You may encounter some cultural differences as a foreign dentist working in a Dutch dental clinic. These cultural differences might differ depending on your country of origin, and in this article, we will give you a general overview based on our dentist’s experiences throughout the years.
Dutch people are known for being direct and straightforward, and as a dentist working in Holland, you’ll also notice this in the communicating with your patients. In the Netherlands, patients are often open, direct and well-informed. Because of this, they tend to ask more questions about proposed treatment plans. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Patients often clearly express what they do or don’t want, which opens up a dialogue between the dentist and the patient. You’ll also notice this when it comes to talking about the costs of a treatment, which isn’t something you should shy away from.
Dutch people are generally punctual and expect others to be on time. This applies to appointments with friends, work meetings, and it’s no different in a Dutch dental clinic. Patients tend to arrive on time for their appointment, and if they exceed a number of minutes past the scheduled time, your appointment is not only canceled, but you’ll also have to pay (a part) of the treatment. Since you can expect patients to be on time, your day is more predictable, and you can often count on your agenda without too many delays.
In the Netherlands, dentists and dental assistants have a pretty equal relationship. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for them to speak their mind or even interfere in treatments. Whereas a dental assistant wouldn’t question the dentist’s opinion in other European countries, it can sometimes occur in a Dutch dental clinic. Since most foreign dentists aren’t used to this, it can take some time and effort to find a good balance in your relationship with a dental assistant.
A good work-life balance is essential in the Netherlands. As a result, working hours in the Netherlands are typically shorter than in many other countries. Opening hours from dental clinics are generally from 08.00 am until 17.00, which means your workday ends not much later than 17.00 after you finish with administration. Dental clinics are usually closed on weekends. Of course, you can have an emergency shift occasionally, but a Dutch working schedule gives you plenty of opportunities to enjoy life outside of work.
Dental hygienists play an important role in Dutch dentistry. It’s common for dentists to refer patients to dental hygienists for dental cleanings and prevention. Whereas for example, in Portugal, dentists often take on this task. An explanation for this might be that we have a shortage of dentists in the Netherlands, so the help of dental hygienists is appreciated to share the workload. Since there’s a surplus of dentists in Portugal, this isn’t necessary.
An interesting development in the Netherlands is that dental hygienists can carry out tasks such as drilling, filling a cavity, administering anesthesia and taking x-rays. However, this is only allowed on behalf of a dentist. A registered dental hygienist is allowed to carry out these tasks independently.
Dutch patients visit the dentist regularly, and it’s common they see their dentist more often than the general practitioner. Since they’re used to their dentist, they tend to stay at the same clinic. In the Netherlands, we also work with nationwide fixed prices for dental treatments, no matter which clinic you go to. In other countries, it’s common that prices can differ per clinic and region, and therefore people tend to change dental clinics more often. In Holland, you can expect patients being loyal to the clinic.
Scheduling your holidays
Dutch people not only have a strong penchant for punctuality, but they also like planning in both their personal and professional lives. Clinics often work with a tight schedule, and you might be expected to plan your holidays at the beginning of each year. By doing so, the clinic can create a fair holiday schedule, as certain weeks tend to be more in demand than others. You may also be obligated to take some of your weeks off during the summertime when some clinics close for a few weeks.
Lunch breaks in the Netherlands are short, probably because most clinics close at 17.00 o’clock. You can expect a 30 to 45-minute lunch break. Since there isn’t enough time to leave the clinic during this break, people tend to eat together, so it’s a great way to socialize with your colleagues. Another cultural difference you’ll notice during lunch is that Dutch people tend to eat ‘cold’ food such as salads or sandwiches during lunch instead of warm meals.
In the Netherlands, there are pretty strict hygiene protocols. It’s obligatory to wear a scrub with short sleeves; your nails have to be short and without nail polish; beards and mustaches need to be short and well maintained, and jewelry or watches aren’t allowed. During our BGB program, you’ll learn about the hygiene protocols in a Dutch dental clinic to have a clear idea of what to expect.
Even though there are some cultural differences you need to consider, there are also certain aspects that aren’t any different than in other European countries. Regarding materials, we often work with international brands that are common across Europe. And regarding techniques, there aren’t significant differences either. It’s therefore, that the BIG, the Dutch online registry for healthcare professionals, recognizes other European dental degrees.
We hope this article has given you some insight into the cultural differences when working in a Dutch dental clinic, so you won’t be surprised when your patients show up on time, and your colleagues start eating their cheese sandwiches during your short lunch!