The Netherlands

With its strong service sector and fast-growing tech industry, the Netherlands is the sixth-largest economy in the European Union and a hub for international trade.

The Netherlands, while small in terms of land mass, is the sixth-largest economy in the European Union, and nearly 75% of its GDP comes from the service sector. The country is well known as a major transportation hub for Europe, thanks in part to its location on the North Sea coast. The Port of Rotterdam is the largest on the continent and the Port of Amsterdam is the fourth-largest in Europe. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is one of the busiest in Europe.

Because of its current role as a gateway to Europe and its long history of international trade, the Netherlands is used to foreigners doing business there. The official language spoken in the country is Dutch, but English is taught in school, so while it’s thoughtful to learn a few phrases, you likely won’t need to learn much of the language to get around.

And its financial centre, Amsterdam, ranked third in the 2015 IBM Global Location Trends survey of cities that attract foreign investment projects. However, the country does most of its business close to home, as its main export–import partner is Germany.

FACTS FOR INVESTORS

1. It’s not all tulips, dairy and logistics in the Netherlands; the country is fast becoming one of the major tech hubs in Europe with support for startups in strong tech scenes in such cities as Rotterdam, Delft and Eindhoven, the birthplace of the Dutch multinational Philips.

In fact, Uber chose Amsterdam for its European headquarters, and Booking.com chose the city for its global headquarters.

2. The Netherlands sits in the No. 28 spot, out of 189 economies, on the 2016 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index.

3. Amsterdam is the capital, though The Hague is the seat of government.

4. The country is the second-largest exporter of agricultural products in the world, with 77% going to other EU countries. In 2014, the nation exported agricultural goods worth 80.7 billion euros ($123 billion), and 9% of its GDP was from the horticultural and agrifood sectors.

BUSINESS ETIQUETTE

1. Equal opportunity. Dutch society is egalitarian and open, so everyone from the intern to the CEO is listened to, and it’s common for first names to be used no matter your title.

2. Balancing act. Work-life balance is very important to the Dutch, so keep meetings within normal business hours, though networking over drinks or a business dinner is standard.

3. Be prepared. The Dutch are very direct, so it’s important to be up front with them and have all of your facts and figures ready for all meetings; decisions can be made at formal meetings or over coffee. And don’t be late; punctuality is key.

TRAVEL TIPS

1. You do not need a car in Amsterdam and the train will serve you well when travelling between cities.

In the capital, you can easily get around by public transit, or you might consider renting a bike. Cycling culture is famously strong in the Netherlands; in Amsterdam’s city centre 63% of people use bikes on a daily basis.

2. Travelling to and from the Netherlands is simple, too. Flights from Schiphol reach more than 300 destinations around the world. And in 2017 Eurostar will unveil a direct rail link that will connect Amsterdam and London in less than four hours.

3. Service is always included in pricing in Amsterdam, but it’s customary to tip 5% to 10% in restaurants, bars and taxis.

The Netherlands chart