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Cultural Collisions: Bangladesh and Amsterdam

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Amsterdam is the capital of Netherlands with a rich history and highly diverse population enjoying arts and culture. The Dutch are known for being tolerant and are very welcoming to foreigners. There is a history of international trade which means that Dutch people, industries and government are supportive of expats doing business in the country. There are good immigration options for entrepreneurs as the Netherlands consider this a great stimulant for the economy. For entrepreneurs outside the EU, the Dutch government has introduced a new start-up residence permit, at the start of 2015.

For a Bangladeshi, there should be some cultural collision due to the followings points:


  • Individualistic
  • Medium uncertainty avoidance
  • Low power distance
  • High future orientation
  • Low context culture
  • Bangladesh
  • Collectivist
  • High uncertainty avoidance
  • High power distance
  • Low future orientation
  • High context culture

However, such differences can be conquered with skillful and pragmatic Bangladeshi managers since the Dutch are amicable and unprejudiced.


Amsterdam is a bilingual city and in addition to Dutch, English is spoken as well. In 2009, the municipality of Amsterdam voted for registering English as the official language of the city. Foreigners would easily be able to navigate throughout the workplace using English. However, in the long run, learning Dutch would definitely pay off. Nevertheless, cultural differences will impact communication.


The workplace etiquettes of Amsterdam are the exact opposite of Bangladesh. But with thorough research and patience, such hurdles can be conquered.

Below are some points stating the workplace etiquette differences:


  • Being direct and voicing opinions in workplace meetings are appreciated
  • Extremely professional, likes to get to the point without small talks
  • High punctuality; excellent timekeepers
  • Gift-giving is not appreciated
  • Honest


  • Considered impolite to be direct in workplace meetings
  • Prefers small talks before getting to the point
  • Low punctuality
  • Gift giving is common and considered polite
  • Beat around the bush


The Dutch strongly believes in organizational hierarchy. For example, a business development head would like to communicate with the owner of the organization. A Bangladeshi would communicate directly, whereas, a Dutch would communicate through the line manager.



Major Export Items in 2013-14 (Value in million US$): Woven garments (294.52); Knitwear (385.481); Home Textile (27.439); Agri-products (7.754); Frozen Food (84.264); Leather & Leather Products (0.101); Footwear (39.201); Raw Jute (0.499); Jute Goods (7.345); Bicycle (0.93); Others (10.598).

Major Import Items: 2013-14 (Value in million US$): Live animals; animal products (3.674); Vegetable products (5.715); Animal or vegetable fats and oils etc. (4.2); Prepared foodstuffs (16.57); Mineral products (0.387); Products of the chemical or allied industries (30.136); Plastics and rubber articles thereof (0.942); Raw hides and skins, leather, fur skins & articles (0.003); Pulp of wood products (1.189); Textiles and textile articles (8.537); Articles of stone, plaster, cement, asbestos, mica etc. (0.055); Base metals and articles of base metal (11.183); Machinery & mechanical appliances; electrical equipment; (76.117); Vehicles, aircraft, vessels and associated transport equipment (21.587); Optical, photographic, clocks, musical instruments etc. (8.405); Miscellaneous manufactured articles (0.082)


Netherlands top 10 imports are:

  1. Electrical machinery, equipment: US$87.2 billion (15.2% of total imports)
  2. Mineral fuels including oil: $87.1 billion (15.2%)
  3. Machinery including computers: $75.5 billion (13.1%)
  4. Vehicles: $31.2 billion (5.4%)
  5. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $24.2 billion (4.2%)
  6. Pharmaceuticals: $23.6 billion (4.1%)
  7. Organic chemicals: $16.6 billion (2.9%)
  8. Plastics, plastic articles: $16.2 billion (2.8%)
  9. Iron, steel: $11.7 billion (2%)
  10. Aluminum: $8.6 billion (1.5%)

Trade pattern and capital flows

Netherlands is the 8th largest exporter and importer economy in the world. It had a negative trade balance of $15.1 billion in net imports compared to their trade balance in 1995, which was a positive trade balance of $8.65 billion in net exports.

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