Doing business with the Dutch is a straightforward and easy affair. After all, the Netherlands has a positive reputation for embracing commerce, openness and tolerance. But to get a head start in your new business dealings, heed these handy tips about doing business in Amsterdam.
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 the 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).
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.
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.
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 barrels – 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.