François, a successful French sales manager, took over a Dutch account from his Flemish colleague. It was an important account with a large deal ready to be signed. The senior management team considered this deal as closed and were quite surprised when François returned from The Netherlands, devastated and ready to give up this account. “Bert, the Dutch purchasing director, was so blunt and rude towards me, there was no discussion, no negotiation, just a list of demands. I don’t believe we can close this deal.”

What happened?

The Dutch, like the Scandinavian countries, belong to the cluster of cultures we call the “Network”. Their modus operandi is the search for a true win-win situation. To achieve this, it is necessary that everyone involved is on the same level of information before a decision is taken. This can only be achieved when all facts are put on the table clearly and honestly.

The French, and Latin countries, belong to the “Solar” culture cluster in which hierarchy is important and problems are solved in a much less direct and more diplomatic style.

Bert’s desire for clarity by putting everything on the table was interpreted by François as rudeness, as a sign that Bert didn’t want to finalize the agreement where in fact, Bert’s intention was just the opposite.

Another example: Natasha, a British senior HR professional working in an international company, communicated to her Dutch colleague Andrew that there were no more places available for the training course he wanted to participate in. A few days later, her French boss, Pierre, asked her for a one-to-one and reduced her bonus because she did not organise a place on the training course.

Andrew had informed his Dutch boss who in return had contacted Pierre who now needed to take consequences. Natasha was shell shocked and called Andrew to sort out the situation. Andrew was astonished that his action had caused a decrease of Natasha’s bonus.

What happened?

By escalating an issue to the hierarchy, Pierre interpreted the issue as urgent and threatening with the potential to lose his face and therefore needed to reprimand his direct report.

So how to deal with the Dutch and other “Network” cultures?

Express your thoughts clearly: This is what I can do for you….

Ask questions when you are in doubt: I am not sure how many places will be available next quarter, what would be your minimum requirement?

Address the collaboration: How can we find a creative solution that meets both our requirements?

When dealing with the Dutch, what you see is what you get, no frills needed because everyone needs to be on the same level of information to be able to take an informed decision.

Hofstede’s 6D model of national culture, helps you in dealing with the challenges in the multicultural workplace and beyond. Please contact us for more information:


Communicated by Hofstede Insights

Publié le 07 décembre 2017