CULTURAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN GERMANY AND THE NETHERLANDS? IT’S JUST A MATTER OF ADAPTING A LITTLE…
BEER AND BRATWURST AND A BARGAIN CARAVAN
Dutch people have quite a lot of cliché ideas about Germany, of which ‘Beer and Bratwurst’ is often the first one to be mentioned. And the same thing happens the other way round. Many Germans have an unusual idea of the Netherlands and its inhabitants: ‘All Dutch people have caravans and love a bargain (even a useless one).’
Whether or not the clichés are true, there are naturally differences between the Dutch and German cultures. And if you’re going to be doing business together, it’s a good idea to take these differences into consideration. More mutual understanding and appreciation for each other’s idiosyncrasies tends to grow when Dutch and German people work together for a while.
Cultural differences need not be a problem as long as you approach them in a positive way. We will soon be posting a more detailed article about doing business with Germany.
NICE TO MEET YOU… NOW DOWN TO BUSINESS!
One example of a cultural difference in business contacts between the Netherlands and Germany is the way in which negotiations are conducted. To Germans, meetings in the Netherlands often seem less structured, thanks to the Dutch consensus-based way of doing things. Dutch people discuss all options and opinions before making decisions, a process which seems quite lengthy to German people. However, the experience may well be different in such a case, if a Dutch person explains that the more staff you involve in the whole process, the broader the support you create for a decision.
And what about the amount of time taken for the process of getting to know each other, particularly in the case of a business collaboration. In Germany, you get down to business quite a bit faster: straight to the object of the meeting! Dutch people generally like to get to know their business partner better before getting down to the order of the day. (The funny thing is that by contrast, other cultures, including Belgians, feel that the Dutch are too fast and blunt, but that’s a whole other blog!)
There’s a simple solution: if you, the Dutch person, demonstrate professionalism and expertise, qualities much admired by the average German person, then it’s unlikely that anyone will object to a chat beforehand.
“During a team building session, people were all using the informal ‘you’ but during the meeting the next day, it was suddenly all back to addressing each other formally…”
FIRST NAMES, MR OR MS…WHAT’S THE ETIQUETTE?
In English, it’s easy, since the language has no formal and informal ‘you’. But even in languages which do, there are differences in the use of forms of address, for example between the Dutch and Germans. In the Netherlands, the form of address is often dependent on the age of the other person. And I might be alone in this, but it seems as though the informal ‘you’ is being used more often and sooner in business in the Netherlands.
In Germany, business partners and colleagues address each other with the formal ‘you’. One of our clients, who interacts with her German business partners on a daily basis, was surprised recently when, during a team building session in Germany, people all used the informal ‘you’. The next day during the meeting, it was back to formal ‘you’ business as usual. This more official form of address is often interpreted – wrongly by the way – in the Netherlands as creating distance. But look at it in a positive light, see it as an expression of politeness, a way of showing respect for the other person.
All right, just one more. German people often feel that the Dutch have a need to keep everything convivial (in Dutch – ‘gezellig’, difficult to translate into other languages, including German!). The Dutch, on the other hand, often speak of the German thoroughness (Gründlichkeit). The beauty of this combination can be seen in the fact that Dutch and German people can generally work excellently together.
In order to dot the i’s in such collaborations, it’s naturally important to be thorough and prepare well, whether the communication is in Dutch, German or another language.
We are glad to be of assistance! From or into German, Dutch or any other language. And always with the help of our experienced native speakers – our own little bit of ‘gezellige Gründlichkeit’, you might say.
Interested in learning more? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us! We are happy to help!