11 weird things about being French and working in the Netherlands

Frenchies, brace yourselves 🇫🇷🇳🇱

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Working in the Netherlands can be great — but if you’re French or have worked in France, it can also be a bit of a culture shock. 😬

From lunch habits to workers’ rights, here are our 11 favourite differences between France and the Netherlands when it comes to all things work-related. 

Where can you get help with work stuff as a French person in the Netherlands? At the international recruitment agency Undutchables, of course! They specialise in helping internationals like you find jobs in the lowlands (and have tons of French-speaking vacancies to pick from). 

1. The Dutch workplace isn’t hierarchical

The office building of your Dutch job might be more vertical than horizontal (hello, weirdly skinny Amsterdam houses), but the hierarchy of Dutch workers has the same characteristics as the landscape of the Netherlands: as flat as a pancake. 

The Dutch workplace is all about efficiency — no time for hierarchy. Image: Depositphotos

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #111: Have a lack of hierarchy

Unlike the formal top-down structure that dominates French office culture, the Dutch like to ditch their image of being organised and systematic. Why have a clear, hierarchical workplace ladder when you can keep things flat and chill?

Now, that doesn’t mean nobody’s in charge in the Netherlands. It just means they’re all kind of in charge. And it works wonderfully. Usually. 

2. The French love to kiss-kiss to say hello

Ok, before you say anything about those weirdos in the south of the Netherlands, let’s get one thing straight: it’s not nearly as common to kiss people as a greeting here in the lowlands as it is in France. 

READ MORE: Dutch Quirk #22: Give everyone three kisses to say hello

In France, it’s a common and un-romantic gesture to greet your coworkers with a kiss or two (or three) — a mere handshake won’t cut it. 

In the Netherlands, on the other hand, we dare you to try walking into your office and giving your boss a kiss. Okay, don’t — you might end up looking for a new job. 

3. The Dutch don’t have a “right to disconnect” (they just do it anyway)

France is one of the few countries in the world that has codified the right to chill. The “right to disconnect” is a law in France (as well as many other European countries) that protects workers against having to receive or reply to work-related emails, calls, and messages outside of official working hours. 

It’s a phenomenal system that helps employees escape the dangers of being overworked and relieves the pressure of going above and beyond what you’re supposed to do, simply because your boss tells you to.

Wave ‘doei’ to work emails! Image: Depositphotos

Nice, right? Well, the Dutch have said nee bedankt (no thanks), and have not yet implemented a similar law. Thankfully, the Netherlands has a great work-life balance, so it’s not common to send or reply to work-related messages outside working hours anyways. 

4. The French take lunch seriously

Look, we love broodje met kaas and a good handful of hagelslag on our krentenbollen just as much as the next person. But for lunch? We’ve got to admit, the French just do it better. 

While a worker’s lunch break in France is seen as an opportunity to sit down with a big, hot meal (and perhaps a cheeky glass of wine) to have a long, philosophical conversation with their coworkers, the Dutch workplace looks a little different. 

READ MORE | The Dutch food dream: 13 unmissable dishes in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, lunch is not something you make a fuss about. Just pull out the two slices of bread you’ve kept in your backpack since you left for work, and enjoy how the cheese between them is somehow both sweaty and dry at the same time. 

Bonus points if you consume your “meal” while still sitting in front of your computer. The French would never — it’s actually against the law to eat lunch at your desk in France!

5. The Dutch start work earlier

With their famous “right to disconnect”, it’s probably no surprise that the French typically start their work day ever so slightly later than the Dutch. 

In France, it’s not uncommon to get to work sometime between 9 and 10 AM, while the Dutch generally tend to arrive before the clock strikes 9. 

Frenchies, get ready to start work early. Image: Freepik

The late start might be because of the French rule stating that workers have the right to at least 11 consecutive hours of rest between each work day. 

Considering the French habit of staying at work until after 6 PM (a Dutch dinner is already finished at this point), it’s no wonder they’re not interested in a 7 AM start. 

6. The French dress formally

Ok, we’ve already established that the Dutch are (perhaps surprisingly) chill and cool™, a fact that also extends to their typical workplace attire. 

We’re not talking extremes, though, so regardless of how relaxed your workplace claims it is, you’re probably best off leaving your crustiest pair of PJs at home. 

READ MORE | Dutch quirk #8: dress the same as every other Dutchie (AKA the Dutch uniform)

Still, Dutch workers are generally not expected to wear anything overly formal to work, and sneakers and jeans are usually totally fine (depending on where you work, of course). 

In France, the standards are typically a bit higher. You know, blazers, closed-toe shoes, freshly steamed button-ups. The French like to look presentable at work, while the Dutch dress more for convenience and comfort — and cycling. 

Jeans are perfectly fine to wear in many Dutch offices. Image: Freepik

7. The Dutch leave work on time

If you’re just going to take one stereotype away from this article, let it be this one: Dutch people are (sometimes painfully) punctual. That means that they do their absolute best to come to work on time (of course), but it doesn’t end there.

READ MORE | The Dutch and time: how their language shows they are planning maniacs

In the Netherlands, being punctual is not the same as going above and beyond. What that means is that in addition to getting to work on time, Dutch people will do their absolute best to leave work on time too.

The Netherlands didn’t earn its title as the best country for work/life balance in the world for nothing. Five o’clock is borrel time, no matter what your hard-working, inner perfectionist says. 

8. French people are almost impossible to fire

If you thought it was difficult to lose your job in the Netherlands, wait until you hear about France. 

It’s so difficult to fire someone in France, the French have come up with an interesting solution. 

It’s called “putting someone in the closet,” an arrangement where an employer strips responsibilities and tasks from their unwanted worker, making the worker feel useless and irrelevant until they quit in frustration. 

It’s not easy to lose your job in the Netherlands — but it’s even harder in France. Image: Freepik

It’s not outright easy to lose your job in the Netherlands, but it’s certainly easier than in France. In NL, you can get sacked if your temporary contract expires, if you don’t pass your probation time, if you’re made redundant, or if you simply don’t have a great performance. 

Your employer simply has to ask the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) for permission, and you can be out the door before you can say werkloosheidsuitkering (unemployment benefits).

9. The Dutch hiring process is surprisingly short

The Dutch hiring process typically takes between one and two months, depending on the size of the company and the nature of the job. 

So, although internationals tend to be more frustrated than happy with the Dutch hiring process, it is actually faster than that of most other countries. 

READ MORE | 5 steps to stay sane when looking for a job in the Netherlands

The French process, for example, can take absolute ages. To be fair, since it’s so tricky to get rid of your employees in France, it’s no surprise that they like to take their sweet time when hiring new folks. 

10. French meetings are philosophical and inefficient

As an international working in the Netherlands, you’ll quickly have to adapt to a new work culture and get on board with new expectations for how meetings are run. 

Whereas meetings in a Dutch workplace typically are there to make democratic decisions, the purpose of a French meeting tends to be about deliberation rather than decision-making.

While French meetings have their merits, the constant back-and-forth can get tiring. Image: Freepik

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #105: Always be on time to every meeting and appointment

As French children learn debating and philosophising in school, it’s no wonder work meetings in France tend to be long and, from a Dutch perspective, inefficient affairs. 

So, if you want to get up to speed on the Dutch ways, keep in mind that efficient decision-making is a key component in respecting local business culture. 

11. The Dutch love to borrel with their colleagues

Yes, the French are no strangers to a refreshing alcoholic beverage after work. No, it’s in no way as institutionalised as the Dutch borrel tradition

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #91: Live their lives for the borrel at the end of the week

You might have thought that the Dutch lifestyle was fueled by stroopwafels, biking, and the fresh air of the blossoming tulip fields. But no, the truth is that Dutch people survive on borrel beer. 

The best way to curate work relationships in the Netherlands is at a borrel. Image: Depositphotos

They live and breathe borrels. In fact, there is no Dutch workplace with respect for itself that doesn’t host a weekly, or at least monthly, borrel for its employees. 

It’s about relaxing, letting loose, and getting your internal beer supply topped up before it’s time to get back to work again. It’s simply crucial to the flow and productivity of the Dutch workforce. French people: take notes. 

Interested in working in the Netherlands but not 100% sure where to begin? With tons of jobs for French speakers in the Netherlands (as well as a bunch of other languages), Undutchables will give your job search a well-deserved boost. 

Although there are bound to be differences (both small and big) when moving to a new place, you can rest assured that the Netherlands is a great place to work as an international. 

READ MORE | The 19 biggest differences between France and the Netherlands

Embrace the unique culture of the country of beer, bikes, and dikes, and enjoy your Dutch working adventure!

What’s your experience with working in the Netherlands as an international? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image:DutchReview
Juni Moltubak
Juni Moltubak
Juni moved to the Netherlands after realizing how expensive tuition fees in the UK are, and never regretted her choice of studying in The Hague. After three years of Political Science, she is ready for a new adventure — an internship at DutchReview! When you don’t see her typing on her laptop she can be found strolling around Haagse Bos or sitting in her lovely garden scrolling through interior design TikToks.

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