Colleagues at work are always on a first-name basis in the Netherlands. But Dutch people are also very quick to use the first form of address. However, this does not imply a special relationship of trust, but is used as a common, practical form of address, like the English “you”. So do not assume a friendly relationship when you are addressed as “je”. When Dutch people talk to Germans, however, they often stick to “Sie” because they know that we are not so quick to use “Du” in Germany. If Dutch people, with whom you actually have a very trusting relationship, stick to the German “Sie” for a long time, you know that the Dutch want to be polite and are perhaps a little unsure at what point they can switch to the “du” in Germany.
For Dutch people, personal qualities and mutual trust count first, and only then are professional qualities of interest. Dutch people do not like to make detailed agreements or long-term plans. They prefer to simply start working together and let things develop. This requires much closer coordination and the willingness to adjust course if necessary.
Dutch people are actually more interested in the person and private life of their interlocutors and ask appropriate questions, which people from other nations are not always prepared for because this is not customary in many other countries. For Dutch people, it is important to create a trusting working atmosphere in order to be able to solve even difficult issues with each other in an uncomplicated way. By the way, Dutch people express criticism directly and objectively, but without becoming personal. This is possible if there is a basis of trust. In the Netherlands, problems are solved immediately.
Germans tend to get to the current business issue quickly. But if they don’t initiate a conversation with Dutch people with private questions, regardless of the hierarchy, they are likely to feel taken off guard, and the conversational atmosphere is already disturbed. Incidentally, in the ongoing conversation, the Dutch get things straight to the point. The pragmatism of the Calvinist culture comes through here.
The entire way of dealing with each other is more informal in the Netherlands than in Germany and some other nations. No one prides themselves on their position in the organization or in society. Dutch bosses like to pour coffee for their guests themselves and don’t bother with a secretary. This is an expression of appreciation. Dutch people refrain from using status symbols, such as academic or hierarchical titles, in their dealings with each other. Power is not flaunted. However, Dutch looseness should not be taken as carte blanche.
While Germans clearly formulate instructions as such, Dutch people “wrap up” expectations and instructions in friendly hints, such as: “Shouldn’t we …” or “Perhaps you could …”. For Germans, this seems like a suggestion, but it should be understood as a work order. If you, as a German, say to a Dutch person: “Please finish this work by tomorrow evening,” the Dutch person would perceive your request as harsh.
Dutch people want to be involved in thoughts and developments. They remain constantly in conversation, while Germans specify tasks concretely and then “dive” into often longer work phases. Because Dutch people don’t like to specify concretely, they use frequent meetings to exchange ideas and work statuses in an ongoing, relatively open development process. New insights are brought directly into the discussion by Dutch people and can lead to short-term adjustments. For Germans, this agile way of working is (still) unfamiliar.
Germans record results after each meeting, which are then “fixed”, and then they distribute new tasks. For Dutch people, results and decisions develop in communicative exchange; they are not predetermined by management, as is often practiced in Germany. In Germany, decisions are prepared in advance of meetings, while formal meetings are used to finalize decisions. With Dutch people, the decision-making process is more transparent and present. Discussions with Dutch people are not systematically structured according to topics, but develop associatively. As an old seafaring and trading people, Dutch people like to negotiate. Thus, agreements with Dutch people will always be (good) compromises and much less often than among Germans black and white decisions. Negotiation results with Dutch people often consist of a clever combination of different conditions. Effects are often not as transparent to grasp as effects of negotiation results among Germans.
Dutch managers rely on the expertise of their specialist staff and trust them. Managers more often than in Germany have undergone formal management training and focus on leadership and higher-level tasks, while German managers have more often proven themselves in specialist disciplines before moving into management, and perhaps therefore occasionally intervene in specialist issues.
Another cultural difference between Dutch and Germans is that, in the case of Dutch, deals between different organizations are usually prepared by technically competent employees before the bosses finally learn about the opportunities that have arisen. In Germany, the bosses are usually the strategic vanguard and then pass on the implementation task to their employees. Therefore, if the Dutch CEO does not participate in discussions during the initiation phase of business deals, this should not be taken as disrespect.
Look also to the British mentality, the Swiss mentality, the Austrian mentality, the Spanish mentality, the Scandinavian mentality, the French mentality, the Turkish mentality, the US-American mentality, the Italian mentality, the Latin American mentality, the Indian mentality, the Chinese mentality, the Japanese mentality, the Russian mentality, and the Arab mentality.