Expatriate Life 101: Work Ethics in the Netherlands

Thu, 18 Feb 2021

The Netherlands earned a reputation as a country with a relaxed work ethic. This country even ranked 1st in the world for work-life balance by the OECD. Therefore, Netherlands becomes one of the dreamed countries for people who want to enhance their career opportunities and land a job abroad.

But, of course, living as an expatriate employee won't be easy. You have to adapt to the work ethics and the lifestyle in a foreign country that might be different from your hometown's values and lifestyle. By learning the work ethics it will help you to cope with your career, have a happier life, and overcoming social anxiety as an expatriate.

For you who want to live and work in the Netherlands, make sure to read these Dutch work ethics to ace your life as an expatriate employee in this windmill country!

The directness in the communication

One of the Dutch working ethics is to be straightforward and frank in communication. In conversations, they do not tend to read the meaning or the context. This directness of the Dutch people in communicating often creates misunderstandings or a bit shocking for the new expatriate.

The Dutch will tell you what they think of you and criticizes your work no matter your status if you are a superior or a subordinate.

The Dutch speak in a friendly tone in rather short, clear, simple sentences lacking politeness or courtesy. They are suspicious of people whom they assume to be overly polite. They are afraid that an unpleasant motive may be hidden and undetected. Politeness may also irritate them as it is considered a waste of time, and efficiency of time is one of the Dutch work ethic.

The Dutch people also expect others to be open and direct. They will be disappointed with you if you detect mistakes in their work and you do not tell them about that.

In contrast to some other cultures, loss of face is an unknown concept in Dutch society. When you tell them about their mistakes, the Dutch do not usually feel ashamed. On the contrary, they will appreciate that you allow them to correct and thereby improve themselves. The Dutch think that everyone should learn from his errors.

The egalitarian system in the workplace

The structure of a Dutch company may seem unfamiliar to some of the expatriates. The Netherlands is an egalitarian society, the opinion of every worker is respected and they do not pay too much attention to the hierarchy at work. Therefore, equality in the workplace is one of the work ethics in the Netherlands.

The new expatriate employees might be surprised by how bosses are commonly addressed more casually, usually on a first name basis as opposed to being called ‘madam’ or ‘sir’.

The Dutch people are known in the Western world for the many hours a week they spend in meetings. In the Netherlands, decision-making processes are complex. Business decisions normally require a consensus within a company from all employees and every voice and opinion is valued. This can make business meetings a long process, but it ensures that workers are content and included within decisions.

Moreover, in Dutch work ethics, personal and educational titles are not on business cards. Only the corporate Holland will print the academic titles of their managers on their business cards.

The lengthy process in make change

Planning and structuring are part of the Dutch work ethics. Sometimes, there is little room for spontaneity. The Dutch do not excel in improvising. Nevertheless, they have an adventurous mind and dare to take risks in business, which requests flexibility.

Everybody in the company is giving their perspective. Changes will be approved after a consensus occurs. Therefore, changes are usually lengthy processes.

The efficiency of time

In the Netherlands, working hours run from 9 am to 5 or 6 pm. Those who are unable to handle their job during office hours may not be fit for the job. As the efficiency of time is The Dutch work ethic, they dedicate their working time only to work. The majority of the Dutch often pack sandwiches from their homes to reduce the time for taking lunch outside.

Since work within organizations is very well structured, much work is performed during regular working hours. The Dutch employees are reluctant to work overtime, except for those at the management level.

The Dutch prefer to reduce working hours instead of having a salary increase. They love to take time off to spend with their partner, family, or friends, for traveling or to study.

In the Netherlands, vacation days run from 21 to 35 working days a year, depending on the labor contract. The expatriates on international labor contracts often complain that they are always in the office while the Dutch are on vacation.

Moreover, because Dutch people are very conscious about time, you may have to schedule business appointments with bosses, clients, and colleagues up to four weeks ahead. Even for your private agenda with some friends, you may plan an evening at the cinema six weeks from today. Generally, there is no such thing as just walking by to say hello, although this depends on your friend.

The relationship between colleagues

The separation between work and personal life is a work ethic in the Netherlands. The Dutch workers prefer to draw a clear line between their work and personal lives. This is related to the Dutch work ethic towards the efficiency of time. They are self-disciplined in the manner in which they completely devote their working time to work. Personal issues should stay outside of work, and socialize with colleagues is usually done outside of work.

The Dutch people may have good work relationships with their co-workers, but they rarely invite them to their homes. They prefer to socialize with their co-workers after work, in public places such as a bar.

The way the Dutch people handle clients and business partner

In their 36-40 working hours per week, the Dutch work hard. Work is optimized to make the life of the clients easy and pleasant, but at a high price, as foreigners often feel that Dutch people are not very service-minded.

This may seem so because the client has a privileged position above the salesperson in most nations, and therefore a higher status. However, goods and services in the Netherlands are traded on a fair basis. In the Dutch work ethics, salespersons are free to openly disagree and criticize their clients.

Other than that, businessmen do not feel obliged to entertain foreign business guests after working hours.

Are you ready to be an expatriate in the Netherlands?

Get to know the work ethics is one of the essential things to do before planning to be an expatriate. Besides, it is also necessary to improve your speaking skills in a foreign language to be able to communicate well with your new colleagues. Hence, click here to enhance your language speaking skills with expert tutors in LingoTalk!

Work Ethic



Dutch Work Ethic

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