first appreciate an idea that does not originates from them. But later they will copy and paste your idea. Always very critical of others, but feel frustrated when they are critised. But saying this, I have also met some very nice Dutch people here.
  • Lana posted:

    on 30th April 2013, 02:00:50 - Reply

    I worked for 3 yrs in The Netherlands and found out that indeed it takes ages for the Dutch to make decisions, and some other stereotypes I read here - gossipers, open about their private lives, (a bit too) relaxed - I experienced to be true. I read a lot before about the Dutch being organized - but I found them to be quite chaotic. And they're definitely LOUD. They do not really welcome criticism or being direct - but they do think it's not polite to react unfriendly on criticism and sometimes even thank you for it when you know they are abviously embarrased. And I never experienced what you wrote about having to make appointments a long time before and so on: they were very welcoming, flexible and often invited me on short term notice. After working in The Hague I moved to South East Asia - and to my surprise the Dutch business culture has many similarities to the one in for example Thailand or Cambodia - except the fact that those cuktures are very hierarchical and the Dutch are not. But they too put an empasis on being 'average'. There is a kind of 'polite' hypocrisy in both SEA and The Netherlands in business attitude that I never would have noticed when I would not have worked in both places.
  • pluk vd petteflet posted:

    on 26th March 2013, 19:09:36 - Reply

    I find this article so full of stereotypical images that I have the feeling it was written by a sitcom writer. In reality, things are more complex and less, 'Dutch'. After living for about 10 years in here, I don't see the Dutch neither as planning obsessive, neither as hard working, neither as open minded (well, i suppose it depends from which country you come... but anyway). The Dutch in my opinion: - spend hours gossiping anywhere, anyhow and anything - which is the most annoying when you try to concentrate - but I believe that this was happening when trying to negotiate how to divide the polder (the flat land prone to flooding); - they rarely take straight forward decisions, which in general makes for anything to take aaaages to happen - look at Amsterdam centraal station, can't remember ever seeing it not being built; - everything is about enjoying and relaxing in this country - I call this a "Culture of Enjoyment" - which I suppose is right until some point, when you sense that sometimes they simply don't give a **** on work, and more recently i read in the newspaper that now with the crisis they prefer to immigrate to Norway because it appears that there its even more relaxed; - finally they tend to forget about their own colonial past, which in my opinion is the reason for their development nowadays - but this especially on the subject of immigration. I met some interesting and smart people who become my friends, and other that makes me stand up and leave the table because of their vision of the world and hypocrisy. In general I do tend to understand myself with people (Dutch or not) who had lived some place else than the country of their birth, and I believe that as an expat there are some experiences that only other expats can have.
  • Peter L in Leiden posted:

    on 21st February 2013, 13:35:16 - Reply

    The article above has a lot of truths in it about Dutch culture, but it is also missing crucial components. It is indeed written more from the vantage point of a local than an expat. I'm a Dutchman who lived allover the world, including the USA for a long time and feel like an expat now that I am back in today's Holland.
    Coming back I noticed the hypocrisy in Dutch culture, the having of double standards. On the one hand most Dutch have enormous demands on others, but not on themselves. Not a real 'trader mentality'. Egalitarianism where it is earned is fine, but usually doing business with the Dutch means more of a one-sided deal. The Dutch will for example never give credit to someone who is better than themselves creativity, earning power, performance, business. They get all defensive then by telling you that you are no better than the next door neighbor. So they do not give credit where credit is due. It is called the tall poppies syndrome and the Dutch language has many expressions to tell you you're just 'average'. the hypocrisy stretches even further that you're not allowed to compare their culture with other cultures and show why they are better and more successful. or one cannot punch the balloon of their country being market-driven and privatized, but instead pretending to be so on a grand scale. Pretense is a great asset for the Dutch, so look behind that curtain. I can't blame them for this. Today's Dutch society is ruled by each citizen finding a way to force his fellow citizen to comply with some wish of a small group he belongs to by using government edicts. They call that 'consensus', but it is really not as it is not voluntary. Cooperation in Holland is gotten mainly by force, a well hidden force. If you know this, you will be better equipped to handle your life here. Just do not expect to find the real traders mentality here or you'll get frustrated.
  • Kaccie posted:

    on 27th January 2013, 05:48:05 - Reply

    This article is decent. Saying that your colleagues expect you to be direct back to them (and to criticize despite status) may be pushing it a little too far. I did that when I started work in NL because I read this article and many others that basically say the same thing, and boy was it obvious that it wasn't liked. Didn't take me too long to revert back to my old (more subtle) ways...
  • Melissa posted:

    on 1st August 2012, 11:13:49 - Reply

    P.S. Holland is NOT the same as the Netherlands. Surprised at how little (Dutch) people know this.
  • Melissa posted:

    on 1st August 2012, 11:12:29 - Reply

    I really have to disagree about negative responses for being a foreigner or mixed. I'm mixed and altough I'm dark, because I act like I'm pure Dutch I get 0% special treatment, while 'foreign people' (even when they're born here and just darker) who pretend to be sad and don't try anything get EVERYTHING. No equalness at all because everyone is 'sad' here [edited by moderator]... Wilders is a respected man with hardworking foreigners because he wants to kick foreign criminals out who give them a bad name. Very racist, not. Not his fault you can't send back Dutch criminals to their own country lol. To many foreigners not getting 'special treatment' is unkind. Look through this and you'll see the Dutch are friends for live :).
  • pepe posted:

    on 17th May 2012, 17:01:37 - Reply

    the Dutch don't vote for Wilders. Like I said, Wilders never got more then 17% of the votes. And that was in 2009. His support is considerably lower at the moment. Those figures are facts. So more then 80% of the Dutch never voted for Wilders. [Edited by moderator] Blaming foreigners is not exactly exclusive to the Netherlands at the moment. It happens all over Europe. Only a few weeks ago Marine Le Pen got 18% of the French votes. For exactly the same reasons as some Dutch vote for Wilders: economy, unemployment, the Euro, etc. The same goes for all other European countries.
  • pepec

    on 9th May 2012, 17:40:51 - Reply

    @R Carter, please don't make up facts. Wilders never got 20% of the votes. The highest percentage he got was 17% at the European elections in 2009. In 2010 he got 15,5% of the votes at the elections for parliament. In 2011 it was 12% at the provincial elections.
    And if you followed the news, you would know that Wilders doesn't decide anything anymore.
  • Ron Seal posted:

    on 9th May 2012, 09:46:46 - Reply

    I have lived in a few European countries and the same happens everywhere. In the South people appear to be very friendly and smily at first but when you want to go beyond the surface there's nothing there. In the North, my friends tend to be either expats or not from the city I have worked in, because obviously the locals have their good old friends and do not necessarily need to make new friends on a deep level... Everywhere, the American way of life has professionalized our way of dealing with others to the point where one can hardly spot honesty and sincerity behind their professional smile. We are the robots :-D
  • R Carter posted:

    on 7th May 2012, 13:35:35 - Reply

    This seems to be a Dutch view on how others sees the Dutch. I was quite surprised with the claim that Holland is not a country of extremes, when the far right have 20% of the vote and the racist Wilders is calling the shots in government. Scratch below the surface and you can see a lot of intolerance here
  • Lili posted:

    on 6th May 2012, 15:11:18 - Reply

    I have been living in the Netherlands more than 20 years and I speak Dutch fluently but it is still difficult to make a good -friends with the Dutch.

    All my friends are non-Dutch , so I can fully understand to the expat who just arrive or live for a couple months or longer.