- Punctuality is important for business relationships. If you are running late, call your Dutch counterpart(s) in advance to let them know.
- Shake hands with everyone in the room during introductions.
- A small amount of social conversation may begin the meeting, but expect the Dutch to turn the subject to business very quickly.
- The Dutch do not like to waste time during meetings. Agendas are often full and well-structured in order to maximise progress in the time given.
- Initial meetings will likely be formal and serve the purpose of determining familiarity and trustworthiness. They will be less concerned about getting to know you personally and more interested in your credentials, but this formality usually relaxes as negotiations progress.
- When discussing a proposal, present concrete facts and evidence that back up your claims. The Dutch are wary of enterprises that submit proposals without substantial reason and evidence to support them. Appealing to their emotions is unlikely to advance negations without solid rationale.
- While the Dutch move through points quickly during meetings, negotiations only conclude once full discussion and debate has taken place and all necessary points have been covered. This means that they sometimes over-analyse things as they endeavour to be as comprehensive as possible. If the discussion has not been all-inclusive, structured and detailed, a decision will not be made and it will be returned to during the next meeting. These ‘Dutch debates' can seem fussy and overdrawn. However, try to be patient with the process and understand their concerns.
- Although the Dutch are good listeners, you may find that their experience and confidence in their ability can sometimes prevent them from being easily persuaded.
- The Dutch sometimes prefer to have luncheon meetings that can last up to three hours as opposed to meetings in the office.
Task Oriented over Relationship Oriented
The Dutch do not always find it necessary to build personal relationships before doing business. Indeed, business relationships are often kept formal. They will be more interested in your experience, credentials and the longevity of your company rather than your personality. To many Dutch, business is strictly professional and holds no association with one's personal life.
As a part of this business-only mindset, they may find an excessively polite language and customs to be unnecessary and even obstructive to the task at hand. This is not to say that their behaviour is rude. While they are still courteous, they often arrive straight to their point without euphemism. In the same way, a Dutch person is likely to openly disagree with you and point out your errors instead of speaking ambiguously for the sake of diplomacy. From their standpoint, softening one's words only obscures their meaning and hinders the process of negotiating.
Despite this strictly business approach, they are open to cultivating business friendships—especially in the long term, as it is recognised that cordial relationships improve productivity and progress. They enjoy building rapport as long as it does not negatively affect business. Feel free to develop a friendship with your Dutch counterpart, but consider that overly personal questions can still be interpreted as intrusive.
- In Dutch business culture, one gains authority by their education, experience and position. Hierarchies exist to serve organisational effectiveness. However, managers are not necessarily seen as superiors, rather as employees with different responsibilities.
- The Dutch do not reserve decision-making exclusively for senior executives. Decisions are reached after a lengthy consultation, and group consensus has been made with all people involved.
- When doing business with the Dutch, one should keep their egalitarian values in mind; appealing to the superiority of status or position will be frowned upon and unappreciated. Instead, goals that aim for mutual gain and fair outcomes will get the most traction.
- Cutting corners is not appreciated as the Dutch value quality assurance.
- They usually pitch the offer that they believe to be fairest from the beginning.
- The Dutch love debating and do not take criticism personally and people are constantly free to contribute their ideas. Negating opinions will not affect business relationships. Keeping this in mind, avoid taking personal offence if your idea is criticised.
- Displays of passionate emotion, exaggerations or promises that sound too good to be true are likely to make them hesitant or suspicious of doing business with you.
- The Dutch are frugal and do not like to spend frivolously. Therefore, they may need some convincing to make big investments.
- They do not like to be seen as gullible and often show their scepticism by testing your honesty during meetings.
- Appeal to reason by using evidence. Concrete facts alone can prove your reliability and honesty to them.
- On the Corruption Perception Index (2017), the Netherlands ranks 8th out of 180 countries, receiving a score of 82 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is relatively clean from corruption.