NETHERLANDS - COMMUNICATION

When Dutch people meet each other for the first time, they usually don’t wait to be introduced. Instead, they extend their hand for a handshake, make eye contact, say their name, and listen for the name of the other person. However, on social occasions, people who already know each other also shake hands if they have not seen one another for a while. When good friends or relatives meet, they will often exchange three kisses on the cheeks.

While meeting Dutch people it is also recommended to be aware of recent political events in the Netherlands and in your country because Dutch people tend to switch conversation over to political matters. Regarding this issue, do not forget that one’s choice of privileged political party is personal information, thus it might not be polite to ask your partner about it. During the conversation, make it clear that you are aware of the country’s official name (The Netherlands), although even Dutch themselves usually call it Holland. Among the things that should be avoided in conversation, one can find for example criticizing the Dutch Royal Family, religion, sex and legalized prostitution and whining about your personal financial income. On the other side, welcomed topics to talk about are one’s home country or city, one’s accommodation and trip and already mentioned politics.

Young people usually go to discotheques, clubs, or bars (cafés) quite often to socialize and to be with their friends. They usually go out during the weekends, however in many student cities Thursday night is the time to party.

Some Basic ’Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do: be punctual - whether it is an appointment at the dentist or an invitation to a friend’s house.
  • Don’t: drop in unannounced to visit your Dutch friends. Make an appointment to visit first.
  • Do: shake hands when meeting someone new or when visiting someone in an official capacity – such as your doctor or dentist. It is also quite usual to shake hands again as you leave. On social occasions, three kisses instead of a handshake are normal.
  • Do: offer coffee! Serve proper brewed coffee is best. Have plenty of milk (or better yet Dutch "koffiemelk") and sugar on hand too. They do also love tea though.
  • Do: adapt to the dog loving culture.

How to tell if you are Dutch: www.zompist.com

Studies

About 95% of Dutch people speak English, which is unique for non-English speaking country, and it makes communication during your study in Holland comfortable and pleasant.

The Dutch educational system focuses on teamwork and is very interactive, which makes it easy to meet other international students. During your study in The Netherlands, you will develop an open mind and increase your international orientation.

Those who decide to live in a Dutch student house during their studies will see evidence of the independent, separate lives people lead. Resources are not shared among inhabitants in such a household: everyone keeps track of his or her own expenditure and consumption. Students cook individually for themselves, but in many student houses, the students cook and have dinner together. Food placed in a communal fridge is also not shared and if necessary, it is sometimes marked, signed carton of milk, or a pack of yoghurts being the typical example. This deeply rooted independence is something that newcomers are forced to learn to live with.

Work

The Dutch workers are generally less competitive than other Westerners. They place high value on teamwork and consensus, and a person who tries too hard to excel will be criticized as a soloist and excluded from the working group.

Dutch workers generally prefer very informal dress such as jeans and t-shirt (no shorts). In some cases one can find company’s top executive wearing jeans, while his employees are dressed in formal suits. This is mostly a matter of Dutch top executives saving formal suits for business occasions outside their companies. Among the workers in financial industry, which is in The Netherlands the most conservative of all, the formal dress for men contains dark suit, a tie and white shirt. Formally dressed women wear typically dark suit and white blouse. While working, Dutch workers and executives almost every time remove their jacket, which shows their pragmatic approach towards work.

Business

Dutch businesspersons do their work in an efficient and professional manner. Punctuality is important; dress is usually formal, with suits and ties as a standard. At the start of business meeting, business cards are exchanged and businessmen greet each other with a handshake. Titles and surnames are used, unless otherwise indicated. It is not unusual for women to hold high executive posts in Dutch business culture. Most Dutch people speak excellent English. Business hours are usually 8.30 AM to 5 PM.

The Dutch appreciate honesty and straightforwardness so make sure that you say what you mean, not for example "I’ll consider…" instead of "No". You will also be expected to keep all the promises you made, so do not make promises lightly and think through all aspects before making one. Dutch business culture is one focused mainly on quality before quantity, but it is recommended not to throw self-appraisals like "we are no. 1 in…". Focus on presenting valid empirical data about your background so they can make a picture about you themselves. They will certainly not buy any bluntness, deceptiveness or evasiveness.

This business culture values diversity in opinions, which tends to slower the decision-making process. However, once the decision is made you can be sure that Dutch will follow through every detail of the deal.

Short eye contact during the business meeting every now and then is considered as a sign of sincerity. If you have a problem with this and tend to look away while talking with someone, you risk being considered as a dishonest person.