What is it like to work in a Dutch company for an expat ?

If you are an expat living and working in The Netherlands, chances are that you found a job quickly, but not in a Dutch company. You might have even moved here because you found a job before leaving your own country. But if you are like me and you just packed your stuff and left, without a job and/or a place to live, you would have had to go through the troubles of finding a job while already living in Holland.

Some of you might even still wonder, what is it like to work in a Dutch company ?

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Opinions on the subject may vary, but after a year of living and working in The Netherlands and talking with my fellow expats, I think I’ve got a pretty good overview of it. Let’s see.

Working for a Dutch company : work hard, play hard

It wouldn’t even surprise me if the Dutch had invented the concept : work hard, play hard seems to be the main word in a Dutch company. Well, to be more precise, it would be the case for a big majority of smaller businesses, or startups. I don’t think if you were going to work for a big national bank you would get much chances to play darts at work. But again, you never know…

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Anyway, it is not surprising or uncommon to find a « game area » in the office. Understand darts board, pool table, ping pong table, board games or even a punch bag (to take all that stress off during lunch time). And the Dutch can get quite competitive, so be prepared to take the games… seriously.

They also enjoy organising team events and parties every now and then, where you will get treated to outdoor/indoor activities, restaurant meals and/or drinks in a bar or a party at work. I’ve even heard of companies taking their employees to a little weekend trip in another country.

Friday drinks after work

There’s nothing like a good excuse to drink alcohol at the expense of the company, right ? That’s where friday drinks are very (very) welcome.

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Some companies like to keep nice and cold beers or bottles of wine (and sometimes stronger alcohol) in the fridge, only to take them out on Fridays after work. It’s a good excuse to hang out with your colleagues and work on that « team spirit » with a beer or two.

In some cases, friday drinks are unlimited and you can end up leaving work after 22.00 o’clock without having any complaint…

But even when the company you work for does not provide free drinks after work, it is a very common thing for colleagues to just go to the bar together and have a few drinks anyway. Every Friday. Of every week. The Dutch like to be social as much as they like drinking beer.

Working in a Dutch company without speaking Dutch like…

Everybody in The Netherlands speak English. Well, almost everybody. So chances are extremely high that all of your new colleagues will be fluent in English. However, that does not mean that they want to speak English all the time. In fact, they probably won’t. But could you blame then ? You are in their country after all…

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Your integration in a Dutch company when you are an expat who does not speak Dutch will depend on how many other non Dutch speakers work there, how nice and open minded your colleagues are, how comfortable they are with speaking English and on how fast you can learn Dutch.

Because let’s face it, when you work in a Dutch company as an expat, the best thing is to be able to communicate in Dutch with them, unless they make a point of being an English speaking business.

Learning Dutch can be quite a long and difficult process though, so you will have to find other ways to integrate in the mean time. But like I said, they will probably all speak English. That’s also where friday drinks and team events will help.

But having Dutch colleagues can be your chance to learn Dutch faster, and it is also the best way of getting to know more about the culture of the country, and the Dutch mentality.

Dutch companies trying to keep their employees happy

Happy workers generally means higher productivity and motivation for work ; something that the Dutch seem to have understood a long time ago.

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Of course, cases are different from one company to another and not all companies are good ones to work for, but generally speaking, the Dutch will try to take care of their employees. That means treating them fairly and with respect, and offering some sorts of benefits for working there.

One of the benefits that comes back quite often is to offer free lunches. That’s right : the company provides your lunch, every day of the week. That could be through a fridge full of food (the beer one is separated of course) or through a catering company coming to the office’s kitchen.

The country’s juridictions is also, in my opinion, quite advantageous and protective for workers. Oh yeah, you also get your travel expenses paid back !

And, as a general rule, the Dutch don’t like wasting time with bullshit. They would also take it very personnally if they felt like you were not taking your job very seriously. And in that case, they wouldn’t do you any favour. But that’s fair enough, isn’t it ?

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