Cross Cultural Management Assignment on Netherlands


You are expected to prepare a report covering the following aspects about the specific country ie   NETHERLANDS

  • Socio-cultural variables (religion, education system, language, history, etc.) and how each of them influences the culture.
  • National variables (economic system, legal system, political system, physical situation, technological know-how, etc.) and how each of them influences the culture.
  • Describe the culture of the country. This would include the shared values, norms, and beliefs of the people of the country.
  • How their culture is impacting the organizations, management practices, and individual behaviors in the country.

History of the Netherlands


Farming was introduced into the Netherlands about 4,500 BC. At first farmers made tools and weapons of stone. However after 1,900 BC they used bronze. About 750 BC the inhabitants of the Netherlands learned to use iron.

In the 1st century BC the Romans conquered Belgium and the southern Netherlands. They built roads and towns. However they did not colonize the northern part of the Netherlands. Then in the late 4th century the Romans withdrew from the Netherlands as their Empire crumbled.

Afterwards the Netherlands was left to Germanic peoples, Franks, Saxons and Frisians. However in the 8th century AD the Franks conquered the others and became masters of the region. Meanwhile the area was converted to Christianity although a missionary, St Boniface was martyred by the Frisians in 754.

In 768 Charlemagne became ruler of the Franks and he created a great empire in Europe. Under him the Netherlands was divided into cantons, each ruled by a count. However when Charlemagne died in 814 his empire was divided into three parts, roughly modern France, Germany and the region between At first the Netherlands was part of the Middle Empire. However in 925 it was absorbed into the German Empire.

During the 9th and 10th century the Netherlands suffered from Viking raids. However during the Middle Ages town life and trade flourished in the Netherlands. In the 14th century Dutch towns enjoyed considerable freedom. However in the 15th century the Dukes of Burgundy gradually took control of the region.


Eventually the Low Countries including the Netherlands became the possessions of the powerful Habsburg family. In 1555 Phillip II of Spain became ruler of the region.

Meanwhile the Reformation was sweeping the Netherlands despite rigorous persecution. Calvinism, the teachings of John Calvin became popular in the Dutch towns. In 1566 Calvinists destroyed religious art in many churches in a movement called the Iconoclastic Fury.

In 1567 King Phillip sent his servant the Duke of Alva with an army to suppress the Calvinists and impose his will on the Netherlands. Alva set up the Council of Blood, which tried and condemned to death 12,000 people for taking part in the riots of 1566.

Then Prince William of Orange, known as William the Silent became the champion of Dutch freedom. In 1572 William led pirates called the Sea Beggars against the Spanish. From the sea they sailed up rivers and captured Dutch towns. The Dutch flocked to join the rebellion. However the Spanish fought back and a terrible war ensued.

In 1579 seven provinces of the Low Countries signed the Union of Utrecht. In 1581 they declared independence from Spain. In 1588 they formed the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. However the Spanish fought to hold onto the region and in 1584 William the Silent was assassinated. Yet the English sent help and Spain was weakened by the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Phillip finally died in 1598.

During the 17th century the Netherlands became a prosperous trading nation helped by a 12 year truce with Spain from 1609 to 1621. The Dutch East India Company was formed in 1602. The Dutch West India Company was formed in 1621 and in 1625 the Dutch founded New York (later New Amsterdam). In 1652 they founded a colony in south Africa.

Meanwhile Dutch sailors went on long voyages. In 1606 Willem Jansz discovered Australia and in 1642 Abel Tasman discovered Tasmania.

Meanwhile the Spanish finally recognized the independence of the Netherlands in 1648.

However trade rivalry with England led to three wars in 1652-54, 1665-67 and 1672-74. However William of Orange, Stadholder (ruler) of the Netherlands made peace with England and married Princess Mary of England. In 1688 William became king of England.

In the late 17th century science, art and philosophy flourished in the Netherlands. However as an economic and political power Holland declined in the 18th century. The Dutch were involved in the War of the Spanish Succession against the French. The long war left the Netherlands exhausted. Increasingly Britain and France dominated world trade.


At the end of the 18th century Europe was thrown into turmoil by the French Revolution. In 1795 the French invaded The Netherlands and founded the Batavian Republic. In 1806 Napoleon made his brother Louis king of the Netherlands. However the brothers fell out and Louis was forced to abdicate in 1810. The Netherlands was then absorbed into the French Empire.

However by 1813 Napoleon was facing defeat and in that year William of Orange returned to the Netherlands. In 1814 he was made King William I. In 1815 Belgium and The Netherlands were joined together as one country under King William I. However the two countries were too different to be united. In 1830 the Belgians rebelled and in 1839 the great powers forced William I to give Belgium its independence.

William I died in 1840 and in 1848 his son introduced a new liberal constitution. For the rest of the 19th century the Netherlands was a prosperous and stable country. However everybody did not share the prosperity. Some industrial growth took place. (In 1839 a railway was opened from Haarlem to Amsterdam). However conditions in 19th century factories in the Netherlands were terrible.


During the First World War The Netherlands remained neutral but the German Kaiser fled to the Netherlands in 1918 and was granted asylum there.

During the 1930s like the rest of the world the Netherlands suffered from the Depression and there was mass unemployment. Yet despite the depression living standards rose during the 1920s and 1930s.

When the Second World War began Dutch remained neutral but on 10 May the Germans invaded. On 14 May the Germans bombed Rotterdam. The Netherlands was forced to surrender. However Queen Wilhemina escaped.

During World War II the Netherlands suffered terribly. Thousands of Dutch men were deported to work in Germany and 23,000 people who resisted the Germans were shot. The worst suffering was during the Winter of Hunger in 1944-45 when the Germans looted the Netherlands of food, reducing the people to near starvation. Furthermore the Nazis murdered a huge number of Jews. In 1940 about 140,000 Jews lived in The Netherlands but less than 25,000 survived. The Germans the Netherlands recovered from the war and a new welfare state was created. In 1949 the Dutch colony of Indonesia became independent. It was followed by Suriname in 1975. Meanwhile the Netherlands was a founder member of the EU in 1957. In 1999 the Netherlands joined the Euro.


Like the rest of the world the Netherlands suffered in the recession of 2009 but it soon recovered. Today the Netherlands is a prosperous country. Flower growing is still an important industry. Today the population of The Netherlands is 17 million.

Ethnicity, Language, & Religion of the Netherlands


Most citizens in the Netherlands are ethnically Dutch, which is a primarily Germanic ethnicity. However, there have been numerous other genetic introductions making it distinct from German ethnically. There have also been a fair number of immigrants to the country in recent decades, primarily arriving to Amsterdam. Among these many ethnic minorities many come from former Dutch colonies, including many Indonesians.


Dutch and Frisian are the two official languages of the Netherlands. Dutch is a western Germanic language, which falls somewhere between German and English in many ways. Frisian is spoken by a small group in the northern part of the country and this language is similar to Dutch, but falls closer to the English language side of the spectrum. English, German, and French are also widely spoken as second languages and it is not uncommon for a citizen of the Netherlands to be fluent in three or four languages. Dutch, the official language, is spoken by around 90% of the population. Around 350,000 people, or 2.2% of the population, speak Frisian as their first language, mainly in the northern province of Friesland, where it is recognised as an official language. Turkish and Arabic are also spoken in the Netherlands, each by over 0.6% of the population.


Almost half the people in the Netherlands don’t subscribe to any religion. After this, the country is divided into believers of a number of religions, the largest of these being Catholicism, followed by Protestantism. There is also a decent sized Muslim minority as many of the Indonesian immigrants are Muslim.

Catholicism is a Christian religion that is one of the first Christian religions (founded after the death of Jesus in about 30-33 AD). Catholicism believes that there is a single God who created everything, a savior, the son of God, Jesus Christ who is the forgiver of sins, and there is the Holy Spirit, which makes up the last part of the Holy Trinity. Catholics follow the teachings of the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments. Much of the faith is based on the life and teachings of Jesus, which is found in the gospels (in the New Testament).

Protestantism is a general term referring to nearly every Christian religion that is not Catholic or Orthodox. Like all Christian faiths, Protestants believe there is one God and that His son, Jesus is the savior and forgiver of sins. Protestants also believe that the Bible, which includes the Old and New Testaments, is the only true word of God. Due to this reliance on the Bible, nearly every protestant faith, and even individual, may interpret the Bible differently, which has led to a huge number of Protestant churches.


 The higher education system in the Netherlands is based on a three-cycle degree system, consisting of a bachelor, master and PhD degree. The three-cycle system was officially introduced in the Netherlands at the beginning of the academic year 2002-2003. The Netherlands has a binary system of higher education, which means there are two types of programmes: research-oriented education (wetenschappelijk onderwijs, wo), traditionally offered by research universities, and professional higher education (hoger beroepsonderwijs, hbo), traditionally offered by hogescholen, or universities of applied sciences. In this description, the Dutch abbreviations wo and hbo will be used. Primary and secondary education Children are allowed to begin school at the age of four, but are not legally required to do so until the age of five. Primary education lasts eight years (of which seven are compulsory), in the last year of which pupils are advised as to the type of secondary education they should pursue. Secondary education, which begins at the age of 12 and is compulsory until the age of 16, is offered at several levels. Vmbo programmes (four years) combine general and vocational education, after which pupils can continue in senior secondary vocational education and training (mbo) lasting one to four years. The two programmes of general education that grant admission to higher education are havo (five years) and vwo (six years). Pupils are enrolled according to their ability, and although vwo is more rigorous, both havo and vwo can be characterized as selective types of secondary education. The vwo curriculum prepares pupils for university, and only the vwo diploma grants access to wo. The havo diploma is the minimum requirement for access to hbo. The last two years of havo and the last three years of vwo are referred to as the tweede fase (literally, second phase), or upper secondary education. During these years, pupils focus on one of four subject clusters (profielen), each of which emphasizes a certain field of study in addition to satisfying general education requirements. Each cluster is designed to prepare pupils for programmes of study at the tertiary level. A pupil enrolled in vwo or havo can choose from the following subject clusters: 1) Science and Technology (Natuur en Techniek) 2) Science and Health (Natuur en Gezondheid) 3) Economics and Society (Economie en Maatschappij) 4) Culture and Society (Cultuur en Maatschappij) Senior secondary vocational education and training (mbo) Senior secondary vocational education and training (mbo, middelbaar beroepsonderwijs) is offered in the areas of economics, technology, health, personal care, social welfare and agriculture. Mbo programmes vary in length from one to four years as well as in level (1 to 4). Graduates of vmbo programmes are eligible for admission to mbo, and completion of mbo programmes at level 4 qualifies pupils for access to hbo. Higher education Higher education in the Netherlands is offered at two types of institutions: research universities (universiteiten) and universities of applied sciences (hogescholen) 1 . Research universities include general universities, universities specializing in engineering and agriculture, and the Open University. Research universities are primarily responsible for offering research-oriented programmes (wetenschappelijk onderwijs, wo). Dutch research universities provide education and conduct research in a wide range of disciplines: language and culture, behaviour and society, economics, law, medical and health sciences, natural sciences, engineering, and agriculture. Universities of applied sciences include general institutions as well as institutions specializing in one of the seven hbo sectors: agriculture, engineering and technology, economics and business administration, health care, fine and performing arts, education (teacher training), and social welfare. Universities of applied sciences are primarily responsible for offering programmes of higher professional education (hoger beroepsonderwijs, hbo), which prepare students for particular professions. These tend to be more practically oriented than programmes offered by research universities. In addition to lectures, seminars, projects and independent study, students are required to complete an internship or work placement (stage) which normally takes up part of the third year of study, as well as a final project or a major paper in the fourth year. Since September 2002, the higher education system in the Netherlands has been organized around a three-cycle degree system consisting of bachelor, master and PhD degrees. At the same time, the ECTS credit system was adopted as a way of quantifying periods of study. The higher education system continues to be a binary system, however, with a distinction between research-oriented education and professional higher education. The focus of degree programmes determines both the number of credits required to complete the programme and the degree which is awarded. A wo bachelor’s programme requires the completion of 180 credits (3 years) and graduates obtain the degree Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science (BA/BSc), depending on the discipline. An hbo bachelor’s programme requires the completion of 240 credits (4 years), and graduates obtain a degree indicating the field of study (for example, Bachelor of Engineering, B. Eng., or Bachelor of Nursing, B. Nursing). The old title (pre-2002) appropriate to the discipline in question (bc., ing.) may still be used. Institutions offer wo master’s programmes that in most cases require the completion of 60 or 120 credits (1 or 2 years). Some programmes require 90 (1,5 years) or more than 120 credits2 . In engineering, agriculture, and math and the natural sciences, 120 credits are always required. Graduates obtain the degree of Master of Arts or Master of Science (MA/MSc). The old title (pre-2002) appropriate to the discipline in question (drs., mr., ir.) may still be used. An hbo master’s programme requires the completion of 60 to 120 credits and graduates obtain a degree indicating the field of study (for example, Master of Social Work, MSW). The third cycle of higher education, leading to a doctor’s degree, will be offered only by research universities. All research universities in the Netherlands are entitled to award the country’s highest academic degree, the doctoraat, which entitles a person to use the title doctor, abbreviated to dr. The process by which a doctorate is obtained is referred to as the promotie. The doctorate is primarily a research degree, for which a dissertation based on original research must be written and publicly defended. The minimum amount of time required to complete a doctorate is four years. Requirements for admission to higher education For access to wo bachelor’s programmes, students are required to have a vwo diploma or to have completed the first year (60 credits) of an hbo programme. The minimum access requirement for HBO is either a havo diploma or a level-4 mbo diploma. The vwo diploma also grants access to HBO. For access to both types of higher education, pupils are required to have completed at least one of the subject clusters that fulfils the requirements for the higher education programme in question. A quota, or numerus fixus, applies for access to certain programmes, primarily in the sector health, and places are allocated using a weighted lottery. Potential students older than 21 years of age who do not possess one of the qualifications mentioned above can qualify for access to higher education on the basis of an entrance examination and assessment. The only access requirement for the Open University is that applicants be at least 18 years of age For access to all master’s programmes, a bachelor’s degree in one or more specified disciplines is required, in some cases in combination with other requirements. Graduates with an hbo bachelor’s degree may have to complete additional requirements for access to a wo master’s degree programme. Credit system and grading Workload is measured in credits (studiepunten). Since 2002, a student’s workload is measured in ECTS credits. According to Dutch law, one credit represents 28 hours of work and 60 credits represents one year of full-time study. The grading system has been the same for several decades: the scale is from 1 (very poor) to 10 (outstanding). The lowest passing grade is 6; 9s are seldom given and 10s are extremely rare, and grades 1-3 are hardly ever used. Accreditation and quality assurance A guaranteed standard of higher education is maintained through a national system of legal regulation and quality assurance. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is responsible for legislation pertaining to education. As of 2002, responsibility for accreditation lies with the Netherlands-Flemish Accreditation Organization (NVAO). According to the section of the Dutch Higher Education Act dealing with the accreditation of higher education, all degree programmes offered by research universities and universities of applied sciences will be evaluated according to established criteria, and programmes that meet those criteria will be accredited: i.e. recognized for a period of six years. Only accredited programmes will be eligible for government funding, and students will receive financial aid and graduate with a recognized degree only when enrolled in, or after having completed, an accredited degree programme. Accredited programmes will be listed in the Central Register of Higher Education Study Programmes (CROHO) and the information will of course be available to the public. The NVAO plans to review all study programmes before 2009. Before that time, all programmes that are registered in CROHO that have adhered to the quality assurance regulations in the past, are considered to be recognized by law. Besides the accreditation of degree programmes, the Netherlands has a system by which the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science recognizes higher education institutions by conferring on them the status of either bekostigd (funded) or aangewezen (approved). Bekostigd indicates that the institution is financed by the government. Aangewezen indicates that the institution does not receive funds from the government and has to rely on its own sources of funding. Regardless whether a degree programme is offered by a ‘funded’ or an ‘approved’ institution, it must be accredited and registered in CROHO to be considered recognized. According to legislation regarding accreditation, institutions are required to write on degree certificates the date that the degree programme in question was granted accreditation. Because accreditation is an ongoing process, it will be important that people who review Dutch degrees make sure that a programme was accredited at the time the degree was awarded. Once accredited, the validity of the accreditation of that particular degree is of course permanent.

Economic System of Netherlands

The Netherlands, the sixth-largest economy in the European Union, plays an important role as a European transportation hub, with a persistently high trade surplus, stable industrial relations, and moderate unemployment. Industry focuses on food processing, chemicals, petroleum refining, and electrical machinery. A highly mechanized agricultural sector employs only 2% of the labor force but provides large surpluses for food-processing and underpins the country’s status as the world’s second largest agricultural exporter. The Netherlands is part of the euro zone, and as such, its monetary policy is controlled by the European Central Bank. The Dutch financial sector is highly concentrated, with four commercial banks possessing over 90% of banking assets. The sector suffered as a result of the global financial crisis and required billions of dollars of government support, but the European Banking Authority completed stringent reviews in 2014 and deemed Dutch banks to be well-capitalized. To address the 2009 and 2010 economic downturns, the government sought to stimulate the domestic economy by accelerating infrastructure programs, offering corporate tax breaks for employers to retain workers, and expanding export credits. The stimulus programs and bank bailouts, however, resulted in a government budget deficit of 5.3% of GDP in 2010 that contrasted sharply with a surplus of 0.7% in 2008. The government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte has since implemented significant austerity measures to improve public finances and has instituted broad structural reforms in key policy areas, including the labor market, the housing sector, the energy market, and the pension system. As a result, the government budget deficit at the end of 2015 dropped to 2% of GDP. Following a protracted recession during which unemployment doubled to 7.4% and household consumption contracted for nearly three consecutive years, 2014 saw fragile GDP growth of 1% and a rise in most economic indicators. Growth picked up in 2015 as households boosted purchases through reduced saving. Drivers of growth included increased exports and business investments, as well as newly invigorated household consumption.

Legal System of Netherlands

The Netherlands is a civil law country. Its laws are written and the application of customary law is exceptional. The role of case law is small in theory, although in practice it is impossible to understand the law in many fields without also taking into account the relevant case law. The Dutch system of law is based on the French Civil Code with influences from Roman law and traditional Dutch customary law. The new civil law books (which went into force in 1992) were heavily influenced by the German Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch.

The primary law making body is formed by the Dutch parliament in cooperation with the government. When operating jointly to create laws they are commonly referred to as the legislature (Dutch: wetgever). The power to make new laws can be delegated to lower governments or specific organs of the State, but only for a prescribed purpose. A trend in recent years has been for parliament and the government to create “framework laws” and delegate the creation of detailed rules to ministers or lower governments. (e.g. a province or municipality). The Ministry of Security and Justice is the main institution when it comes to Dutch law.

The domain of Dutch law is commonly divided in the following areas:

  • Administrative law
  • Civil law (including family law, inheritance law, contract law and commercial law)
  • Criminal law
  • Constitutional law (including laws on the structure of the state)
  • European law
  • International law

Civil law

Civil law is the domain of law that regulates the everyday life of persons and other legal entities (such as corporations). The main code of Dutch civil law is the Burgerlijk Wetboek.

Criminal law

Criminal law deals with the prosecution and punishment of criminal offenses. The main code is the Wetboek van Strafrecht (nl).

Constitutional law

Constitutional law involves itself with the constitution and the structure of the Netherlands. It involves the powers of democratic institutions, the organisation of elections and the divisions of powers between central and local governments. See also the article on the Constitution of the Netherlands. Following the practice of many civil law jurisdictions and in contrast to practice in nations such as the United States, the practice of Dutch constitutional law is that judges are not allowed to determine the constitutionality of laws created by the legislature (the government and parliament acting jointly).

Administrative law

Administrative law is the area of law that regulates the operation of the various levels of government and the way persons and legal entities can appeal decisions of the government. The basics of Dutch administrative law were overhauled completely in 1994 with the advent of the new Basic Administrative Law (Dutch: Algemene Wet Bestuursrecht)….

European law

European law deals with the influence of laws and regulations of the European Union in the laws of the Netherlands.

International law

International law (a.k.a. the law of nations) involves the application of international laws (mostly laid down in treaties) in the Netherlands. The Dutch constitution contains a clause that allows the direct application of most international laws in Dutch courts. The laws that regulate jurisdiction and applicable law in cases with an international aspect (e.g. because parties come from different countries) are not part of international law but form a specific branch of civil law.

Political system of Netherlands

Constitutional Monarchy

Since 1815 The Netherlands has been a constitutional monarchy. Historically for centuries before, it had been the proud republic, a union of provinces. Since 1848, the Netherlands is also a parliamentary democracy. Dutch monarch has no real political power, but serves as representative head of state and a symbolic person uniting the divided parliamentary politics.

The parliament

The parliament consists of two chambers. The Lower House (Dutch: Tweede Kamer, or Second Chamber) is elected every four years in a direct national elections together with the provincial parliaments. It consists of 150 members. Only the political parties can take part in the elections. The lower chamber approves the budget and has the right of the legal initiative, the right of submitting amendments, the right to start its own inquires and the right of interpellation. The members of the provincial parliaments vote for the less important Senate (Dutch: Eerste Kamer, or First Chamber) consisting of 75 members who approve or reject all laws of the Netherlands without the right of amendment. Together, the First and Second Chamber constitute The Estates-General (Dutch: Staten Generaal, established 1593). In fact, Dutch political system gives a lot of freedom to the government, as long as it has support of the parliament.

Head of state – The King

King Willem-Alexander van Oranje-Nassau is the nominal head of state of the Netherlands. The King has several mostly representative functions. He nominates all the mayors in the Netherlands as well as the politician who forms the government after the general elections. The monarch also signs all the laws approved by the parliament.


The Netherlands is usually governed by a coalition of different political parties. Prime minister is usually coming from the party, which won the most seats in the elections. Usually the King gives the leader of the party, which won the elections, or an important politician coming from this party, the task of forming the new government. The constitution does not permit to a member of the parliament to serve in the government.

The council of ministers leads the country’s policy, the minister together with junior ministers govern. The council of ministers with the King form together the Crown, an organ which nominates the members of the State Council (Dutch: Raad van State), an institution with influence on certain decisions and more important nominations.

Prime Minister

Prime Minister is the head of the government. Mark Rutte from the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy – VVD (liberals) is at present the Prime Minister of the Netherlands.

Physical Situation of Netherlands


The Netherlands is bounded by the North Sea to the north and west, Germany to the east, and Belgium to the south. If the Netherlands were to lose the protection of its dunes and dikes, the most densely populated part of the country would be inundated (largely by the sea but also in part by the rivers). This highly developed part of the Netherlands, which generally does not lie higher than about three feet (one metre) above sea level, covers more than half the total area of the country. About half of this area (more than one-fourth of the total area of the country) actually lies below sea level.

The lower area consists mainly of polders, where the landscape not only lies at a very low elevation but is also very flat in appearance. On such land, building is possible only on “rafts,” or after concrete piles, sometimes as long as 65 feet (20 metres), have been driven into the silt layer.

In the other, higher area, the layers of sand and gravel in the eastern part of the country were pushed sideways and upward in some places by ice tongues of the Saale Glacial Stage, forming elongated ridges that may reach a height of more than 330 feet (100 metres) and are the principal feature of the Hoge Park Veluwe National Park. The only part of the country where elevations exceed 350 feet (105 metres) is the border zone of the Ardennes. The Netherlands’ highest point, the Vaalserberg, in the extreme southeastern corner, rises to 1,053 feet (321 metres).


In the late Pleistocene Epoch (from about 126,000 to 11,700 years ago), the Scandinavian ice sheet covered the northern half of the Netherlands. After this period, a large area in the north of what is now the Netherlands was left covered by moraine (glacial accumulation of earth and rock debris). In the centre and south, the Rhine and Maas rivers unloaded thick layers of silt and gravel transported from the European mountain chains. Later, during the Holocene Epoch (i.e., the past 11,700 years), clay was deposited in the sheltered lagoons behind the coastal dunes, and peat soil often subsequently developed in these areas. If the peat soil was washed away by the sea or dug away by humans (for the production of fuel and salt), lakes were created. Many of these were reclaimed in later centuries (as mentioned above), while others now form highly valued outdoor recreational areas.


The climate of the Netherlands is temperate, with gentle winters, cool summers, and rainfall in every season. Southerly and westerly winds predominate, and the sea moderates the climate through onshore winds and the effect of the Gulf Stream.

The position of the country—between the area of high-pressure air masses centred on the Azores and the low-pressure region centred on Iceland—makes the Netherlands an area of collision between warm and polar air masses, thus creating unsettled weather. Winds meet with little resistance over the flat country, though the hills in the south significantly diminish the velocity of the potent wind that prevails along the coast. On average, frost occurs 60 days per year. July temperatures average about 63 °F (17 °C), and those of January average 35 °F (2 °C). Annual rainfall averages about 31 inches (790 mm), with only about 25 clear days per year. The average rainfall is highest in summer (August) and autumn and lowest in springtime. The country is known—not least through the magnificent landscapes of Dutch painters—for its heavy clouds, and on an average day three-fifths of the sky is clouded.

Culture, Customs, Shared Values and Norms of Netherlands

The Role of the Family

  • The Dutch see the family as the foundation of the social structure.
  • Families tend to be small, often with only one or two children.
  • Relatively few women work outside the house full-time as compared to many other cultures.
  • This allows mothers to be more available to their children throughout the entire day.

Dutch Demeanour

  • Appearances are important to the Dutch.
  • They are disciplined, conservative, and pay attention to the smallest details.
  • They see themselves as thrifty, hardworking, practical and well organized.
  • They place high value on cleanliness and neatness.
  • At the same time, the Dutch are very private people.
  • They do not draw attention to themselves and do not value the accoutrements of success highly prized by other western societies.
  • They dislike displays of wealth, as they run counter to their egalitarian beliefs.
  • They do not boast about their accomplishments or their material possessions.


  • The Dutch are egalitarian and highly tolerant of individual differences.
  • Their children are raised without gender biases.
  • There is practically no abject poverty in the country because of the social programs, which, however, also increase the tax burden on workers.
  • This egalitarian outlook is carried over into the workplace.
  • Even in hierarchical organizations, every person has a right to their opinion and to have it heard.
  • The boss may be the final decision maker, but he/she will typically want input from the workers and will strive for consensus.
  • Everyone is valued and shown respect.

Dutch Privacy

  • The Dutch are reserved and formal when dealing with outsiders.
  • They are private people and do not put their possessions or emotions on display.
  • Self-control is seen to be a virtue.
  • The Dutch do not ask personal questions and will refuse to answer should you be foolish enough to intrude on their privacy.
  • Personal life is kept separate from business.
  • If a friendship develops at work and is carried into the personal arena, this camaraderie will not be brought into the office.
  • Personal matters are not discussed with friends, no matter how close.

Shared values and Customs in The Netherlands

Meeting and Greeting

  • The handshake is the common form of greeting.
  • It is firm and swift, accompanied by a smile, and repetition of your name.
  • Shake hands with everyone individually including children.
  • Very close friends may greet each other by air kissing near the cheek three times, starting with the left cheek.
  • Most Dutch only use first names with family and close friends.
  • Wait until invited before moving to a first-name basis.

Gift Giving Etiquette

  • 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, but not 13, which is unlucky.
  • Avoid giving white lilies or chrysanthemums, as these are associated with funerals.
  • Gifts should be wrapped nicely.
  • Wine is not a good gift if invited for dinner, as the host may already have selected the wines for dinner.
  • Do not give pointed items such as knives or scissors as they are considered unlucky.
  • Gifts are usually opened when received.

Dining Etiquette

  • Dining is fairly formal in the Netherlands.
  • Table manners are Continental — the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
  • Remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat.Men generally remain standing until all the women have taken their seats.
  • If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork in the middle of the plate with the fork over the knife.
  • Do not begin eating until the hostess starts.
  • Most food is eaten with utensils, including sandwiches.
  • The host gives the first toast. An honoured guest should return the toast later in the meal.
  • Salad is not cut; fold the lettuce on your fork.
  • Always start with small amounts so you may accept second helpings.
  • Finish everything on your plate. It is offensive to waste food in the Netherlands.
  • Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate.

Business customs and Protocol

Impact of Culture on Building Relationships & Communication in Business organisations

  • Many Dutch are familiar with doing business with foreigners since the Netherlands has a long history of international trade.
  • They will want to know your academic credentials and the amount of time your company has been in business.
  • The business community is rather close and most senior level people know one another.
  • Older, more bureaucratic companies may still judge you by how you are introduced so it is wise to have a third-party introduction if possible, although it is not mandatory.
  • The important thing is to demonstrate how your relationship would be beneficial for both sides.
  • The Dutch take a long-term perspective when looking at business, so be clear what your company’s intentions are.
  • Since the Dutch value their personal time, do not ask them to work late or come in over the weekend if you want to foster a good working relationship.
  • The Dutch are hospitable, yet this is often reserved for family and friends. In business they tend to be reserved and formal.
  • They do not touch one another and appreciate it when those they do business with maintain the proper distance, do not demonstrate emotion or use exaggerated hand gestures.
  • The Dutch are extremely direct in their communication.
  • They may sound blunt if you come from a culture where communication is more indirect and context driven.
  • They do not use hyperbole, and likewise they expect to be told yes or no in clear words.
  • In general, ideas will be discussed quite openly at meetings, with everyone entitled to their opinion.
  • Information is shared across departments and corporate strategies and goals are usually communicated to all employees, especially in more entrepreneurial companies.
  • Decisions are often consensus-driven in these cases.
  • 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.

Business Meeting norms

  • Do not try to schedule meetings during the summer (June through August), as this is a common vacation period.
  • Punctuality for meetings is taken extremely seriously.
  • Being late may mark you as untrustworthy and someone who may not meet other deadlines.
  • If you expect to be delayed, telephone immediately and offer an explanation.
  • Cancelling a meeting at the last minute could jeopardize your business relationship.
  • Meetings are rather formal in nature. Little time is spent on pleasantries.
  • Meetings adhere to strict agendas, including starting and ending times. Do not attempt to deviate from the agenda.
  • Maintain direct eye contact while speaking.


  • The Dutch prefer to get down to business quickly and engage in relatively little small talk.
  • Communication is direct and to the point, and may seem blunt.
  • Make sure your arguments are rational as opposed to emotional.
  • Use facts and figures to confirm your statements.
  • Business is conducted slowly. The Dutch are detail-oriented and want to understand every innuendo before coming to an agreement.
  • Decision-making is consensus driven. Anyone who might be affected by the decision is consulted, which greatly increases the time involved in reaching a final decision.
  • Avoid confrontational behaviour or high- pressure tactics.
  • Once a decision is made, it will not be changed.
  • Contracts are enforced strictly.