Dutch work culture
A formal business culture
The Dutch working culture may differ from the one you are used to. The Netherlands has a formal business culture, where appointments should be made well in advance and preferably in writing. While company cultures may differ, the normal business hours are 8.30 am to 5.30 pm, Mondays to Fridays. Many people work part-time and do not work on Wednesday (because of children) or Friday. Although Dutch is the official language, most business people have no problem communicating in English.
Business attire and greeting
Business attire varies considerably between industries. A conservative suit for meetings is always an appropriate choice, unless you are informed that informal dress is the norm. A brief, firm handshake, with good eye contact, is the normal business greeting.
The Dutch can be rather direct to the point of blunt in their manner of speech, but rarely is this intended to be rude. As they consider themselves to be rather modest, they are generally not open to flattery or boasting about accomplishments. Meetings are usually quite formal and well structured, with adherence to the agenda. The Dutch communication style is fairly quiet and reserved, but also direct and frank. You will be expected to give a well-structured, factually accurate presentation, with clear evidence or data to back up any statements made. The Dutch have a very analytical approach and will examine your proposals in great detail. You will be taken at your word, so don't make promises you can't keep, and avoid hard sell or exaggerated claims.
Since team-working rather than hierarchy is the main feature of Dutch business culture, decision-making is usually consensual. Once made, decisions are quickly implemented and will be regarded as final. Managers will often ask for input from their team. Depending on the company culture, this may often mean that they are open to constructive criticism.
Business lunch is unusual in the Netherlands. Lunch is often a quick snack. Many employees bring their own home-made sandwiches to the office.