Meetings in the Netherlands

door Regina Coeli

Nowhere else will you have as many meetings as in Dutch companies. The Dutch adore consulting, brainstorming and meeting up. Even though you often hear them sighing about their diaries being packed with back-to-back meetings, the alternative—no meetings—would be even less appealing. Then the Dutch would feel left out and that their opinion does not count.

It is quite normal for Dutch companies to have regular departmental meetings and for employees to be involved in cross-departmental and project meetings. And that does not even include the ‘bi-las’, or bilateral meetings, those one-to-ones with your manager. Dutch directors need to have excellent chairing skills, because their diaries are always full of meetings.

Do you find Dutch meetings something of an enigma? Then read on for some pearls of wisdom and helpful tips.

Characteristics of a Dutch meeting

  • Meetings are generally scheduled well in advance. The organiser will often even plan all the meetings on a given topic in the participants’ calendars for the entire year.
  • Meetings start on time. The Dutch are extremely punctual, because time is money.
  • The meeting follows an agenda which has a number of fixed items and a number of current items.
  • Minutes are generally taken and then discussed at the following meeting. The idea behind this is that participants can correct any errors in the minutes, but in reality, things sometimes end up being completely re-discussed—no easy task for the chairperson.
  • During the ‘any other business’ round, everyone has a chance to add a point or two, ask questions or make comments. These may or may not have anything to do with the subjects discussed during the meeting.
  • What is becoming increasingly common is an additional round at the end of a meeting to evaluate how each participant felt about the meeting. This is sometimes done at the beginning of the meeting so new participants can be introduced or to get a feel for everyone’s expectations. Be prepared for questions such as:
    o What do you expect from the meeting today?
    o How did you experience the meeting?

The Dutch communication style

If you have already taken part in Dutch meetings, you are probably used to the communication style of the Dutch by now. Not only do the Dutch have a particular style when they speak Dutch, but that same style comes through when they use other languages. They:

  • are direct, honest and as such not always diplomatic.
  • avoid bragging and exaggeration. The down-to-earth Dutch have built-in BS detectors.
  • are interested in everyone’s opinion. In the Netherlands, it is normal for everyone to have their say and to not interrupt.

Decision-making process in meetings

Dutch people like to be involved in the decision-making process. That is why everyone is allowed to give their input during meetings, after which a joint decision is taken. The principle behind this is that by doing so, there will be more support for it in the organisation.

Or perhaps not… In the Netherlands, decisions are rarely definitive. It could be that a decision is revisited a number of times down the road because one of the participants has a good argument that did not come up before—evidence that Dutch business life does not revolve around hierarchy.

Fully participate in Dutch meetings

Have you noticed that you are not able to participate in meetings as easily as your Dutch colleagues? This may be due to cultural differences, but it is more likely that this is due to your language skills. If you have to sit there thinking about the best way to say what you think, your Dutch colleagues will beat you to it every time.

For this reason, it is helpful to be able to speak off the cuff during Dutch meetings: to be able to add a point, say that you have a different opinion or fully agree with a colleague. We can teach you how!

During your Dutch course at Regina Coeli, you talk about the subjects that really matter to you and get to practice situations you personally find difficult. Meetings can be a part of that. You can even use Regina Coeli’s VR lab to practice meetings!

Interested? Then simply contact us by:

Share this page

Are you interested in language and career?

Just leave your email address with us and we will be happy to keep you informed.