1. Be polite but informal in Dutch business culture
Compared to the business world in North America, Asia and even other parts of Europe, the Dutch can be remarkably informal at work. It's very natural for management to interact in a friendly manner with all levels of employees, with everyone referred to by their first names. It certainly doesn't infer a lack of respect by an employee if they refer to their manager or even CEO by first name – it merely reflects a traditional aspect of Dutch culture in which everyone is regarded as an equal. Naturally, upon greeting a new business acquaintance for the very first time, it remains polite to use the appropriate common title (Mr, Ms or Mrs).
2. Be direct and honest
Despite (or because of) the informality of Dutch business culture, there's rarely any beating about the bush when it comes to sharing opinions – from management to interns, expressing yourself is part of the workplace. Highly skilled migrants who're new to the Netherlands can be shocked by such directness, especially if they're used to biting their tongue or softening their opinions in order to avoid causing offence or conflict. But Dutch society and workplaces are typically consensus-driven, so be don't be offended by the opinions of others and don't be afraid to speak your mind.
3. Get ready to meet and discuss
A big part of that consensus-driven Dutch workplace is meetings. Lots of meetings. Deals are struck over coffee meetings, lunch meetings and sometimes even regular office meetings. Some meetings are simply held to arrange further meetings. Just remember point two (above), so after some friendly chatter until the coffee arrives, be direct and clear. That way all parties will come away feeling satisfied.
4. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate
The Dutch are known to be forceful, stubborn and tough negotiators – so negotiations tend to proceed at a rapid pace.
5. Stick to whatever is agreed
Somewhat stating the obvious, but a key element of the Dutch directness is a faith in the promised outcome, and that a spoken agreement is as trustworthy as one on paper. With that in mind, going back on your word or attempting to renegotiate at the last minute is likely to severely hinder future business relations.
6. Get social!
Do chat about the weather, food or drink, travel, sport, news, etc; do enquire about weekend and evening activities and ask how family members are doing; do accept invitations to borrels – after-work social occasions typically with beer and wine –where you can network as well as chat about non-work matters; do consider joining organised business networks in order to attend gatherings with other business professionals looking to meet, chat and explore new business opportunities.
7. Keep it casual
Dress codes can be amazingly informal. A traditional suit and tie is usually only required in higher circles of business or when working for the government. In general, business suits are worn by those in management positions, at meetings and special occasions. Almost anything goes – jeans, blouses, t-shirts, trainers and even shorts during summer wouldn't look amiss in most offices in the Netherlands.