Netherlands: Conversation

2015-06-12

Welcome topics of conversation

General Guidelines

Be aware of recent political events, both in your own country and in the Netherlands, since the Dutch tend to be keen on discussing politics. Don’t, however, get involved in a political discussion if you are not well informed.

Regarding Dutch politics, remember that one’s choice of party is considered private information.

In private conversation, the Dutch may easily criticize American policies, but remember that in Dutch culture a critical approach is a sign of involvement rather than of rejection

Make it clear that you are aware that the country is officially called the Netherlands. But in speaking English, the Dutch themselves will also say Holland, a shorter term officially referring to only two of the 12 provinces that make up the country.

Contacts are vital to doing business in the Netherlands, so make a point of remembering the family name of every possible person who could give you or your company a good reference.

After first contact, the Dutch like a fairly personal approach, certainly when business contact will be over a longer period. Meaningful conversation is appreciated after business is finished, as a way to become closer.

Welcome Topics of Conversation

your home country or city

your flight and accommodations [briefly only]

politics [if you know what you’re talking about]

Topics to Avoid

boasting about your income and possessions

criticizing the Dutch Royal Family–enquiring about them, however, is OK

religion [This has been a very private issue since the 1970s. Many Dutch people never go to church. They don’t welcome anything they might perceive as proselytizing.]

sex/legalized prostitution in the Netherlands [Asking questions on the issue is OK in some situations, but this is obviously a topic for outside direct business contact.]

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