With approximately equal amount of paid national holiday days each year (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_minimum_annual_leave_by_country) , both Finland and the Netherlands are relatively well positioned from the perspective of employees.

Yet, how the two countries spend their holiday days is, at national level, very different.

I remember my first summer working in Finland, while trying to get meetings calling to large, international organisations. And getting the following message over the answering machine: “dear caller, our office is closed between the 1st of July and 6th of August”.

Now, I was used to the Dutch holiday period, with people taking perhaps 2 weeks of in a row, so that they could also have 1 week in the autumn, 1 week with Christmas and 1 week in spring and a few longer weekends, totalling 30 days.

And then Finland. Most people that I know will take four weeks in the summer and one-two weeks in the winter. Many also prefer to take days off instead of holiday bonus and use flexihours to be able to take extra days off around school holidays.

Now, culturally, as described before, both cultures appreciate free time over (larger) financial success. However, the way in which differs.

One major difference between Finland and the Netherlands is a cultural dimension we call “Long Term Orientation”. Another dimension is called “Indulgence vs Restraint”.

Finland scores short term oriented - one consequence of this for work life in combination with holidays (and part-time work) is a rather “black-and-white” approach to work life. You work 100%, or you study 100% or you are at home 100% or you spend 4 weeks at the cottage.

The Netherlands scores long term oriented. This means everything is negotiable. The Dutch are world leaders when it comes to working part time (1400 hours is the average amount of (official) annual working hours of people in the Netherlands, compared to 1700 hours in Finland -(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_average_annual_labor_hours).

The impact on holidays can also be explained by looking at the two dimensions mentioned above. In Finland holidays are typically centred around kids’ holidays and are clearly boxed in, whereas in the Netherlands people take a lot of shorter holidays and longer weekends – if they feel like taking a day off, they’ll take the day off, or take a short weekend trip.

Failing to bring this up for discussion in cross-cultural teams is setting teams up for frustration. There is no “right way”. There is only a way to agree on what works in the local setting and clarity to both parties up front. So, budget some time for this.

Egbert Schram

Egbert Schram is a Dutchman, residing in Finland. He acts as the Group CEO of Hofstede Insights, a global cultural advisory, advising individuals, organisations and governments on the impact of culture on work life. Currently having operations in 60+ countries, and a global practice of about 150 people (of which 93% outside of Finland).