In the book “Typisch Nederlands” (Typically Dutch), Neriman, a Turkish woman describes her first experience with Koninginnedag (Queen’s day, with the accession of Willem-Alexander this is now Koningsdag or King’s Day): “I was walking through the city with a friend, and I saw a little stall offering orange bottles. I grabbed one and wanted to take a swig. But my friend warned me: “You have to pay first.” I didn’t understand. I thought it was free. A gift offered by the Queen. After all, it was her birthday.”
Who wants to sell old rubbish?
It was a cultural misunderstanding, but an understandable one. Even just the difference in hierarchy between Turkey and the Netherlands explains it. Let’s be honest: do you know any Dutch person who wakes up happy on King’s day because it’s the King’s birthday? I know I don’t. We do not particularly adore the King. Nonetheless, the Netherlands sees the most exuberant celebration of a King’s or Queen’s birthday in the world. The celebration’s most remarkable feature? Its flea market. Who wants to spend their free time selling old rubbish in the street?
A deal right away
On King’s day, we celebrate free trade. When I interviewed English entrepreneur John Gration for the book “Tutti Frutti” he said: “New products should be invented by the English, made by the Germans and sold by the Dutch.” Dzidra, who is from Latvia, confirms this: “The Dutch are indeed innovative, can present themselves well – and they can sell well.” Dutch people want to make a deal right away, and everything has to be put on paper immediately. Their communication is very sales-oriented.
Can I trust you?
The reason for this sales-oriented communication is very simple. We can afford to close a deal right away. If something goes wrong, our legal assistance insurance can help us out. In countries where the legal system is not as reliable, you have to make contact on a more personal level first. That requires time. Your product can be fantastic, but if you’re not willing to strike up new friendships, it is going to be a bust. This is why forming long-term relationships before entering into business is so important in countries in Southern Europe, South-America, Africa and Asia. Who are you? Can I trust you? That is always the key question. That is why you’re invited over for dinner. And that is why food and drinks have to come first – for free, without paying.
About Saskia Maarse
Saskia Maarse is an intercultural speaker, trainer and author. She writes and speaks about Dutch culture in both business / professional and social life. In her blogs, books and professional talks and workshops she uncovers the origins of deep-rooted Dutch characteristics. Saskia also explains what we can learn from and about other cultures – in areas like communication, leadership and human behaviour.