Amsterdam the city of canals, bikes, sex, and drugs. For most people outside of the Netherlands these are the (clichéd) topics that come to mind when thinking about the Dutch capital. But what is it like to actually live and work in Amsterdam, and particularly in a small branch of XPLANE?
Perhaps to compensate for the fast and hectic ride to work, business starts slow in many Amsterdam-based companies. People drink coffee, have belated breakfast, and chat, however, at the end of the day work always gets done. The Dutch have a strong sense of duty and responsibility, even after working hours.
In general one could say that the Dutch work ethic is relaxed. Americans live to work; the Dutch work to live, something you can experience at this very moment. During the summer, many people take a two-to-four week break leaving business extremely quiet in July and August. And then, of course, there are the numerous holidays; especially our ‘second’ holiday variants such as Second Easter and Whit Monday that make my American colleagues laugh sometimes. And I have to admit; it is indeed a bit hypocritical to celebrate that many Catholic holidays while hardly anyone goes to church anymore. But, don’t touch the Dutch man’s free time! Spending time after work with friends and family is extremely valuated here.
What makes life even more balanced here is the much used option to work part time, say three or four days a week. To be able to spend as much social time as possible, the Dutch work extremely efficiently. They are said to work the fewest hours of all the nations in the EU and yet they top the list of productivity.
This may explain why business communication is direct and transparent here. The Dutch aren’t exactly made for subtleties and diplomacy so plain speaking is appreciated. They don’t revolve around the bush! Neither do they like hierarchy. Hence most companies strive for a flat business structure. Bureaucracy, especially in service companies and governmental institutions, can be terribly exasperating though.
We don’t suffer much from red tape within our Amsterdam business. (I disregard the many emails and phone calls it took to set up the Internet, phone, connect to the water distribution system, and enroll for health insurance as a foreigner). Neither can I say that the work ethic in our Amsterdam office is relaxed (this doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t feel relaxed!) We work hard and many of my fellow workers have a not-so-Dutch habit of skipping holiday-days.
With respect to personal interaction and business communication however, I think that XPLANE is in the exact right place. XPLANE’s cultural characteristics such as its short routes to the executive team, flexibility in decision making, and open and straightforward communication – of which I would say that it exceeds the renowned Dutch directness – coincide perfectly with what Dutch employees prefer in their working life. XPLANE’s widely held sentiment of achieving goals together as a close team and as an internationally operating company, furthermore appeals strongly to the Dutch team spirit, their overseas perspective, and can-do mentality.
I therefore have no doubt that when we are ready for it, lots of potential Dutch employees will be thrilled to start their day queue cycling to arrive at our XPLANE office in Amsterdam.
This blog article is partly based on the input of my dear colleagues Matt Morasky, Matt Hewitt, and Maia Garau, who live or have lived in Amsterdam.