Cultural differences between Latin Americans and Dutch people

As a Latin American living in the Netherlands for more than 20 years, I have to admit that at the beginning I had a cultural shock. It is normal, we ‘Latinos’ are open and expressive. Dutch people are more reserved and very direct. As time went by, I have come to understand and value the Dutch behaviour which has allowed me to integrate and participate actively in Dutch society. Let’s look at those differences and how to deal with them.

Posted by Carolina Barría at Sep 01, 2017 07:36 AM

Being direct is fine! Address your ideas with respect and back them up with facts

Dutch people are proud of being direct. They have a unique mentality. It allows them to build trustful and sincere relationships. The advantages are enormous. At least you know what they stand for, and they will certainly appreciate it if you do the same. Being direct does not mean someone is rude!

Latin American people instead avoid confrontation and often do not tell you what they think or feel. They do this because they do not want to hurt other person’s feelings.

Individualism allows you to act on your own!

Since their very early days, Dutch people are raised by their families and schools to start making their own decisions and become independent. This has to do with the Dutch self-image. Dutch people consider it important to take care of themselves and their immediate families only. When dealing with Dutch people, keep in mind that they love self-creation! Wouldn’t you?

In the Latin American society people belong to ‘in-groups’ who take care of them in exchange for loyalty. This way of acting is not wrong but can become very complicated when they cannot fulfil the expectations of those who asked for help.

Women and men equal in society…yes!

The Dutch society is driven by competition, achievement and success. The Dutch strive for consensus and people value equality, solidarity and quality in their working lives, negotiation and discussions. So in the Netherlands, it makes no difference whether you are a woman or a man to compete and achieve your goals. Competing is a fun game no matter what your gender is!

In Latin America men are expected to be strong, support/protect the family and compete in order to achieve goals. Women take the role of being pure and are expected to follow the man as being the primary decision makers. However, I must say that this is changing quickly as women are becoming more independent due to access to education and participation.

Pragmatic and adaptable fellows!

Dutch people believe that truth depends very much on the situation, context and time. They show an ability to easily adapt traditions to changed conditions and have a strong tendency to save and invest. So, they allow space for the possibility of ‘many truths’. That makes it interesting and challenging for you. You will evolve!

Latin American people prefer to maintain time-honoured traditions and norms while viewing societal change with suspicion. They accept things how they come, because according to them it is out of human control and that is accepted. Saving and thinking about the future is not part of their mentality.

The power of distance and equality

Dutch people are very independent and have equal rights. ‘The Power’ is decentralised and managers count on the experience of their team members. Employees expect to be consulted and control is disliked. Be prepared to act independently and call your ‘boss’ by his or her first name, keeping your independent flavour!

Latin American people are educated to take orders given by others, because of respect and due to social status, class and level of education.

Free people who enjoy life

Dutch people possess a positive attitude and have a tendency towards optimism. In addition, they place a higher degree of importance on leisure time, acting as they please. They enjoy the moment rather than use their time to compare with others. So when dealing with Dutch people enjoy yourself for the purpose in life, not for the status or material reward!

Latin American people expect material rewards for a job done well. They easily feel treated unfairly. Status objects are important. This is the result of a culture where people constantly need to receive a positive feedback and confirmation of their performance.

Carolina Barría is the founder of World Rotterdam. Originally from Chile, she moved to the Netherlands in 1996. She has worked for Ernst & Young and the Rotterdam City Government, developing business for clients and acting as Business Relationship Manager. 

In her extensive career, she has managed more than 30 international students. 

Posted by Carolina Barría at Sep 01, 2017 07:36 AM
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