Dutch Working Culture in Health Care

Working abroad can be exciting and yet intimidating as you are stepping out of your comfort zone. However, to make the transition into your new job and country go smoothly it is important to understand their values and attitudes. By doing so they can help ease any culture shock experiences. In this blog we will present to you an overview of the Dutch working culture so that you will be better prepared when moving to the Netherlands as a healthcare professional.



Compared to other countries, Dutch institutions are generally known for having a horizontal structure. This is reflected by the way they work and interact with colleagues. In fact, team-working is a main feature in the Dutch culture, and this involves the managers and supervisors when working on a project, goal, and/or department. Executives do not usually display their power as they are also part of the team and might often ask for input from their team. However, this does not mean that he or she does not have any authority within the department.

For example, in the healthcare field, a nurse may have to deal with a supervisor in the form of a head nurse, but that does not mean that he or she will exert power over the nurse. Supervisors are encouraged to lead by example and provide a pleasant working environment. Since different specialists are involved at any given operation, everyone must be able to have their say from his or her discipline’s point of view.

Work-Life Balance

According to the 2019 OECD Better Life Index, the Netherlands is the best country in the world for managing their work-life balance. The time spent working plays a major factor in the composition of work-life balance. Based on Our World In Data research, the Dutch work on average 1,430 hours per year, making it one of the European countries with a low amount of annual worked hours. Compared to other European countries, the Dutch have a flexible working roster and many work between 32 to 36 hours per week. In some cases, parents take a day off every week, which is known as a “parental day” where they focus on their family.

Working hours for nurses and assistant nurses in the Netherlands range from 32 to 36 hours. The working schedules are communicated weeks, or even months in advance so that they can plan their life outside work (I.E. holidays, doctor appointments etc.). One of our Italian EMTG nurse working in the Netherlands has explained this:

“There are a lot of advantages to working in the Netherlands. I work full-time on a basis of 32 hours per week, divided into 4 days, this means that in a week I have 3 free days… My life in the Netherlands is fulfilling. My shifts allow me to explore a different city every day. In my free time, I take long walks in the woods, go to the gym, taste Dutch specialties…” – EMTG Nurse, Daniela Giunta.

In the healthcare sector, many institutions are constantly on the move so giving more autonomy to nurses is not only good to gain trust but also for the well-being of staff. Work pressure can be better managed as there will be less emotional exhaustion.


The Dutch are known to be very direct in their ways of communication.  As a non-Dutch person, you may find Dutch colleagues to be blunt. Keep in mind that this is more a cultural element and is not intended to come across as rude. It is engrained in the culture to not beat around the bush.

As a newly arrived at your new workplace in the Netherlands, and depending on your cultural background, you might feel hesitant to share your opinions or even disagreements. Yet, it is very much appreciated and the norm to make your voice heard. Of course, in a respectful and professional manner and decision will be later made by the supervisor. Excessive politeness is often viewed as distrustful as it may imply a lack of directness in communication.

Work meetings are structured, concise, and accurate. Tasks discussed during a meeting are expected to be followed by. In healthcare, nurses and assistant nurses are expected to show initiative to provide proper care to their clients and continuously improve and develop their care skills. Healthcare providers are encouraged to have direct communication with their head leader to share their thoughts and opinions. Constructive criticism is encouraged so that better solutions can be made, and cooperation is accomplished.

Did you know? It is common for employees and supervisors to refer each other by their first names. It portrays a custom within Dutch working culture where everyone is regarded as equal.

To Finalize

In general, the Dutch are  known to have a flat work structure with direct communication and a good work-life balance. These makes the Netherlands an attractive working destination but with a work culture that can be shocking at the beginning to some. It is all part of the adaptation process.

Are you an international nurse that is ready to take the leap abroad to Holland?

EMTG is a Dutch company that supports European nurses in the trajectory to obtain their Dutch nurse registration (BIG-register) while gaining professional experience in the Netherlands and Dutch language skills. The EMTG program facilitates your journey by offering an intensive Dutch language course and a job contract at a Dutch health care organization. Contact your local recruiter for more information!

Let EMTG help you build your healthcare career in The Netherlands.