Podcast
Working with the Dutch
Netherlands
August 3, 2023
59 Min

Working with the Dutch with Coco Hofs

"Dutch people may be perceived as arrogant, but their confidence stems from their commitment to getting tasks and projects done, driven by a sense of responsibility and belief in achieving results."
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Working with the Dutch

What immediately comes to the fore when the conversation turns to Dutch work culture?

It's their remarkable balance between work and life, the uncompromising pragmatism, strong egalitarianism, and unflinching directness in communication.

Every seminar, lecture, or webinar on cross-cultural communication and management about the Dutch work culture mentions this.

My intriguing discourse with the Dutch native Coco Hofs reveals the distinguishing characteristics of Dutch society alongside the nuances of working with or managing someone from the Netherlands.

It's a fascinating exploration into one of the most unique and captivating cultures when understanding workplace dynamics.

Show Notes

Coco is Dutch and has lived outside of The Netherlands since 2016. She lives in Peru and runs her own business, ‘Cross-cultural Solutions’. With Cross-Cultural Solutions, she helps organizations overcome cultural differences in the international workplace.

She helps professionals operating in a global economy understand our cultural background's impact when doing business internationally and across cultures. In her opinion, organizations tend to forget that cultural differences significantly impact how smoothly the business goes and how well teams of different cultural backgrounds work together.

Coco comes from a corporate background, where she worked in an executive management role for the H&M Group for over 10 years. She has lived and worked in The Netherlands, Singapore, Japan and Chile. When she worked in Japan, she realized that managing cultural differences in the international workplace took a lot of time and energy. Time and Energy that, according to her, could have been dedicated to bringing business results to the company. It became clear to her that when those differences are not managed well, we leaders miss out on important queues and cannot influence others in a way that brings the best for all.

She is a cross-cultural trainer, executive coach, keynote speaker and works with companies from all over the world, including companies from The Netherlands.

Connect with Coco

Her Website

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From the episode

The Polder Model

Key Episode Insights

Dutch Directness and Communication Style

  • Dutch people are known for their direct nature in the workplace, always telling it like it is.
  • The Dutch are known worldwide for their directness, which is evident in both general communication and giving negative feedback.
  • Dutch culture sees negative direct feedback as a gift for improvement.
  • The Dutch emphasis on explicit communication may have been a key factor in their success in trading with different cultures across the world.
  • English proficiency is highly valued in the Dutch workplace, making it an important language for professionals to adapt to.
  • "We're so well connected in today's world that we hardly forget that we might have a different cultural background, which is beautiful and extremely tricky at the same time."

Dutch Work Ethic and Values

  • Dutch people are practical, pragmatic, and value consensus in decision-making, believing that better results can be achieved when everyone agrees.
  • The Dutch are known for being disciplined, time efficient, and having a high sense of responsibility.
  • Northern European cultures, including the Dutch, value autonomy and self-reliance, with the belief that individuals can figure things out themselves while offering support when needed.
  • Giving Dutch employees the freedom to work independently and achieve goals in their own way can lead to high performance and productivity.
  • Dutch people may be perceived as arrogant, but their confidence stems from their commitment to getting tasks and projects done, driven by a sense of responsibility and belief in achieving results.
  • Taking ownership and initiative is highly valued in the Dutch workplace, both personally and professionally.

Work-Life Balance and Supportive Policies

  • "Work-life balance is a very important topic in the Netherlands, as the Dutch really appreciate their personal and private time."
  • The Netherlands is relatively advanced in terms of supporting work-life balance, offering options such as part-time work and parental leave
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Paul Arnesen
Paul Arnesen
Host, Working With Us Podcast

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Full Transcript

Paul: Hi, Coco. Welcome to the working with us Podcast. How are you today?

Coco: Thank you very much for having me. I am great. Thanks a lot.


- Paul
So how did you end up in Peru? We are doing this podcast. We are talking about Dutch work culture. You're from the Netherlands, but you're in Peru, as far as I understand.


- Coco
Correct? Actually, I have not been living in the Netherlands since 2016, early 2016, when for my employer at the time, I worked for H&M, the Swedish retailer, and I got the opportunity to move to Singapore, followed by Japan. And then in 2018, I moved to Chile, responsible for Chile and Peru, for H and M as well. And then I said, you know what, it's not going to happen to me that I'm going to fall in love with a local Chilean, because that's relatively inconvenient. I'm here on a temporary expat assignment. But like many things in life, when you express them out loud, it happens. So I met my current Chilean partner, and he then got the opportunity for his employer to move from Chile to Peru. And yeah, I decided to tag along.


- Paul
Yeah. Isn't it wonderful how we sort know, spread our wings out of our own culture and we embrace it? Right. I'm in the same situation living in Italy because I'm with an. You know, that's sort of the reality, and I think it's really nice. How do you find it over there in the South Americas?


- Coco
I really love it. Really? Well, in the meanwhile, I'm not no longer working in corporate environment anymore, and I'm running my own business. But I have to say that when I moved to Chile in 2018, I really had to get used to the corporate way of working in Latin America. And it's so extremely different compared to, for example, the Dutch way that we're going to talk about much more today. But let's say as an individual, personally, I felt so at home always. So there's something with this continent, or there's a big Latina inside of me hidden somewhere. Could also be. But I really enjoy my time in Latin America. I love Chile, but when my partner said, okay, are you up for moving to Peru? I was. I really, really have a good time here. It's a beautiful continent. Really?


- Paul
Yeah. You could even say just my ignorance. Maybe when I read your name the first time by Coco would be like a Spanish name in some sense, right? So maybe you had some Spanish roots there. And as I understand it, is your real name, it's in your passport and everything.


- Coco
The number one question asked, like, is Coco a nickname or what does it stand for? My entire life has been the most frequently asked question, but it's my real name. There's zero Spanish influences. And the thing is, actually, in the Spanish language, cocoa is very often referred to cocoa, nut, know, palm tree or anything so it's not the most convenient name, if you think about it, living in Latin America. But I'm pulling it off. Seems that it's going well.


- Paul
Yeah. I mean, one of my probably favorite cartoons in the last decades is Coco, which is a Disney, I think, or Pixar, I don't remember. But anyways, let's just jump on to the topic, which is actually Dutch work culture. That's why we're here. I have now developed a standard question out of my own curiosity, because it's not that I don't understand it, but I don't know this. In all culture, what do the Dutch person do for lunch in a typical office environment in the Netherlands?


- Coco
Yeah, I wouldn't call that super vibrant, to be super honest. So the Dutch lunch culture in the work environment is very practical. So a lot of people tend to bring a sandwich from home. The Dutch eat a lot of cheese, so usually brown bread with slices of cheese in a plastic tupperware box, some fruits or maybe leftovers from yesterday's dinner, for example. But it's a lunch culture that is practical, fast. I would almost say having lunch is a necessity more than social interaction.


- Paul
No, it's very similar to the Norwegian culture in many ways, then, where we actually just if we have 15 minutes to spare, we grab our lunch, which is something we bought from home, and it's very practical, and they don't have time to discuss another thing maybe that is I don't know if this is common. What kind of information do you share during lunch? Is it very private or is it business or you don't want to speak to each other?


- Coco
Beautiful question. I would say what is very common as a setting is that people eat within the office space. So they usually have like, a cafeteria or a canteen, we call it, which everyone brings their own food. And there, I would say, with your colleagues, you chitchat about things that are not specifically work related. It's a moment where you will chitchat about things that are, let's say, nice to talk about doing business over lunch. If that would be the desired outcome. Then you would probably go out for lunch. You would go to a restaurant in order to meet up. Yes.


- Paul
Yeah. No, this is interesting because I know one of your neighboring countries, the Germans, are very pragmatic when it comes to launch and just keep launches for private things. And business is for business. So see, just like bordering countries have very different things of thinking about this, it's super interesting. Yeah, okay.


- Coco
I can see the similarities. Absolutely.


- Paul
Yeah. So one of the things, when I think about Dutch work culture, also from reading literature, about working with people from the Netherlands, also been working with a lot of people from there, is your direct nature. That's something that is always like if you're going to describe working with someone from the Netherlands, what do you need to expect. Okay. They are very direct. They will tell you as it is. And I actually read about this and someone to try to explain where this sort know started, where this evolved from and what I read, and you might not know this, maybe we can just have a little bit of chat around this is that it comes from that the Netherlands. The Dutch people used to be a seafaring nation, like very small nation, but they conquered the world with their boats and was everywhere. And in order to get your point across or anything across during those voyages, you had to be very direct. So I don't know if this is true or just a myth or some speculation, but have you ever thought about anything around why you are the way you are, the Dutch people?


- Paul
Any influence from outside, historically, culturally that you can come up of?


- Coco
It's an interesting theory that you bring up. All I think it's true that the Dutch are very direct. So what I do in cross cultural communication, I make a difference or I make a separation between general communication and giving negative feedback. And I think why the Dutch are perceived as direct as they are perceived in more or less the whole world. Right? Everyone knows that the Dutch are known as super straightforward and super direct is because it's a culture that both in general communication is very explicit. So we're going to tell you what we're going to tell you, then we will tell you, then we will recap and repeat and then we can also give you the opportunity to provide questions. So communication is very explicit, concrete words, not a lot in between the lines. And together with that or parallel to that, we're extremely comfortable with negative direct feedback. We really see that as a gift. I know it sounds cliche, really, and if I say it in Latin America, they look at me like I am being negative feedback is really a gift for you to improve or for you to know that you hurt me in order to prevent that from happening in the future.


- Coco
I think you might have a point. I never really read about where that comes from. But it's true that it has been a super small nation. It's an extremely tiny country within Europe. The ocean has always been the never ending threat because it's a country that is partly below sea level. And in order to survive, yeah, communication was essential. And I think the Dutch of course, were also a nation that was trading with different cultures across the world at very early stage. So yeah, explicit communication was probably key to success. I think you really have a point there.


- Paul
Yeah, I think that if you want to have any success dealing with foreign culture, especially back then when communication was so slow, you couldn't just be like, let me think about that for a day or two because that didn't really work. So yeah, I think it's an interesting and obviously, if you're listening to this, look it up. I think there's a fascination for me at least, to understand where culture, the deeper cultural traits that we have, where they originate in some sense, and it doesn't have to be something that happened a long time ago, can also be something very recent. Obviously, you as a nation is small but heavily influenced from the bordering countries as well. Like, Germany is a massive country next door and you have Belgium and Luxembourg, obviously, if it doesn't even want to talk about that. Well, of course there's a nation in themselves, but it's so and is it also bordering to France? There I'm sorry, I'm blanking here now on the border.


- Coco
No, it's bordering with oh, it would be really embarrassing if I now make a mistake. But no, it's bordering with Belgium and not directly with France.


- Paul
Yeah, but that's the thing. Belgium is perceived, at least from the outside, is kind of similar. But Belgium in itself is another topic for another conversation because that's a very interesting country to talk about when it comes to yeah, no, for mean this experience of working with us has always been, as you said, sort of the direct nature. Take the feedback that you're getting, even if it's negative, as a learning experience, because that's what it is, you can't really change that. And that's I think it's an important learning aspect of working cross culture as well. You just have to try to understand the culture you're working with. Are there anything else that you can sort of point to that maybe the listener wouldn't necessarily know? That is a typical Dutch trait in terms of culture. Doesn't have to be workplace related, but that will be a bonus, obviously, like anything. What's a typical Dutch person for you?


- Coco
I mean, a typical Dutch person is very practical, very pragmatic. Also, I think related to what we were talking about earlier, the country being partly below sea level and the ocean always being a threat. There's this thing which in Dutch we call polder model, which basically refers to a way of working a collaboration with all parties involved in order to basically fight the never ending threat of the ocean. And there's a part of the Netherlands which is more like east centered part of the country, that is artificial land and people are living, their houses were built, but in order to gain that artificial land, the Dutch had to collaborate with all parties, right? With government, with farmers, agriculture, you name it. And that is where this extremely driven, consensus driven culture comes from. Dutch are very pragmatic. They're very into discussing and driving consensus at the same time, also comfortable with conflict. But we prefer consensus when coming to decisions because the Dutch really believe that when we all agree, we can go further and the results will be better. That is, of course, also very useful. We see that in the workplace a lot, right, where decisions coming to decisions take longer, but once set, they're more almost written in stone, I would say.


- Coco
And that's then also where the Dutch perception of stubbornness probably comes from, because a lot of people will, from different cultural backgrounds, will perceive Dutch as stubborn and rude, et cetera. And that's where that perception comes from because it's so deeply rooted in the culture that when we agree things should not change, let's stick to the plan. Pragmatic, practical, then also to keep some positive notes, I would say. I think the Dutch are very disciplined, very time efficient. So if you need to do the same thing twice, we tend to think about, okay, how can we improve this or how can we automate this in order not to lose time, liberal, open minded, and we have very high sense of responsibility towards different things.


- Paul
Yeah, no, it's kind of an interesting culture to work with. I think if I'm thinking about building a team of different culture, you will definitely have someone that can balance a lot of other cultures when you consider if they bring along that we are very globalized now, so everybody's sort of adapting a little bit to each other. Is that something that is typical for the Dutch as well? You're telling us they have this very pragmatic way of thinking, but how adaptable are they in general when they work in different cultures, sort of moving across? You are one of a good example of someone who's moved their brother probably adapted really well to a new I.


- Coco
Mean, this is a very interesting question, Paul, because you're kind of throwing me in front of the lions here.


- Paul
But with let's make it clear that we are allowed to generalize a little bit here, and we can put people in different brackets, and then we can say that not everybody is the same, right? So there's like a typical person and there's like, the nontypical.


- Coco
No, absolutely. We have full consensus on this, so absolutely no issue, I think. How adaptable are the Dutch? I think when it comes to general life, daily life, the Dutch are in an average, very used to adapting to different cultures, well traveled, seen a lot from the world. Because the country is so small, the majority of the people will go abroad for their summer holidays. So the exposure to different cultural influences has always been there. When we're looking at the workplace specifically, I think the Dutch is a very specific, unique culture. You could almost say it's on the extreme of every spectrum. Right. It's super egletarian. We tend not to, let's say, refer or defer a lot to authority. It's super consensus driven. It's extremely explicit in their communication, very comfortable with direct negative feedback. And with all of that being said, it's relatively on the extreme of that spectrum, which, of course, makes it harder to also, in the workplace, adjust to cultures that, let's say, are much more hierarchical. Because the Dutch tend not to really understand because the distance between those two preferred ways of, let's say, referring to authority is so far that for someone from the Netherlands it might be really hard and they don't see the benefit of, let's say, having a more hierarchical way of working.


- Coco
With that being said, I think someone from abroad working in the Netherlands will probably think, like, this is a jungle, really? Like, what on earth is happening here? Everyone talks at the same time. The manager or the boss is just, let's say, a facilitator for the discussion. We disagree. I mean, imagine that someone would come from a slightly more hierarchical culture that they will probably really think it's a zoo, kind of so adaptable. Yes. But the Dutch find themselves on the extreme of the spectrum.


- Paul
Yeah. And I think, for me, at least, if I'm thinking about historically as well, the fact that it used to be such a nation of influences from outside, you had to have a little bit of adaptability just in order to sort of set up all those former colonies. That was back in the day. And I think it's just a cultural learning throughout centuries that is inbred a little bit now in the basis of your culture. That's why, at least in my understanding and not understanding, but in my experience, I meet a lot of international minded Dutch people. They're very well traveled, as you said. They don't have problems setting up multinational, global companies. They don't necessarily need to work within their own region. They can be very flexible and broaden their horizon easily. Everybody also speak really good English. That's also a very thing that's just like, okay, we know this is an important language for us to be adapting to different things, seeing it from the outside. That's what I see, and I honor you for that, in that sense.


- Coco
Thank you. I'll take it as a compliment. No, I'll take it as a compliment. Paul it's great to hear that that's how you perceive it. Definitely.


- Paul
Yeah. As I said, I do work really close with some Dutch people, and it's an interesting experience. I can say that. Yeah, I think that is funny because I'm also egalitarian from my societal background, but I've been also living abroad, especially in a southern European countries like Portugal and Italy for many years. You sort of change a little bit of the outlook on maybe not power distance, but more communication style and all that. It's sort of more flexible when you get south. And then you mix that up with being Norwegian and then all of a sudden you work with someone who has Dutch. So, yeah, it's interesting.


- Coco
I can see that. The other day I was in a meeting where it was super culturally diverse meeting, and I realized also that I changed or I adapted my behavior because Dutch are extremely uncomfortable with silence. So in a meeting, when someone would ask a question, everyone has this, let's say, tolerance level of, let's say, what's the trigger when you start to feel uncomfortable with the silence if no one answers the question, right? And Dutch have an extremely low tolerance towards that. So this is why they were also perceived as someone that always talks or never let someone else talk. Basically, I realized that I always had that, but the other day I started counting and I was like, silent for 45 seconds, which is tremendously long. And I told my partner when I came home, I said, I'm really nailing it here. I'm really nailing it. I'm learning.


- Paul
Yeah. Traumatic experience, I must guess. Okay, let's move on a little bit. So we probably put the sort of the Dutch in a box now. And I mean, let's not say that that's for everyone. That's sort of the stereotypical view we have of that. But what about work life balance and career when it comes to the Dutch from when they're young and start school and go out in the workplace? What's their ambition? And how do they maybe differ in some sense from other countries, if anything? Do they look forward to retiring or they want to work like the Japanese forever or what can you tell us?


- Coco
First of all, work life balance is a very important topic in the Netherlands. The Dutch really appreciate their personal and private time. There's also quite a clear cut, something that you maybe recognize from conversation about Germany. It's very similar. We have a relatively clear cut between work life and our private life. And being able to spend time with your family or with your friends or just disconnect from work is super important. But with that being said, career development is important as well. So I would say that people start thinking about their career once they, for example, finish university or any educational career and then climbing up the ladder. Being able to develop yourself within a company, for example, or as an entrepreneur is important, but being able to build your family on your own is important as well. And the country is relatively developed when it comes to being able to work part time, for example, or take paternity leave, maternity leave and so on. It's important for people, for those two worlds to be able to be parallel or exist coexist, really, where you can have all the best out of your private life and all the best out of your career and your professional life as well.


- Coco
I would say now that you asked me this question, for example, if I look at myself, I didn't know what my career had to look like. When I decided what university I wanted to go to, I really knew that I wanted to have four or six years as long as the career lasted, like a great time. And I think that is also very Dutch. You pick relatively high quality university career path and then you will see really having a good time, having the best life is short. I feel that that's very deeply rooted in the culture as well.


- Paul
So there's no sense of societal or pressure from family or something to sort of do something specific with their life going forward. You can sort of choose your own path from your young.


- Coco
Yeah, in general, Dutch really like autonomy and in the workplace, but also privately, and in my humble opinion, that's also what you see how kids are raised with responsibility as a parent. Here you have the facts, here you have the resources that you need in order to thrive or whatever your goal is. But you figure it out. Really, you figure it out and let us know when you need help. So autonomy and responsibility are relatively deeply rooted in the culture. With that being said, also when that is taken away from someone from a Dutch, it's a trigger. For example, when autonomy or responsibility in the workplace is taken away, it will be perceived as micromanagement mistrust. So these things go hand in hand, there's pros and cons to it, I guess.


- Paul
Yeah, it's very interesting. And also I'm seeing a pattern here of the Northern European cultures as like this thing of autonomy and to have the responsibility to take care of yourself. It's like, I will take care of myself, don't have to worry. And if you need anything, I will be there to support you. But you can figure it out yourself as you go along. And that's accepted because it actually also ties into the next question I have. So if you are a manager and maybe you're hiring people from the Netherlands or you're working there regardless, but you're working with someone who is Dutch, what's something that helps their motivation in the workplace? And what's the opposite? What's something that is really demotivating? You mentioned something here, micromanaging, for example. But what is something that is highly motivating for them?


- Coco
Responsibility and freedom, I would say. And I don't know if one can exist without the other, but I would say you motivate a Dutch by giving that person responsibility. Dutch are known also to handle responsibility relatively well and with that also are very loyal. So if you tell a Dutch person, this is your scope of work, this is your responsibility, I don't really care how you get there, but this is what we would need to achieve together, or this is what I expect you to deliver. You can really let the Dutch fly solo and give that freedom and then you will get high quality results. Really taking away that freedom or being in a Dutch person's neck with nonstop follow up. A Dutch will perceive as mistrust and as like a kid in kindergarten, really. And that is a trigger that probably you want to stay away from because that doesn't motivate at all. No.


- Paul
Just if you flip the question a little bit around and look at from the perspective of a Dutch manager. If you're an employee from a very different culture, will a Dutch, a typical Dutch manager then also have this expectation towards someone who's from I know this is a difficult question because it's, like, very hypothetical, but we talked about this with adaptability and I'm thinking also a lot of listeners could be looking to work in the Netherlands. So how can they sort of prepare a little bit for this? Because maybe, as you said, if they have this mentality internally, they can also have this mentality for someone who is coming from external sources, like in a remote setting. For example, I do work with some companies that are hiring solely remote workers, and there are very few Dutch, like people from the Philippines, people from Thailand, from Spain. And the management style, in my experience, is actually exactly how you described it. They still have this here's your task and you have to do it. But I'm wondering if you have any maybe some tips for this, how they can come into a workplace there where they are managed by someone from the.


- Coco
A beautiful. I'm fascinated also to hear your view on this, Paul, because I think we're so well connected in today's world that we hardly forget that we might have a different cultural background, right, which is beautiful and so extremely tricky at the same time. So I love that you ask how someone would be able to prepare. I think what is extremely crucial for someone working with the Dutch, whether if it's management or not, dutch don't need the let's say for a Dutch is not per se necessary to invest a lot in the human relationship in order to trust you at work. So there is a very clear separation between, let's say, emotional trust, trust from the heart, like, you're my mother, I trust you know, you're my son, I trust you. And trust from the brain, cognitive trust. So we tend in the Netherlands to use our cognitive trust at work and our emotional trust at home. The truth is that that is not the same in every country. So for that reason, the Dutch are very often perceived also as very cold, like cold in the workplace. You couldn't care less about me as a human being.


- Coco
As long as I deliver my deadlines or I meet my deadlines, I deliver what I have to hand in. So for someone, I think, coming from a different cultural background than the Netherlands, I think it's crucial to understand when you are hired for a certain task, for a certain role, someone from the Netherlands will trust that you are the right fit for that role and that you will deliver. You don't need to prove yourself by investing a lot in the human relationship if that is your personal preference and you like that, then express that. Express, hey, I would really like to get to know you better. I would really like to invest in our relationship, but don't do that in order for a Dutch person to trust you, because they don't need that. You're hired for a certain role, you're contracted for a certain responsibility, then let's get the show on the road. And that's very complicated for people coming from another culture. And I work with people from other cultural backgrounds moving to the Netherlands or the other way around. And this is the main challenge that everyone has to overcome, because you will probably recognize this.


- Coco
Paul but in countries that have been under the Roman Empire, for example, for a longer time, the human relationship is much more essential in order for people to do business together. Yeah, that's not the case in the Netherlands, and that's why they're perceived as super cold. But no, it's not you, it's not them. It's the difference in perception and the different preference. But I would really recommend everyone to be super specific about that.


- Paul
No, this is the gold, this is valuable knowledge because these are the things that from my own experience as well, you can't see this from the outside and you can read about it in a book, but when you experience it basically on your body like you experience, it's a very different feeling. And yeah, it's all about preparation, being aware and do your homework if you are in a situation where you have to work such a culture. Thank you for that. Let's change gear a little bit here. So we have all cultures have typical misconceptions about them. What is something that you hear often about the Dutch that is not exactly true? If anything, it can be true to some extent, but maybe it's taken completely out of context. Do you have any examples of this?


- Coco
I think we all know the saying like going Dutch when after a meal or after a dinner, the bill arrives on the table. And then we have this expression going Dutch, which comes from the Dutch being cheap. I think stingy is the word to use. I understand where that comes from because the Dutch is a very responsible nation. We tend to really handle things with a high level of responsibility, both professionally and personally, and being responsible with and towards money is one of them. So, yes, you see that, for example, in the workplace, the Dutch have this tendency to say, let's say when there's a quotation on the table and you're the decision maker, whether what supplier to work with, you go for the best offer. And that's not always the cheapest. You go for the best because of the whole package and because of whatever outcome or desired outcome. That's not always the cheapest. But I think if you would ask someone from abroad, they would probably say, the Dutch will always go for the cheapest because they're stingy. They don't want to spend their money. I think it's a misconception that they're cheap, but the Dutch are very into sustainable and responsible decisions when it's about money.


- Coco
So you rather invest in order to get some sort of a financial benefit long term than to spend now. So we have this expression that says hoodcope is duracope, which basically means buying something cheap is something expensive in the future. So, yeah, I think that's a misconception in many ways. Not saying that there are big standards because that's not the case.


- Paul
No, but for me, that expression obviously is something you hear quite often, and I think as many expression, it comes from nothing. And when you use it, you don't really know the context of why it actually appeared as an expression. But now you explained really well and it makes sense to be fair. So thank you for that. Okay. I think you already mentioned quite a lot of things. But do you have any stories or anything from your work experience or cultural conflict that you mind sharing when it comes to working as a Dutch person yourself or with someone from there or that we're trying to see what was the case and what happened and how was the was there any good solution in the end?


- Coco
Um, not so long time ago, I was working with someone leading a Dutch team on remote, and that someone was not Dutch, had a different cultural background. And that person came to me because he really seeked for help in terms of to understand the Dutch and to understand basically how to become more effective. What I found extremely interesting is because that person comes from a more hierarchical background where decision makings, for example, are much more top down. The direction of this business was set by, you know, higher management and so on. And that person basically came to me and imagined, like, on his knees, begging me, tell me how to get this group of complete reckless people in one direction. And that team felt about their manager like he was a weak manager because he was not capable of getting that team in the direction as he wanted to. Long story short, that leaded into a huge conflict, which is why that person came to me and it had everything to do with cultural perception because the Dutch have, like I said earlier, we find them on the relatively extreme of the spectrum, right? So super egalitarian, super direct in their communication.


- Coco
So any country, even Belgium, which is a neighboring country and partly speaks the same language or know there's a lot of influences, but even those countries that are so close by, they have a complete different preferences when it comes to these things. And these things can lead to conflict. And I felt really sorry for this person because when being in a conflict with a group of Dutch people, I wish you the best, but that is not an easy situation because they're very outspoken, they're very direct. They will tell you upfront like you suck. Sorry for my you know, for someone to deal with that, I felt super sorry. I felt extremely sorry. And I have been living outside of the Netherlands since 2016 and it has become so clear to me that a fish cannot see water that it swims in. And for me, I was so strongly that fish until I left the Netherlands, I was also so comfortable with the Dutch way of doing things. But when you live abroad or where you work across cultures or internationally, when you hire on remote, your way is not always the best way. And in order to avoid conflict, you really need to be able to adjust and you really, really, I mean, you really find yourself in a very unfortunate situation when in conflict with the Dutch people.


- Coco
Not saying that they're dangerous or a threat, but they're super comfortable with conflict, so they go all in. So I would recommend everyone to not take it personal and to try to enjoy the right and also seek help, seek help in order to understand the cultural perception between your cultural background and the Dutch culture. It doesn't really matter how big the differences are or there's no wrong or right as long as you try to manage those differences and those different preferred ways of working or communicating together. Because then I think you have a really loyal, productive and efficient team of Dutch people to work with. But with conflict, it's very challenging. I don't know if that answers your question, Paul.


- Paul
No, definitely. And it's a very good segue to next question, which is more positive in that sense, please? We're going to talk about let's now try to sell the Dutch to the businesses around the world. And I mentioned it a little bit early in the conversation. I think it's a good value to have someone, at least that is like, I mean, you are born there, you're not necessarily the typical one, but most people are typically from they are raised there, not everybody's traveling and very well traveled in that sense. So what would you say is the good parts of having someone? You mentioned a lot of things already, but let's try to summarize a little bit. What's the good part of having a Dutch person on your team?


- Coco
What you see is what you get if you have a Dutch person on your international team, that person is loyal, that person will deliver and you will never have doubts if there's a hidden agenda, if there's any different interest, because what you see is what you get. If it smells wrong, it's probably because it's wrong and a Dutch will react accordingly. And of course, for many other reasons. You will have a very hard worker, someone that will take its job extremely serious, someone that will be upfront with opportunities that he or she sees but also development areas, both personally, professionally, it's like having a very loyal dog, really. It will stick by your side. Even if he or she thinks you're not the best person in your job, he or she will help you, will try to develop you. We will do it together. Very result driven with high responsibility.


- Paul
And it's not arrogance, right? Because you can obviously think about this as some sort of at least if you see it from the outside, that they can be perceived as being arrogant. But as you have explained earlier, it is a commitment to getting the task or the project done. That's why they believe in themselves in that sense and they can push the project forward.


- Coco
Yeah, thanks for emphasizing that because it is not arrogance, but I do understand completely that it's perceived like that. But it's not it's responsibility and it's really being believing in driving results forward. Really, they are very open minded people, but because they find themselves so far on the spectrum, it takes a little bit of time also to convince a Dutch person to do something differently. And they're very result oriented. So if you want to change the strategy or the way of working, I would really recommend you to focus on okay, what is that going to bring? What is that going to change? How are we going to implement that, really? On the applications versus the theory?


- Paul
Yeah. If you start working with someone from there, you will learn very fast like I have. So this is all true, what you're saying, and I think we're going to start wrapping it up here. A couple of things before we end it. Learning about working with someone from a specific culture is difficult. It's not impossible, but it's difficult. When you're not living in that culture, you sort of have to learn from the outside. Do you have any tips or tricks for people that say maybe they are already considering moving to the Netherlands? Maybe they have an expat mission going in there in the coming period? Where can they go? Could be working with you, perhaps, or any online resource, any in country resources where they live. They can check out anything. Do you have any tips or tricks?


- Coco
Yeah, oh, absolutely. First of all, I would like to really emphasize that our cultural background mine, yours, Paul, but also for the listeners, is so deeply rooted neurologically into our brain that please try not to invent the wheel yourself because it's there and it will influence and significantly impact the way how you perceive and see things. So this is not a fluffy concept. This is a scientifically proven, neurologic concept. With that being said, it's something especially if you're going to work in the Netherlands, prepare yourself because it will invest time in the beginning or you need to invest time in the beginning, but it will definitely pay off. I would always recommend and that's what I do with my customers as well if I help them. Preparing for an exped assignment is I will always start with your own cultural background and what are potentially going to be your triggers moving to the Netherlands because you can learn so much about the Netherlands and, you know, see Ted Talks and read books. I have a lot of recommendations to read, but it doesn't say something about your cultural background and when you will receive the trigger.


- Coco
Right. So that is very good starting point also for you to understand how you will be perceived in the so for example, if you're from Israel, you're perceived as relatively straightforward and the Dutch will really enjoy having a discussion with you. But if you're from know, you're perceived differently because of your cultural background. So that would be my first recommendation. Of course you can do that with me, but there's also a lot of self assessments or things out there. In order to figure that out, I would always recommend everyone, please keep in mind it's not you, it's not them, it's the fact that you're different because the Dutch might be extreme in good and bad. And I would really recommend everyone moving to the Netherlands take leadership and ownership about how you want your life to look like. The Dutch have a very, let's say clear cut between work and private. And for that reason it's not so easy or maybe not so natural to make friends or whatsoever the Dutch really appreciate. If you take ownership and leadership and you take initiative, don't wait for the invitation because don't hold your breath. It's going to be a long wait really.


- Coco
But if you take the ownership and you take the initiative, the Dutch people really appreciate that both personally and in the workplace. Yeah. And then of course I would say send me a message. I'm happy to help really, for everyone who is facing a future exped assignment.


- Paul
Yeah, absolutely. Get in touch and we will mention it just before we end it. But you will find all the information and contact Isaac Coco in the show notes of this episode. Okay, last thing before we end it and you can add anything you wanted to add at the end as well. But I have one question here that if you have thought about this is there anything like one fact that maybe about working in the Netherlands that maybe is unknown that is a little bit surprising to people that you can tell any strange customs you have or anything that is like I know one thing. I heard that just to give you an example of something it's not weird, but I talked to a company about setting up to find someone from the Netherlands or actually many people from the Netherlands and what they would give them as a benefit like that was typical Dutch. And I was told you have this gift basket or something. There was like this yearly basket, gift basket for Christmas or something. This is one person who told me that it was very important that you got this kind of gift basket.


- Paul
Am I right? Did I hear wrong? Is that really important?


- Coco
I absolutely love this example. I think it is, and I'm saying I think because for me it's not, but it's true. It's relatively deeply rooted that you get a Christmas basket. Yes, imagine a wooden box, for example, like a box of wine, but then bigger with all things in there, like food, cookies, wine, champagne, typical winter know, glue wine as an example, which of course is from Germany. Or is it? Well, I assume it's from Germany, but it will be in there, as know. And it's getting that it has your name tag on it. And I think the joy of it is bringing it home and especially if you have kids to unwrap it. And it's the mess of all the confetti out there. And I remember being a kid and my dad always got one and it was such a joy. Yes, such a joy. I think the package, or let's say the package maybe is disappearing a bit, but the Christmas gift is definitely there. But what you see now more is that people can pick their own things online or they can donate it to charity. But the tradition, yes, something with Christmas.


- Coco
Thank you for reminding me.


- Paul
No, because it was like what? Also you are working with culture and recruitment. It's like, okay, you're going to pay someone. Money is one thing, bonuses is another thing. What are the things that you don't know about someone from a culture that you should also offer them that will surprise them in the end? These things? For every culture, even Norwegian or Italian, there's different things that is sort of unwritten because if you look up a global payroll provider, they wouldn't necessarily put that in as a benefit, added benefit to remember. Right. So for me, this is what I find really fascinating about these practical things, these physical things that is not monetary. It's like a token of appreciation that is a little bit different. I think it's actually very cool, very.


- Coco
Funny, very cool example. And actually it's really nice. I learned something new because I never really thought about that. This is super typical Dutch, but it probably is. You see, the fish doesn't see the water.


- Paul
Exactly. But that's the same with me. I'm not sure that everything I used to know when I lived and worked in Norway, I don't even remember now, 1520 years ago, I don't care anymore because I'm not living there. So for me it's also kind of forgotten. But most people do live there and work there are Norwegians and the Netherlands as well. They are Dutch and they live in the same culture. Life has a rhythm for them that is very traditional and it doesn't really change much. We others are more of the exceptions, the one who has traveled and lived abroad in that sense. Okay, yeah. Before we end it, anything you want to add? Anything you had on your mind that you want to say?


- Coco
No, not really. I think the work that you do and supporting international organizations, remoteless recruitment is such an important role and I really want to thank you for making the cross cultural aspect in that also important because it is like I said, we're so connected through digital channels that we tend to forget about our cultural background. Companies tend to not prepare themselves for that element and that leads to tremendous challenges and tremendous demotivation, for example, within organizations. So I think what you're doing, creating that awareness in combination with the international recruitment is extremely important and I highly recommend every organization to follow that path really well.


- Paul
Thank you very much. Thank you. I really appreciate it. This could be another podcast topic, but I think it's actually a very interesting aspect of and a forgotten aspect because we are so globalized and we are so focused on the remote world of work. A lot of companies are at least young startups that sometimes we are still working with people that deep inside has some sort of mode of work that is not visible on the outside and that can affect a lot of things. Okay, then before we end it up, how can people find you online? What's your preferred way of getting in touch with you that you can recommend?


- Coco
So you can find me under basically on every platform under my own name, which is Coco HOF. So C-O-C-O like Chanel. And then HOFs is Hofs.com under that name on LinkedIn? I love to get in touch with people I always know. I'd rather have you sending me five useless messages or rather that than nothing, really. So feel free to contact me on LinkedIn, reach out for whatever purpose, and I really enjoy that. So that's an invitation to many.


- Paul
Perfect. I highly encourage everyone to get in touch for anything that you couldn't pick up in the conversation. Find all the show notes on the Working With US podcast website.


- Coco
Yeah.


- Paul
And I think that's it, we can wrap it up. Thank you very much, Coco. What's the plan for the rest of the day? Just work hard.


- Coco
Thank you, Paul. Yes, it's actually work hard, but with super nice things. So I have some coach calls and I'm hosting a master class in 2 hours, which I'm super excited about for a very international group. Yeah, all good.


- Paul
Perfect. Thank you. Thank you very much, Coco. Have a good day. Bye.