Brexit: new commercial opportunities or communication quagmire?

Brexit: new commercial opportunities or communication quagmire?

Door Kyra Kemps


The prospect of Brexit still looms large, and Dutch and British companies alike face a long list of challenges as a result. Intercultural communication is tricky enough as it is, and Brexit isn’t likely to make things any easier. That’s why Taalcentrum-VU is launching a website to help companies that are struggling with Brexit-related communication problems.


The Dutch don’t do subtext

You’d be hard-pressed to find a British company able to handle Dutch-language communication themselves. Luckily, though, English is spoken and understood widely in the Netherlands. Still, no matter how much the Dutch like to pat themselves on the back when it comes to their English skills, cultural differences mean communication mishaps happen every day. For example, when a Brit says ‘correct me if I'm wrong’, a Dutch person might hear ‘they think their reasoning may be flawed’ Likewise, a polite ‘That’s an interesting idea’ might be interpreted as an expression of enthusiastic approval. Preventing misunderstandings like these from happening is vital to effective communication.

Abrasively blunt or refreshingly direct?

Similarly, British companies can run into problems if they’re uninformed when it comes to the Dutch way of doing business. The best-known example is the direct style of communication common in the Netherlands. This directness can sometimes cause confusion in intercultural professional situations. Being aware of these kinds of cultural differences is key to business success in the Netherlands.

The more you know

As Brexit approaches, this awareness will only become more important. After all, it would be a shame if you missed out on a new contract or if a budding business relationship died on the vine as a result of communication problems. Or what if a translation errors slips into your updated terms and conditions? The consequences for your company could be severe.

For blogs, tips and solutions, go to

To learn more about the cultural differences between the UK and the Netherlands, and to find out how to apply this knowledge to your own communication, go to There you’ll find blogs about language and communication after Brexit, as well as solutions to overcome Brexit-related communication challenges. Taalcentrum-VU is also launching a website with similar information for Dutch companies:

Auteur: Kyra Kemps

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