Cultural Differences and Similarities between the United States and the Netherlands

Cultural Differences and Similarities between the United States and the Netherlands

Before I moved here, one of the first things I heard about the United States’ culture was how common it is to refer to a businessperson by their first name after just meeting a couple of times. As a foreigner, I found this most peculiar, although it is becoming common practice in the Netherlands as well.



When it comes to writing, the Dutch generally believe that hyperboles are used frequently in the U.S. In contrast, the Dutch are known for being mellow, and hyperboles are not often used. Whether or not this is a positive trait is something to keep in mind while translating. The Dutch use compliments scarcely, and this is essential to your work when translating from American English to Dutch. It is also important to keep the context of the language in mind, because it can be a challenge to really understand the cultural aspects.


From one language to another, this word can mean anything from something that is actually considered to be fantastic in the literal sense, to something that is simply normal. While an American project manager might describe: “The work you have delivered so far is fantastic!”a Dutch manager might say something along the lines of: “Tot nu toe heb je redelijk goed werk verricht, maar er is altijd ruimte voor verbetering,” which translates to “So far, you have delivered good work, but there is always room for improvement.”

Process-Driven Or Goal-Oriented?

Another main difference is that the Dutch are more process-driven, whereas Americans are usually more goal-oriented. This is one of the differences that I’ve found most difficult to work with, as a foreigner. When I had to complete a project with an American friend, it quickly became a confusing situation trying to find the proper way to achieve a goal. My American friend was focused more on the result, whereas I wanted to make sure the process that led to the result was streamlined. One positive aspect of this experience was that she loved statistics and discovering differences, to prove why our idea was really productive or good.

Feelings and Pessimism

When working with a person from the Netherlands, it is important to know that the Dutch tend to be open and direct about practically anything. We prefer to genuinely admit our discomfort than remain silent. Although having a very friendly conversation with a colleague or client is something that we welcome, of course, it is something we consider to be quite odd. To such an extent that, if a conversation goes on for too long talking about positive things, the Dutch person will likely become paranoid and believe there is a negative hidden message in the conversation. It is actually common for a Dutch person to believe a negative message will come at the end of a conversation.

Working Together

The consensus in the Netherlands is that it is great to work with people from the U.S. and the Dutch enjoy the American work ethic. Even though the Dutch take their time when it comes to decision-making, and Americans tend to make decisions at an overall speedier rate, we get along well when it comes to working together.


About Tim Oldenhuis

I’m a native Dutch translator living in the Netherlands. I translate for Coursera to help make education accessible for everyone. My interests are SEO, Gamification and Marketing. I translate website content and blogs, primarily from English and German into Dutch.


Are You Leveraging All Your...

Hiring professional translators to adapt every word of your website for a foreign audience can seem like a daunting (and...
Continue reading
global audience

Fuel Your International Marketing With...

Translating your brand message in a way that resonates with foreign audiences remains the central challenge of international marketing. But...
Continue reading

Translation Quality or Translation Speed?...

All marketing gigs are not created equal. “We’re essentially creating a new language,” explains Toni Vicars, Marketing Director EMEA of...
Continue reading

3 Markets Where App Localization...

One year spent building a business case and securing a budget. Several months spent confirming requirements and recruiting talent. Countless...
Continue reading