Your guide to expat life in Netherlands

Working in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has one of Europe’s strongest economies – and key industries include food processing, chemicals, gas and oil. Expats are attracted to the country by great job prospects and good working conditions.

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Doing business

The Netherlands has a modern, egalitarian society where hard work is expected but family time is also valued. Networking is important and the Dutch are known for the amount of time they spend in meetings.

Thanks to its location and its open and internationally oriented economy, the country is an attractive destination for business. It has a competitive and growing market that offers expats plenty of opportunities for career development.

In The World Bank’s 2017 Ease of Doing Business Survey, the Netherlands was ranked 28th out of 190 countries, placing it above other expat destinations in Europe such as Italy, Spain and Belgium. It scored particularly well for starting a business and trading across borders.

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Business culture

Although Dutch business structures are hierarchical, the work culture is collaborative and everyone’s input is valued. Decisions can take time – so you’ll have to be patient if you’re used to a faster pace of business.

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Communication style

The Dutch are direct – so you’ll always know where you stand with your co-workers and superiors. This style of communication can come across as rude and it may take you a while to get used to it.

Work ethic

Dutch businesspeople are hardworking and disciplined. Self-control is important and displays of emotion are rare. Punctuality is vital and it’s common to skip the pleasantries at meetings to get straight down to business.

Social occasions

The Dutch usually keep their work and personal lives separate – and it’s rare to socialise with colleagues after office hours.

Fast facts

Business language

Dutch is the official language, but English, French and German are also widely used.

Business hours

Usually from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Dutch law stipulates that people can’t work more than 45 hours a week – so overtime is uncommon.


Business dress is smart casual. Men tend to wear suits but they aren’t always expected to wear a tie and can take off their jackets in the office. Women wear conservative dresses and trouser suits.


A firm handshake with direct eye contact is the standard greeting between businessmen and women.


Gifts aren’t usually exchanged during Dutch business dealings.

Gender equality

Although Dutch society is liberal and men and women have equal rights, in practice women earn lower salaries and don’t hold as many senior positions in business.

Expat salaries

Expats can earn high salaries in the Netherlands. They tend to fill roles that locals aren’t qualified to do because a Dutch company hiring an expat must prove there’s no better applicant within the country. Salaries tend to be higher than in Spain and Italy, but lower than in England and Germany.

Join a local business networking group and offer something for free to get to know other businesses. This is a good way to establish yourself initially as a trusted and friendly business.

Meghan Fenn

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All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in August 2016. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you are aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.