7 ways a Dutch job is different
1. 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)!
2. 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? 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 the dress code first so you don’t make a first-day fashion faux pas.
3. 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 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 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.
5. 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 an 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.
6. 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 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. 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 — 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. 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! 🤺