7 ways a Dutch job is different

Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore πŸ•

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 how a Dutch workplace functions better than our fave recruitment consultants Undutchables! We teamed up to drill down on what makes Dutch work-life so incomparable to other countries. Want a job in the Netherlands? See the vacancies.

1. Goodbye hierarchy: egalitarianism is a real thing πŸ‘‘

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 β€” not their job title. 

In the Netherlands, people will be direct in giving feedback β€” sometimes too direct! Image: Freepik

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 β€” which may explain their fondness for team days (also known as teamuitjes)!

2. Formal clothes are (generally) not required πŸ‘–

If you’re looking to ditch the suit and tie, it’s time to move to the land of bikes. On your first day in the office, you may be shocked to discover people in t-shirts, jeans, or other casual clothing.

Have you walked in on a 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: Unsplash

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

3. Drinking with your colleagues is normal 🍻

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

Say “Proost!” Drinking culture in the Netherlands is a big deal β€” bring on the borrelen! Image: Freepik

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 that there’s even a handy name for it: VriMiBo a.k.a VRIdag MIddag BOrrelen (or, in English: Friday afternoon drinks). 

4. 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 12 months.

Unless you’re in a highly desirable field, like tech, you’ll likely only be offered a temporary contract β€” to begin with.

Make an impression in your first weeks, months, and year at your Dutch job β€” you’ll need it! Image: Freepik

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.

5. Dutch directness is real πŸ‘€

If you haven’t heard about the infamous Dutch directness, oh boy β€” 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. 

Work not up to scratch? The Dutch will have no qualms telling you straight to your face. Image: Freepik

If you think an office is a sacred place for positive feedback, you’re wrong. If you’re doing a bad job β€” you’ll know about it. But on the other hand, if you know about it, you 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.

6. Working from home is (kinda) enshrined in law πŸ§‘β€πŸ’»

We all have a life outside of work, so on top of the Netherlands having the best work-life balance in the world, it has also offered a 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: Depositphotos

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!

7. 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 β€” what a feat!

How did they manage to install such an impressive system of dykes, locks, and canals that often run directly through private properties? Meetings, communication, and negotiation. No joke. 

Get prepared for fast-paced meetings with your coworkers. Image: Freepik

Hundreds of years on, these characteristics of the Dutch still ring true. The Dutch believe strongly in holding efficient meetings, both formally in the conference room, or informally by the coffee machine.

If you’re at a meeting, be prepared to speak up β€” you’re in there for a reason. And one last tip: don’t you dare be late. To the negotiations we go! 🀺

Working in the Netherlands may be different, but that’s part of what makes it so great! So what’s next?

Are you ready to secure the Dutch job of your dreams? The experts at Undutchables are the pros at helping you find the perfect job in the Netherlands. Find your new job here.

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!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in April 2021, and was fully updated in May 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Freepik
Samantha Dixon πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί
Samantha Dixon πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ίhttps://gallivantations.com
Sam has over six years experience writing about life in the Netherlands and leads the content team at DutchReview. She originally came to the Netherlands to study in 2016 and now holds a BA (Hons.) in Arts, a BA (Hons) in Journalism, and (almost) a Masters in Teaching. She loves to write about settling into life in the Netherlands, her city of Utrecht, learning Dutch, and jobs in the Netherlands β€” and she still can’t jump on the back of a moving bike (she's learning!).

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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.

  2. It took 5 years to get a permanent contract — everyone was happy with my work but it was somehow cheaper for the company that way. We also had showers at work, so people who biked in bad weather could get cleaned up and dried off. I never saw any colleague, male or female, wear shorts at work. Maybe this depends on the type of work.


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