8 things you need to know when doing business in the Netherlands

8 things you need to know when doing business in the Netherlands

This article will take you 5 minute(s) to read

I’m not really a big fan of Quora. Well, I wasn’t. Until I discovered the secret superpowers it holds for my business, scouring for background information on various topics. As an expert in Dutch (startup) culture, I decided to take the plunge and share my knowledge on whatever pops up. One answer seems particular popular: how to do business with Dutch people? Let me share it with you for future reference.

1) How to schedule

In general, a business meeting with Dutch people goes like this after getting acquinted: Brief phone or email exchange to schedule a meeting. Meeting is always a coffee date for one hour.

2) On time

Make sure you finish in time, and be exactly on time. Not early, not late, although being stuck in traffic (moan and groan about it in great length and discuss the busy roads nowadays for at least two minutes) or having a train delay (discuss the quirks of the NS for approx. 5 minutes) are very valid excuses. Make sure to text, call and email (all three appreciated) if your are tardy.

3) Location, location

Then, location. If you want to sell, visit him or her. If you want to buy, invite them. If it’s a mutual business affair, meet half way. Usually this is taken literally. There’s actually a web service called Roudle make sure it is in fact half way.

Or otherwise pick a convenient location, people from Amsterdam tend to invite people to meet up when the other party is in town – which is common as people from outside cities are usually travelling a lot to the urban region for business.

4) Chit chat

At the coffee date, make sure to chit chat as long as it takes for the coffee to arrive. With our slow service in public places, it might take a while so have topics ready: traffic, weather, kids, holidays (either upcoming or past).

5) Have coffee (for real)

As soon as the coffee arrives (tea is sort of an insult, it shows you are not an ‘awake’ kind of person), immediately start by saying “Why I invited you, what I wanted to discuss, I want to touch base with you on topic X”, or any similar form. Then explain your purposes, wait for feedback, discuss feedback and see what will be the respons.

6) Respons

“This sounds good.”

It means your are on fire. Make sure to follow up swiftly, because you have a deal. Set things up in a few days, within a week, with a contract. Or another form of agreement. Don’t wait or stall.

“Maybe this is interesting.”

This literally means maybe. Some if’s and but’s. You need to clear those out of the way. Find out what’s the holdup. Tick the boxes, and a maybe this changes to ‘sounds good’. Again, do it fast.

“Sounds interesting. I’ll have to check with my collegues, boss, business partner.”

It sounds good, it’s a maybe, but still this person is looking for a way out. Make the deal more worthwhile. A discount, a bigger cut, better projections if milestones are met faster, they will help close the deal. If not offered, this person will follow up with ‘no’ in a few days time.


No means no, come up with another proposal or solution. Or, offer to help the other person to keep the relationship going for the future. Dutch people are loyal, once you drank coffee with someone you are a network connection.

7) Very straight forward

You see? Dutch people are VERY straight forward. Be upfront, to the point of rudeness. Don’t waste time (that’s actually considered rude), offer value (for money) and follow up quickly. Just say what you want. That’s all it takes.

8) A deal’s a deal

One more thing: a deal’s a deal. Even verbally, before signing, both legally and morally. If you back out, or change stuff ultra last-minute, you will certainly annoy the crap out of a Dutch person. Don’t ever do that. It will be a guaranteed deal breaker.

You see, Dutch people are actually not that hard to do business with. As long as you follow these easy steps, you have a guaranteed trusted business partner for life. Check out the full Quora post here. Do you agree or have a different experience? Leave a comment below.

Image credit: Tom Jutte/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Presidents Barack Obama of the United States and Mark Rutte of the Netherlands stands in front of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch (Dutch: De Nachtwacht) during a flying visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, before attending a two-day security summit in The Hague, the Netherlands.


  • Ingrid Stakenburg

    The ‘tea is an insult’-thingie is crap. If you want tea or a Coke or something other than coffee, that’s fine too! Just drink something.

    • True! Forgot to edit that. It was a bit too serious here, I’ve downplayed it in the comments on Quora. Drink something, but never stay empty handed. It makes people uncomfortable.