Business Practices in the Netherlands

Overview by
The Fundamental Principles of Business Culture
The Netherlands is historically committed to neutrality, tolerance and global cooperation. A number of things that you should pay attention to are:
- Do not be late; in case that you are make a call ahead and explain why.
- Demonstrate why your relationship is mutually beneficial.
- The Dutch take a long-term perspective when looking at a business..
- Personal time (with the family) is extremely important, do not ask them to work late or during weekends.
First Contact
The ideal situation would be that a third party introduces you. If that is not possible a phone call would be the best option, after which you could schedule an (carefully planned) appointment (which is usually confirmed by email).
You should introduce yourself by giving a firm and swift handshake. Very close friends may greet each other by air kissing near the cheek three times, starting with the left cheek. This rarely happens when doing business because the Dutch like to keep business and private live separated.
How to Present Yourself
By a smile and repetition of your name. Be sure to introduce yourself to everyone, that includes children. Most Dutch only use first names with family and close friend so wait until invited before moving to a first-name basis.
Business Relations
Only professorially.
If invited to a Dutch home bring a box of good quality chocolates, a potted plant, a book, or flowers to the hostess. Flowers should be given in odd numbers. Avoid giving white lilies or chrysanthemums, these are associated with funerals.

Note: In some companies (accounting companies for example) employees are not allowed to accept (big) gifts because of their company policy.

Business Communication
Dutch people are very direct up to the point that they come across blunt for people from another culture. Opinions should be stated firmly (yes/no). Ideas are usually discussed openly among employees. During negotiations they prefer to get down to business quickly. They are detail-oriented and want to understand every innuendo before coming to an agreement. Avoid confrontational behavior or high- pressure tactics, they can jeopardize the business. Once a decision is made, it will not be changed and the contract will be enforced strictly.

Always appear modest and do not make exaggerated claims about what you or your company can deliver. Your word is your bond and making claims that later prove to be untrue will brand you as unreliable

Dress Code
Try to dress fairly conservative in a business suit as they dislike displays of wealth - they run counter to their egalitarian beliefs.
Visiting Cards
Don't have to be translated, although promotional materials and instruction manuals should be translated into Dutch. Be sure to include any university degree above a B.A. on your business card but do not mention it in conversation.
For Further Information
Executiveplanet, The Dutch business culture.
Kwintessential, The Dutch business culture.

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