The Dutch society is egalitarian and modern. The people are
modest, tolerant, independent, self-reliant, and entrepreneurial.
They value education, hard work, ambition and ability. The Dutch
have an aversion to the nonessential. Ostentatious behavior is to be
avoided. Accumulating money is fine, but spending money is
considered something of a vice. A high style is considered wasteful
and suspect. The Dutch are very proud of their cultural heritage,
rich history in art and music and involvement in international
Meeting and Greeting
- Shake hands with everyone present -- men, women, and children
-- at business and social meetings. Shake hands again when
leaving. Introduce yourself if no one is present to introduce you.
The Dutch consider it rude not to identify yourself.
- The Dutch will shake hands and say their last name, not
"Hello." They also answer the telephone with their last name.
- It is considered impolite to shout a greeting. Wave if
greeting someone from a distance.
- The Dutch are reserved and don't touch in public or display
anger or extreme exuberance.
- The Dutch value privacy and seldom speak to strangers. It is
more likely that they will wait for you to make the first move.
Don't be afraid to do so.
- The Dutch expect eye contact while speaking with someone.
- Moving your index finger around your ear means you have a
telephone call, not "you're crazy." The crazy sign is to tap the
center of your forehead with your index finger. This gesture is
- The Dutch take punctuality for business meetings very
seriously and expect that you will do likewise; call with an
explanation if you are delayed.
- Lateness, missed appointments, postponements, changing the
time of an appointment or a late delivery deteriorates trust and
can ruin relationships.
- Exchange business cards during or after conversation. No set
ritual exists. Business cards in English are acceptable.
- The Dutch are extremely adept at dealing with foreigners. They
are the most experienced and most successful traders in Europe.
- The Dutch tend to get right down to business. Business
negotiations proceed at a rapid pace.
- Presentations should be practical, factual and never sloppy.
- An individual's cooperation and trust are valued over
performance. One-upmanship is frowned upon.
- The Dutch tend to be direct, giving straight "yes" and "no"
- The Dutch are conservative and forceful and can be stubborn
and tough negotiators. They are willing to innovate or experiment,
but with minimal risk.
- Companies are frugal and careful with money. Business is
profit-oriented with the bottom line being very important.
However, the Dutch are not obsessed with numbers.
- Strategy is cautious and pragmatic, usually involving
step-by-step plans. Preparations are made to improvise the plan,
if needed. Strategy is clear and communicated to all levels.
- In many companies the decision-making process is slow and
ponderous, involving wide consultation. Consensus is vital. The
Dutch will keep talking until all parties agree.
- Once decisions are made, implementation is fast and efficient.
- In the Netherlands, commitments are taken seriously and are
honored. Do not promise anything or make an offer you are not
planning to deliver on.
Dining and Entertainment
- To beckon a waiter or waitress, raise your hand, make eye
contact, and say ober (waiter) or mevrouw (waitress).
- It is appropriate to discuss business during lunch. Business
breakfasts are not very common.
- Most business entertaining is done in restaurants, but the
Dutch do a fair amount of entertaining at home as well.
- The Dutch will make it clear that you are their guest if they
intend to pay the bill, otherwise expect to "go Dutch" and pay
your fair share. No one will be embarrassed at splitting the bill.
- Spouses are often included in a business dinner. Ask if your
host expects your spouse included in a business function. Business
is not generally discussed if spouses are present.
- Dutch manners are frank -- no-nonsense informality combined
with strict adherence to basic etiquette.
- Food does not play the major role in hospitality that it does
in many other cultures. It is not considered essential for making
someone feel welcome. Do not expect to be served a meal unless the
invitation specifically mentions a meal.
- Men should wait until all women are seated before they sit.
Allow the hostess to start eating and drinking before you eat.
- Take a small quantity of food to start. A second helping will
be offered and it is polite to accept.
- Keep your hands on the table at all times during a meal -- not
in your lap. However, take care to keep your elbows off the table.
- Use knife and fork to eat all food including sandwiches, fruit
- To signify that you would like more food or that you are not
finished, cross your knife and fork in the middle of your plate in
- It is considered rude to leave the table during dinner (even
to go to the bathroom).
- When finished eating, place your knife and fork side by side
at the 5:25 position on your plate.
- Parties may go very late. Plan to stay for an hour or so after
- Do not ask for a tour of your host's home; it is considered
- The Dutch prefer fashions that are casual, unpretentious,
conservative and subdued.
- A traditional suit and tie is required only in certain circles
of business and government.
- When conducting business in the Netherlands, foreign men may
wear suits and ties, though sport coats are acceptable. Women
should wear suits or dresses.
- Taking off your jacket in an office is acceptable. It means
getting down to business. Do not roll up the sleeves of your
shirt. When leaving an office, put your jacket back on.
- Gifts are generally not given or expected at business
- Gifts are exchanged in business only once a close, personal
relationship has developed.
- The Dutch find any form of ostentation a bit embarrassing. A
grand gesture of generosity will only make them uncomfortable.
Lavish displays of wealth are considered bad taste.
- Give books, art objects, wine, liquor. Do not give knives.
- When invited to someone's home, bring a small gift for the
hostess. Bring children a small gift or candy. Sending flowers
before or after the party is also appropriate.
- The Dutch avoid superlatives. Compliments are offered
sparingly, and to say that something is "not bad" is to praise it.
A person who never offers criticism is seen as either being
simple-minded or failing to tell the truth. A foreigner need not
worry too much about saying something the will hurt feelings. The
Dutch will argue, but seldom take offense.
- Dutch humor is subtle rather than slapstick.
- The Dutch speak directly and use a lot of eye contact. To a
foreigner, them may appear abrupt, but it is just their manner of
- Do not call the Netherlands "Holland." Holland is a region
within the Netherlands.
- Smoking is prohibited in many areas. Always ask before
- Stand when a woman enters the room.
- Don’t chew gum in public.
- Do not discuss money or prices or ask personal questions.
- Keep your hands out of your pockets while talking to someone
or shaking hands.
Especially for Women
- 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 jobs.
- Many Dutch women see the struggle for equal opportunities as
only just beginning, even though small strides have already been
made. Equality of women is a policy priority.
- Foreign women will not have trouble doing business in the
- It is common and acceptable for businesswomen to invite a man
- Businesswomen will have no problem paying for a meal in a