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Excerpted from the Netherlands Career Guide

Daily Life

The Netherlands, meaning 'low lands' in Dutch, is often incorrectly referred to as Holland, which is actually the name of two northwestern provinces. With more than a quarter of its total land area under sea level, much of the country has been reclaimed from the North Sea. The Netherlands is also one of the world's most densely populated countries, although no Dutch city has yet reached a million inhabitants. It has been said the need to maintain polders (low-lying land enclosed by dikes) forced the Dutch to put aside differences and work together as a consensus-driven society, known as the Dutch Polder Model in economic policy.


Dutch cuisine is hearty and simple. Breakfast often consists of coffee or tea, cereals and breads with toppings. On Sundays, a boiled egg is included. Lunch is a quick and light meal around noon. Dinner is the main meal of the day and is taken at about 6 pm.

Communication Style

The Dutch have a very direct and informal communication style, which may appear rude or angry to those from cultures that place more emphasis on formality and 'face saving.’ It is not the Dutch person's intent to offend. Similarly, their sense of humor may appear strong to some, and few topics are forbidden.

If You Want to Act Like a Local...

  • Ride a bicycle as a mode of transport. Do not purchase an expensive bike, however, and make sure it is locked because bike theft is frequent.
  • Say doei (pronounced doo-eej) to informally say goodbye to friends. Never say this in a professional situation, however.
  • Say ‘thank you’ (dankjewel) and ‘please’ or ‘there you are’ (alstublieft) often.
  • Put sprinkles on toast for breakfast (hagelslag).
  • Wear an orange piece of clothing on Queen’s Day (April 30th) and on the days the Dutch national soccer team plays.

Office Protocol

A Dutch workplace can be very quiet. Workers in The Netherlands generally believe following procedures quietly, thoughtfully and diligently is the most effective way to accomplish a task. Doors are often closed and sometimes locked. One should knock before entering and close the door again when leaving the room.

Management Styles

Some say The Netherlands is the only country in Europe where the boss is not the boss. Instead, managers see themselves as the most influential members of a group. Dutch managers and their employees are all considered to be ‘co-workers.’ They work in teams as equals, although they have different roles. Dutch managers provide guidance, solve problems and facilitate. Subordinates provide detailed information to their superiors. Though the Dutch (managers) long for consensus, the boss will make the final decisions.

Negotiation Style

Due to the Dutch consensus-style of meeting, negotiations may be slow. Those who want to negotiate with the Dutch need only one piece of armor: preparedness. No detail is too minute, and a logically-organized proposal is crucial. Also, the Dutch respect someone who comes with well-founded knowledge and experience.

Women in the Workplace

Women and men are treated as equals in The Netherlands. However, many women temporarily leave the workforce when they start a family, and many of them will work fewer hours after their return. For this reason, there are not as many women in senior management positions as there are in other European countries. This does not mean a woman who stays on during and after her childbearing years will face any particular difficulties in the workplace; it just means she will probably have fewer female co-workers. Foreign businesswomen will be treated with respect and not have difficulty doing business.

This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the complete Netherlands Guide.

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