Essential tips on working with the British and the Dutch

I recently received a message from a reader who is moving to the UK for work. “Shallow Man, I’m about to move to the UK, and would appreciate any tips you have on working with the British”. The Shallow Man, always keen to help fulfil the requests of his readers, has put together some tips on working with the British and the Dutch. Now my observations might annoy some, and if this is the case, please do not hesitate to send me long detailed critiques of which elements of my post that you disagree with. They will be filed in a folder I’ve created just for this purpose called prullenbak.

The things I do for my readers!

The British

We Brits like to think of ourselves as having the manners and grace of the family in Downton Abbey.  In reality, the majority of us nowadays are more like Onslow in Keeping Up Appearances. That aside, in most cases politeness is drilled into us from an early age. We Brits are so polite that we rarely ever say what we mean, we are experts at talking our way around any subject, it’s the polite thing to do.

The Dutch

The Dutch like to think of themselves as being direct, when in reality they can often be just plain rude. In many ways they are polar opposites of the Brits. The Dutch will tell you exactly what they think on any subject whether you ask them or not. Read the examples in the post below and choose for yourself which approach you prefer. It’s fair to say that they both have their pros and cons.

working with the British politeness is expected

A common thought that goes through my mind in Amsterdam

The dinner invitation in the UK

One of the first things that will happen when working in the UK is that your neighbors or colleagues might say, “you must come round for dinner sometime”.  Do not under any circumstances start reaching for your calendar.  This is just something that we say in the UK that has the same deep meaning as, “I think it’s going to rain today”.  It’s just a way of filling the air with something fluffy.

pubic hair

The dinner invitation in the Netherlands

For those of you that will be working here, don’t worry about the meaning of a dinner invitation from Dutch colleagues. It will never happen.

Feedback on work in the UK

On delivering a piece of work, if a Brit says to you “this is not a bad piece of work, however, I’d like to suggest some minor changes”. The real meaning of this is quite simply, “how dare you? what a piece of utter crap, I wouldn’t line the bottom of an animal’s cage with it, the entire thing needs to be rewritten”.


Feedback on work in the Netherlands

“Hoi, what have you produced here? Have you been spending too much time in coffee shops? We can’t possibly use this, I’ll make you redo it until I’m happy with it”. Once you’ve redone the work, your Dutch manager will then try and take the credit for it.

Lazy Dutch part time workers

Dutch directness at work can be tough

End of year review in the UK

“You’re not a team player, and insist on working less than sixty hours a week. If you keep this up you’ll be fired”.

British work life balance

UK work life balance

End of year review in the NL

“You’ve not met the objectives that we set at the beginning of the year. Are there any personal reasons for this? Can we help you in anyway? We’re going to have to produce an improvement plan that we’ll spend the next year working on with you and reviewing your progress against”.

There’s no need to worry about this as If things don’t work out, they’ll give you a huge payout to reward you for your incompetence. (If you’re on an indefinite contract).

Work life balance rat race

Dutch worker running out the door at 17.09 “Ik moet de kinderen ophalen”

Working with the British after work drinks in the UK

“Let’s go for a quick drink after work”. This means, let’s go and get mind blowingly drunk, end up kissing one of your equally drunk colleagues in full view of your co-workers, and return to work the following Monday incredibly embarrassed at the prospect of working with people who know what you did. After a while you’ll realise that most people behave in pretty much the same way every Friday, and it’s just part and parcel of working in the UK. You’ll also spend a fortune as the tradition in the UK is that you have to take turns buying rounds of drinks. Which means that if there are ten people there, you’ll pay for drinks for ten people at least once or twice during the evening. One of the downsides of working with the British.

working with the British drunken kermit the frog

I hate working with the British on Friday’s

Invitation for drinks after work NL

“Let’s go for a quick drink after work”. This means, that you’ll meet your colleagues at 17.30 in a bar. The Dutch will spend most of their time looking at their watches and speaking on the phone with their partners.  “Yes liefde, I’ll pick up the kids before 6.30”.  They’ll then head home after spending thirty minutes in the bar and having one drink which they’ll pay for themselves.

Dating a Dutchman was a bit of a shock for the expat lady

A Dutch colleague invited me for drinks after work

I hope that the tips above will help those of you moving to the UK, or who are working here in the Netherlands and might be somewhat confused by some of the behaviors outlined above.

No part-time employees were hurt during the writing of this post.

Till next time, hou je snavel!