We’ve created this guide to help you get closer to your Dutch customers. A web presence that is in tune with the Netherland’s culture will make your customers feel well disposed to you, and give them the confidence to do business with you. By understanding these little yet important details, you'll be in a good position right from the start in the Dutch market.
2 The main language
Dutch is the main spoken and written language in the Netherlands.
Should you be formal or informal when addressing your customers?
The way you address your Dutch customers depends on who your audience is, what your brand voice is and the context of your communication.
In general, use “u” for more formal texts or when addressing an older audience or for a formal business purpose.
Use “je” for more informal texts and a younger audience.
Ease of doing business in Netherlands
The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2019 report ranked the Netherlands as 36th out of 190 countries.
4 Numbering systems and formats
- This is a comma (,) – e.g. 1,5 hours.
- The thousand separator is a full stop (.)
- e.g. 1.524 people.
The country code is +31. For international numbers, the Dutch replace the 00 with a plus sign, e.g. +31.
There is no uniform way to write phone numbers in the Netherlands. However, all landline numbers have a nine digit format and all landline domestic calls must be preceded by a 0.
Dutch area codes are of two or three digits.
The larger cities and areas have two digit area codes followed by a subscriber number of seven digits, and smaller towns have up to three digit area codes followed by six digits.
- e.g. The large city Rotterdam has a two digit area code and a mandatory 0 trunk access code: 010-1234567, while the smaller town of Goor has a four digit area code including the mandatory 0 trunk access code: 0547-123456
The area code is separated from the other numbers by a dash (-).
- e.g. 0547-123456.
Freephone numbers have the prefix 0800
Good to know
The Dutch spell out numbers 0 to 20, e.g. three, ten, seventeen.
They use numbers for figures above twenty, e.g. 21, 59, 100.
5 Currency format
The Euro. This is represented by the euro sign €. Its trading three letter code is EUR. Its coin denomination is cents represented by a c.
The Dutch write out financial amounts with the euro sign before the figure, and a comma to separate the cents, e.g. € 99,95
The note denominations are € 500 € 200 € 100 € 50 € 20 € 10 € 5 .
There are eight coin denominations: € 2 , € 1, 50 cents 20 cents 10 cents 5 cents, 2 cents, 1 cent.
In all contracts it is compulsory to write a financial amount in the following format: 200 EUR, e.g. “the amount owed is 200 EUR".
6 Date format
In the Netherlands the date format is DD-MM-YYYY, e.g. 24-03-2017.
7 Hour formats
Both the 24-hour clock and the 12-hour clock are used in the Netherlands.
The 12-hour clock is used in everyday speech. The Dutch never say “a.m” or “p.m” instead they would say “8 uur ‘s avonds” to mean “8 o’clock in the evening.”
The 24-hour format is favoured in writing and on digital devices like PCs, phones, tablets, etc.
The separator is a colon and is often written followed by the word “hour”, e.g. 14:24 uur.
8 Working days
Standard working days are Monday to Friday.
9 Things to avoid in the Dutch market
Every culture has different superstitions and traditions which are always worth noting, especially when entering a new market.
The Dutch consider the number 13 to be unlucky.
10 Important localisation tips
Here are the top five translation tips that will make you sound like a local in Dutch market in no time:
When translating, be careful not to stay too close to the English source by being to literal in word choice, sentence format and word order.
Stay clear of colloquialisms and expressions used in your language, as they may not translate in the Dutch market. For example, local slang.
Use the right tone for your Dutch customers. English source texts can be very enthusiastic, or apologetic. Dutch is a more down to earth, straightforward language.
Try not to use old fashioned terms, for example, using 'koppeling' instead of 'link’. Also, be careful not to use too many English terms that have perfectly fine Dutch translations.
Give your translators as much context as possible about the pieces that are to be translated. Let them know who the intended audience is and what the purpose of the piece is. Give them a glossary of terms your brand uses, and provide them with key phrases and terminology.