Focus on the Netherlands: Expanding into new markets


Whether we remain in the European Single Market or not, many businesses are still looking for opportunities to export to our near neighbours in Europe. The Netherlands is a prime example.

Currently the UK’s fourth largest bilateral trading partner, in 2014 (latest available figures) the value of UK goods exported to the Netherlands was $36.7 billion.

While a hard Brexit may mean that goods exported from the UK to EU countries like the Netherlands will be subject to import tariffs, it’s likely to remain an important market for the following reasons:

  • Proximity to the UK – shipping costs and transit times can be relatively low, negligible time difference for communications
  • Culturally similar to the UK – making it easy to do business and market products into this country
  • Technologically advanced – an early adopter of digital technology making it ideal for ecommerce opportunities
  • One of the world’s most open economies – currently easy to trade with, although expect changes post-Brexit
  • Economy – the Dutch economy has been very stable for years and is seeing steady growth
What are UK companies exporting to the Netherlands?

Putting concerns about Brexit aside, currently the main challenge for UK businesses looking to export to the Netherlands is international and domestic competition. As a very open economy, many global companies are fighting over Dutch customers, and UK companies need to be highly competitive.

Top exports to the Netherlands from the UK are:

  • mineral fuels, oils and distillation products
  • pharmaceuticals
  • nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery
  • vehicles
  • organic chemicals
  • electrical, electronic equipment
  • optical, photo, technical, medical apparatus

However, the Department for International Trade (DIT) has highlighted the following sectors as presenting good opportunities for UK businesses looking to expand into the Netherlands:

  • Food and drink – including drinks, ethnic foods, frozen products, organic food, private label, sweets and snacks
  • Offshore wind – development and consent, environmental assessments, installation and commissioning, operations and maintenance services
  • Security and defence – the Dutch government is increasing investment in defence. Cyber security is also an area that is seeing global demand. The Port of Rotterdam is Europe’s largest logistics hub (and also the second largest city in the Netherlands) and has high demand for security services and solutions

The HM Government’s Exporting Is Great website lists some opportunities for exporting to the Netherlands here (filter by markets).

Dutch economic forecasts

The OECD’s November 2016 economic outlook states that the Netherlands’ economy is “growing steadily, if not spectacularly, mainly driven by domestic demand.”  Also that “Economic activity is projected to continue growing at a pace close to 2% per year. It will be driven by strong private consumption and investment growth.”

Unemployment is declining and salaries are increasing, this is resulting in more real disposable income for Dutch households and creating opportunities for companies selling consumer products.

Language considerations

One of the key advantages of expanding into this market is that culturally the Netherlands is very similar to the UK. Many people speak more than one language, and English is widely spoken (over 90% of the population speak English).

In fact, English is an official language in some municipalities such as Amsterdam. This means that communication can be done in English, although Dutch is preferred. Publications, meetings and administration in the municipality of Amsterdam are always in Dutch.

As most people speak English it is unlikely that you will need interpreting services when doing business in the Netherlands. This is especially true when talking to people in the business community who are used to international trade and therefore regularly communicate in English.

For translation purposes Dutch is the official language and the one to use when translating any documents, websites, marketing material etc.

As with any translation, it’s important to take on board any cultural factors in your source text and content, which may not translate in your target market. Humour, geographic references, social norms etc. must all be taken into account. Although the Netherlands is culturally very similar to the UK there are differences, therefore it’s advisable to get support from a native Dutch translator to ensure no cultural mistakes.

For translations involving technical terminology it’s also vital to get the appropriate support, for example for medical or pharmaceutical translations, automotive translations and so forth.

Useful links:

DIT’s Doing business in the Netherlands: trade and export guide

HM Government’s Exporting Is Great website

Passport to Trade: Business culture

If your business is looking to the Netherlands for export opportunities and you would like to discuss language considerations and what key documents, marketing materials and other content you should translate and localise for this market, please get in touch on 01926 335681 or at

Our team will be happy to have an informal chat about your plans and make their recommendations.

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