7 ways a Dutch job is different

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Dreaming of a Dutch job? Here’s the thing: working in the Netherlands can be dramatically different to working in other countries. 

Work culture? Different. Work structure? Unconventional. Work clothes? Total change…  

Whether you’re looking for your dream Dutch job or have already found it, here are seven ways that a Dutch job is, well, just different!

Who knows better how a Dutch workplace functions than our fave recruitment consultants Undutchables! We teamed up to drill down on what makes Dutch work-life so incomparable to other countries.

Goodbye hierarchy: egalitarianism is a real thing

Tired of kissing your boss’s boots? The Netherlands egalitarian work culture may just be the right fit for you. While a hierarchy generally exists, it’s rarely put into force. Instead, workers are valued for what they bring to the table — not their job title. 

This goes both ways though: while you may be used to looking toward your boss to lead, they’ll equally be looking back at you for your own ideas, input and decisions. Teamwork also plays a big role in Dutch workplaces — which may explain their fondness for team days (also known as teamuitjes)!

Formal clothes are (generally) not required

If you’re looking to ditch the suit and tie it’s time to move to the land of bikes. You may be shocked on your first day in the office to discover people in t-shirts, jeans, or other casual clothing. Have you walked in on casual Friday? Nope! This is often the standard of dress in a Dutch workplace. Perhaps it has something to do with how many people cycle to work? 

Working attire is not necessarily formal in the Netherlands. Image:Austin Distel/Unsplash

But as with anything else, be wary: we don’t recommend wearing board shorts and thongs to the office on your first day — check-in with your hiring manager and ask about dress code first so you don’t make a first-day fashion faux pas

Drinking with your colleagues is normal

Perhaps in your home country you drink to forget your boss — but in the Netherlands, you drink with your boss. Remember that nice egalitarian culture we discussed? That extends to social situations too! 

It’s common for workplaces to hold a borrel on a Friday night after a week well done. Get ready to tip back some beers or wine, chow down on some lekker bitterballen, and have a laugh with your boss and colleagues. 

This is so common in Dutch work culture there’s even a handy name for it: VriMiBo a.k.a VRIdag MIddag BOrrelen (or in English: Friday afternoon drinks). 

Your job is likely temporary until you have the golden permanent contract

Applied, interviewed, hired, and now a long-term employee? In the Netherlands, not quite. While you may have landed that Dutch job of your dreams, there’s a chance you’ll only have it for a year. Unless you’re in a highly desirable field, like tech, you’ll likely only be offered a temporary contract — to begin with.

So when do you get a cherished permanent contract? Not for a while! Your workplace will likely keep offering you temporary positions for three years, or three contracts, whichever comes first. Then, they’re required by law to make you a permanent employee, unless defined differently in your collective labour agreement.

Dutch directness is real: no beating around the bush

If you haven’t heard about the infamous Dutch directness, oh boy — this is a doozy. Simply put, people in the Netherlands don’t beat around the bush. They’ll tell you if you have spinach in your teeth, cooked a bad meal, or gained a few extra kilos on your latest vacation. 

If you think the office is a sacred place for positive feedback, you’re wrong. If you’re doing a bad job — you’ll know about it. But on the other hand, if you’re doing a bad job, you’ll know about it — and can fix it! While your boss’s or colleague’s direct way of speaking can be a shock at first, you’ll soon get used to it. Who knows, maybe you’ll start being more direct yourself.

Working from home is (kinda) enshrined in law

We all have a life outside of work, so on top of the Netherlands having the best work-life balance in the world, it also offers the Flexible Working Act since 2016. This law says that if you want to work from home or have flexible working hours (for example, to pick up or care for your child), you have the right to request it from your boss. 

Need to work from home? It’s a right in the Netherlands!  Image: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

To take advantage of this, you must submit the request in writing at least two months before the proposed start date. Then, your boss must consider it and get back to you within one month before the change is due to take effect. Realistically, a boss is only supposed to decline a flexible working hours request if “compelling business or service interests dictate otherwise,” at which point you must be informed in writing. School pickup, here you come!

Team meetings are deadly efficient

Let’s step back for a second and remember that the Dutch are the ones that claimed land back from the sea — what a feat! How did they manage to install such an impressive system of dykes, locks, and canals that often run directly through private property? Meetings, communication, and negotiation. No joke. 

Hundreds of years on, these characteristics of the Dutch still ring true. The Dutch believe strongly in holding meetings, both formally in the conference room, or informally by the coffee machine. If you’re at a meeting, be prepared to speak up — you’re in there for a reason. And one last tip: don’t dare be late. To the negotiations!

Working in the Netherlands may be different, but that’s part of what makes it so great! So what’s next? Find out how to get a work visa for the Netherlands or land a sponsored job, what benefits you can claim from your Dutch employer, and if you need to speak Dutch to work in the Netherlands. 

Or, are you ready to secure the Dutch job of your dreams? Get in touch with Undutchables to find out how!

What do you think of these characteristics that make a Dutch job different? Got any others to add to the list? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: Leon/Unsplash

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in April 2021, and was fully updated in August 2021 for your reading pleasure.

Samantha Dixon 🇦🇺
Sam isn’t great at being Dutch. Originally hailing from Australia, she came to study in the Netherlands without knowing where the country was on a map. She once accidentally ordered the entire ice-cream menu at Smullers. She still can’t jump on the back of a moving bike. But, she remains fascinated by the tiny land of tall people.

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  1. I spent 2 months in The Hague with the circus and we hired a lot of local Dutch crew members to help us set up and run the show. I made buddies with one in particular who opened my eyes to Dutch culture and work ethics. I learned about contracts and having to be re hired in some cases or contracts only lasting certain lengths of time instead of open ended ones usually found in the US. I’m in the process of awaiting a potential contract in January with a Dutch company and this contract only lasts 6 months.

    As an American I am very attracted to the Dutch work culture and ethics involved. A very relaxed work culture compared to most I’ve had in the pat.


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