What I Learned from the Dutch About Work-Life Balance

2  min read

A few weeks ago, I was in Amsterdam having dinner with a friend who is Dutch. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and were keen on catching up. As drinks arrived, our conversation began and ended way past the last dish. Over the course of two hours, we talked about work, life, and everything in between. One thing that fascinated me so much, and took me by surprise, was just how different the work culture in the Netherlands is compared to the US.  Here is what I learned about the working culture in Holland.

1) Part-time Employment is Very Popular

Probably the most exciting and enviable discovery of them all, jobs in the Netherlands offer a part-time or full-time employment contract. This means you get the same benefits as full-time workers but an extra day off during the week to do whatever you please. In fact, I was told the Dutch are expert part time workers, and it’s really common for people to choose that option. The only drawback is, of course, your salary is slightly lower than if you chose the full time option. And some positions like partner or CEO may not allow for it. Putting that one, tiny, minuscule difference aside, working part-time is pretty legit and a big deal. So choose wisely which day you’d like off.

2) Work Life Balance is not Just a Term; It is Real

Coming into work on the weekends, working past 5 pm, or working at home is not a part of the deal in Dutch companies unlike most places in America. Having a nice balance of work and life is entrenched in Dutch society. This is even the case for high paying professions, like law. And, this is evident in the way that businesses allow for part-time work like it’s nothing. So, if you are thinking about relocating to Rotterdam or Amsterdam, you can kiss working 40+ hours weeks goodbye. They work to live, not live to work. 

3) Money isn’t Everything 

Since jobs can offer part-time and full-time contracts, employees have to choose between full pay or a slightly decreased salary. We’re talking 60k Euros instead of 75k Euros, still more than the average income in America. People mainly choose this because there is a mentality that a set amount of money is enough.  On top of that, the pay in the Netherlands is still high. How refreshing is that?

Basically, I realized that the Dutch really do value their personal time and private life. They are good at permeating a business culture that is conducive to a great, low stress, lifestyle while still having a strong economy. (Not to mention, their vacation time is out of this world.) Maybe that is why they are so nice!