Communication is one of the most important assets in a business enterprise, and getting it right can make all the difference. Business people working with clients from the Netherlands need to be aware of cross-cultural communication barriers. Understanding those barriers can help you engage more effectively with the other party and identify opportunities for improved collaboration – which in turn can lead to increased sales, larger production orders, better market penetration, and so on.
About the Netherlands
The Netherlands, also called Holland, is a country in western Europe. It is bordered by Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and France to the west. The population of the Netherlands is around 17.4M people.
The capital city is Amsterdam. The Netherlands' gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is more than $52k USD, making it one of the wealthiest countries in Europe. The official language is Dutch. Important cities include Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague.
The Netherlands's culture-based communication style
The following are some important communication barriers to be aware of when working with a client from the Netherlands.
- Dutch people are direct communicators. They may seem blunt or insensitive to your way of thinking, but they are not trying to offend you; they are just being honest and straightforward about their opinions.
- The Dutch have a tendency to speak in short, direct sentences. They tend to avoid long-winded explanations, and will often make their point in as few words as possible. This is a great way to keep things moving along quickly, but it can be difficult for foreigners who are used to more verbose discussions.
- When it comes to business, the Dutch are very direct and honest in their opinions, but they don't want their employees to be overly confrontational when they speak up. They want to know what's going on without feeling as though they're being attacked personally or professionally.
- The Dutch tend to be more formal than Americans when conducting business; they expect you to call them by their titles and will expect you to dress up when meeting them in person.
- The Dutch generally do not engage in small talk when meeting for business purposes; rather, they jump right into the reason for the meeting and get straight to business matters at hand as soon as possible so as not to waste time or money on trivialities such as pleasantries that could be better used elsewhere (such as on making deals).
- It's also important for foreigners working with a client from The Netherlands to know that they value honesty and trustworthiness above all else.
- The Dutch business community strives for consensus rather than following a single leader's direction. This can make decision-making difficult when faced with multiple stakeholders who have different opinions about how something should be done or who have different ideas about what they want the final outcome to look like.
- The Dutch value punctuality and meeting deadlines above all else in business situations. If you want to make a good impression with your Dutch clients, remember that punctuality is very important in the Netherlands; if you are running late, call them immediately and apologize profusely so that they know what's going on!
Non-verbal communication in the Netherlands
- Greeting: In the Netherlands, a handshake is not only a form of greeting and farewell but also a form of communication. Handshaking also conveys respect for others.
- Eye contact: Dutch people prefer to maintain a certain degree of eye contact during conversation. This is because they believe it shows respect for the other person and makes you more trustworthy. If you avoid eye contact, Dutch people might think you are hiding something or lying.
- Personal space: The Netherlands is known for having a large personal space bubble. This means that people should stay at least one arm's length away from others when speaking to them.
- The Dutch are not very expressive in their gestures, especially when it comes to emotions.