The Dutch and Their Sandwiches
Why Holland’s predictability is good for business
It was that time of the year again when I pack my bags and head back to the Netherlands for our NFIA marketing meeting, where each of our global offices come together to decide how to best promote the Netherlands to foreign companies looking to set up in Europe. More often than not, people do not think about the Netherlands due to our physical size within the EU. However, once you know about us, it is difficult to look past us. The Dutch maintain outstanding performance in various world rankings. We rank number 1 in the EU Transport Scoreboard, EU Digital Scoreboard 2016 (Western European countries), IMD’s English Proficiency chart and much more. You get the gist.
Each time I am back in the Netherlands, I look around me. I take the trains and trams, I experience the inconveniences and the conveniences and I think to myself, how would Singaporeans and Aussies feel about living and working in Holland? What makes the Netherlands so special? From my personal experiences and input gathered from my Singaporean and Aussie contacts in the Netherlands, I have distilled the answer into the below top three reasons.
Everyone Speaks English
You must have heard this so many times but do not discredit this fact when you are halfway around the world. After all, if you want to accomplish great things in a foreign country, you first have to be understood!
According to the EF English Proficiency Index, adults in the Netherlands are the best non-native English speakers in the world. How cool is that? Need to order a complicated order of coffee? Geen probleem! (‘No problem’ in Dutch.) You can do that in English. How about discussing an innovative way of handling your goods with your logistics service providers? Yes, English will do. In fact, it is quite difficult to practice your Dutch in the Netherlands I have to say, just because if you are not Dutch, everyone speaks to you in English by default.
The Dutch Are Friendly
During my recent trip to the Netherlands, there was a huge thunderstorm in Amsterdam. As a result, the train tracks were affected and there were no trains leaving from Schiphol Airport to The Hague Central Station. I had to take a fast train to Hoofddorp, hop onto a bus to Leiden Central Station and then take the train back to The Hague. Not to mention this was in the middle of the night. However, I was pleasantly surprised to have Dutchies proactively asking me if I knew where I was going and if I needed any help. Some helped me check the fastest route. As there were a couple of stops along the bus ride before we reached the central station, some even made a point to ensure I got off at the right stop. And I can tell you that I was not standing around looking helpless!
Business wise, I have an equally amazing story from a contact. He worked in finance and was used to liaising with tax and customs authorities. When he came to the Netherlands, he was amazed at how business friendly our customs and tax authorities are. Our Dutch customs are experienced, specialized, proactive and flexible. This means that instead of telling you what cannot be done, they instead think along with you and advise you on what can be done within the boundaries.
This helpful attitude is similar to the mindset of government agencies in the Netherlands which explains why we are ranked as one of the best countries in Europe to do business in.
In the Netherlands, You Know What to Expect
For those of you who know the Netherlands, there is no discussion of what lunch will be. It is the broodje kaas met melk. For the uninitiated, it is a cheese sandwich with a glass of milk. Here is a picture for you, so I will never have to send to you another picture of your next lunch in the Netherlands. So yes, now you know what to expect.
This predictability is very important for businesses. Many CEOs I have spoken with have expressed the importance of being in a country where they know that economic policies are stable and will not change with the government of the day. The economy of the Netherlands benefits from a traditional emphasis on the rule of law and a robust legal framework. The judicial system, independent and free of corruption, provides strong protection of property rights. Openness to global trade and investment is well established, and the overall regulatory environment remains transparent and efficient.
The only unpredictable thing in the Netherlands? The weather.
Just ask any Dutch.
Why Invest in Holland
So, all in all, come to the Netherlands. You will love how centrally located we are as well as our fantastic open investment climate, talented and productive workforce and well-established physical and digital infrastructure. But most of all, you will love the people. People who are warm, proactive and optimistic (read our Commissioner’s blog on orange optimism.) People who will help your business succeed in the Netherlands and more. After all, people are what matter most in business. Come experience it yourself!
by Adeline Tan, Senior Project Manager NFIA Singapore (South East Asia & Australia)
9 August 2017