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Life in The Netherlands

Introduction to a life The Netherlands

Published on : 19-08-2013, 15:52 by Fred Tromp


This is hardly a definitive guide on life in The Netherlands, but if you’ve never heard of the place…

The country

The Netherlands is a small but well-formed country with a limited internal market. Consequently, the Dutch look across their borders with German-made, high-power binoculars for additional markets to do business with. Take a look at some facts and figures relating to life in the Netherlands.

According the CIA World Factbook:

The Dutch United Provinces declared their independence from Spain in 1579; during the 17th century, they became a leading seafaring and commercial power, with settlements and colonies around the world. After a 20-year French occupation, a Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815. In 1830 Belgium seceded and formed a separate kingdom. The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I, but suffered invasion and occupation by Germany in World War II. A modern, industrialized nation, life in the Netherlands largely consisted of exporting agricultural products. The country was a founding member of NATO and the EEC (now the EU), and participated in the introduction of the euro in 1999.

Life in Dutch society

  • Sixteen million Dutch folk live here (more or less) and they are really packed in.
  • The Netherlands is the fourth most densely populated country on the planet.
  • It’s a democracy – tolerant and open – at least according to the brochure.
  • While quite religious centuries ago, 70% no longer attend church although Calvinism still has a hold on values and beliefs.
  • It is said that the Dutch are stingy – but, in reality, they are simply very careful with pretty much everything from food, to money, to expressions of wealth and comfort.
  • There are many rules and people are worryingly well-informed. This sometimes contrasts with the Dutch in a social setting where they are friendly and approachable.

An Egalitarian People

  • The Netherlands has an egalitarian society.
  • You must earn status and respect (not abuse family ties).
  • We are all equal here - this may be difficult to understand if you are not Dutch.
  • In general, the Dutch are not risk takers. They like to consider consequences well in advance.
  • People are willing to take responsibility where things go wrong or credit for success.


A client's life in the Netherlands

  • The Dutch work hard although mostly for 36-40 hours a week.
  • Service is often regarded as poor by visitors to The Netherlands. This is particularly true of Amsterdam.
  • Due to its egalitarian roots, sales persons feel themselves totally free to disagree with and criticize their customers.


Consensus in the Netherlands

  • Consensus is king (and can be really annoying)
  • The Dutch spend hours a week listening to colleagues who have a ‘right’ to express an opinion on something even where they have no knowledge or background
  • Change is a lengthy process involving patience, stamina and aging.


Directness, a new way of life

  • Dutch people say what they mean. “Do you like my new shoes?” Answer – “No.” The concept of a white-lie does not exist or has been banned by law.
  • Dutch directness is often mistaken by foreigners as rudeness. However, you may not actually be mistaken. Some Dutch people really are rude.
  • The Dutch are suspicious of very courteous dialogue, afraid that an unpleasant message may be cunningly hidden which they are unable to detect.
  • Politeness can cause annoyance as it is considered a waste of time.


Loss of face

  • The Dutch expect others to be open and direct like them. They will tell you what they think of you and criticise your work indifferent of your status if you are a superior or a subordinate.
  • They expect you to criticise their work in return, honestly and directly. If you detect mistakes in their work and you do not inform them about these mistakes, they will be extremely disappointed with you.
  • The Dutch do not feel ashamed when you inform them of a mistake. On the contrary, they feel that you give them the opportunity to correct and thus improve themselves. The Dutch feel that in the end, one learns from his mistakes.
  • Loss of face is a rather unknown concept in Dutch society when compared to other cultures.
  • Everyone involved needs to be heard. In the end a compromise will be reached in which every one agrees. Once agreed upon the work can progress steadily. Therefore, changes are usually lengthy processes.


Imports - partners

  • Germany 17.7%, China 10.5%, Belgium 9.3%, US 7.3%, UK 5.8%, Russia 5.1%, France 4.4% (2007)
  • Agriculture - products:
  • Grains, potatoes, sugar beets, fruits, vegetables; livestock



  • Agro-industries, metal and engineering products, electrical machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum, construction, microelectronics, fishing.


Life in the Netherlands

All in all, life in the Netherlands is bound to be an exciting new chapter. The country is filled with rich history and has some beautiful cities definitely worth exploring.There are a number of international schools available all throughout the country, including The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, ensuring the best possible transition for you and your family.

Not scared away? Rent an apartment in The Netherlands!



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