Wednesday 28 September 2016

Friday Five: Engaging with the Dutch

The Netherlands, a small country with a population of only 16.7 million, has a very specific character and a lot of personality. We eat raw herring, see nothing strange about spreading chocolate or colored sprinkles on our bread for breakfast, have more bikes than people and have the largest dairy intake per capita in the world.

If this small country has such particular cultural habits offline, then there are surely things you need to know when engaging online. With regards to our digital character, we are unique (which, for the we-are-all-equal-to-one-another Dutch, is not a claim you’ll hear us make often).

Here are five reasons why.

1. We are one densely populated country, off- and online

Research on Internet use in 2011 indicates that daily web use is higher in the Netherlands than in other countries in Western Europe. With 79 percent connected to the Internet in 2011 and 61 percent in 2006, the Netherlands has always been the frontrunner. In addition, Internet penetration is above the global average at 88.3 percent.

As of July 2011, Facebook is the largest social media platform in the Netherlands with the online average for Facebook user penetration (that is, Facebook users to total Internet users) at 43.04 percent. The Netherlands also shows the highest Twitter penetration worldwide at 34.3 percent, as well as the highest per-capita usage of LinkedIn.

2. We never take a wooden shoe for granted

According to research on cultural differences in doing business, the Netherlands proved to have the “lowest context” culture in Europe. Low context means we are direct, to the point, purposeful in relating, precise, forward, blunt, definitive and transparent. The Dutch are not known to beat around the bush or disguise their messages with frills.  And that means that we do not appreciate or accept it when other people do not communicate plainly.

In order for a message to be taken seriously by the Dutch, off- and online, it is best to communicate in a direct manner.

3. Hallo vs. Hello

Research shows that the Dutch prefer ads that are in Dutch rather than English, and are somewhat unique in this preference when compared to other countries.

In terms of engaging in conversation online, the same preference prevails. When the Dutch want to engage, they want to do it in their own language.

Local relevance also plays a role in language choice. With their no-nonsense attitude, the Dutch question the necessity of conversing in a different language when the topic concerns a local issue. When discussing local topics, it is therefore advisable to do so in Dutch.  This will enhance conversation.

4. Online and cycling at the same time? No sweat!

In 2011, the Netherlands boasted six million Dutch mobile Internet users ages 12-75. Fifty-one percent had access to mobile Internet in 2011, indicating a growth of 80 percent compared to 2010. These numbers also correspond with sales; more smartphones and tablets than computers were sold in 2011 (Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek).

In addition, the Netherlands is not only the frontrunner in web use; it is also the European frontrunner in m-commerce together with the Nordic countries. During Christmas in 2011, Sweden booked the highest turnover within mobile shopping, followed closely by the Netherlands (Zanox Mobile Performance Barometer, December 2011).

5. We are a practical bunch

For the Dutch, the Internet is mainly a tool. Forty-one percent of the time we go online for information, banking, reading news, shopping and looking at product reviews. But of course we allow ourselves some fun, too. Twenty-one percent of the time, we go online to watch videos, read blogs or blog ourselves, use discussion forums and play games. And most of us (71 percent) are privacy-conscious (Ruigrok Netpanel). We have no problem telling you a lot about ourselves, but only if we choose to.

Going Dutch

In order to engage effectively with the Dutch, it’s important to realize that, “when in The Netherlands, do as the Dutch do.” In other words, communicate authentically, in a manner that fits us—not you. Take into consideration that we see ourselves as leaders in social media, feel that we are unique and appreciate stories that are locally relevant.

What’s your experience in engagement with the Dutch? Do you have any useful insights from engagement in your country?

Image credit: didkovskaya

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