In very broad terms, the Dutch are more likely to plan and stick to those plans. Personal time and time off are valued, so you need to be efficient in your working hours. You can't really expect someone to respond to your emails after working hours. Having to work in the weekends at all is a sign of bad project management, and should be exceptional. Meetings have agendas which are sent out ahead of time.
Americans are generally more optimistic, which makes for worse time management and planning, which leads to overtime and stress. Being seen at work somehow equals working, and internal guilt for not working efficiently while at work leads to more weekend work. There's a big focus how much you've 'worked' this week. Interruption is common for things which could be structured.
To be honest, it's been pretty difficult to adjust, but the payoff is huge. Actual free time after work, real weekends, and longer vacations are all possible because people plan... whereas friends back home are often unable to plan vacations because they/their boss don't know how busy they'll be in 5 months.
Technology is easy, people are hard.
In knowledge and creative work I find that if you take 4-5 weeks off a year (I've only done this once) work can bleed in to "off time" and it doesn't matter. When you take 2-3 weeks off a year you have to protect your personal time.
I do see this in some of the startups in the bay area though.
(EDIT: It's about the feeling of guild, people. It's embedded inside the Protestant Culture, alongside with working hard. As mentioned in Wikipedia link)
'Protestant work ethic' is something I've only heard talked about in America, usually couched in the form of an indirect put-down of non-protestants. Northern Europeans are more likely to view predominantly Catholic countries like France, Spain, Italy as stereotypically lazy, but this is usually ascribed to the Mediterranean climate.
The thing is that it's not necessarily so much about working hours here. It's the general feeling that every moment should be intentful, purposeful and, like our churches, generally without frills.
In a way it feels less like 'work hard' and more like 'don't endulge yourself' to me.
Are they more productive though? That's the important part. I'm not familiar with the Dutch software industry, is it comparable to silicon valley?
Edited: Scandinavian -> Norther Europe
They didn't contribute very much to the genetic and cultural pool that exists in those areas today.
We have an 8.5 hour workday in Switzerland which we strictly stick to - we get comp time if you work over. In the u.s. we were pretty regularly working 10 hour days and 12 wasn't unusual, but we were wasting so much time.
A good example is meetings - most people get to the meeting 5 minutes before the start time. As soon as enough people arrive (usually 5 minutes before the start time or right at the start time) the meeting starts. If the meeting doesn't start by 10 minutes after because someone is missing it's cancelled. There's no smalltalk at the beginning, no socializing, no standing around stuffing your face...
Our company was bought by an American company and some of the Swiss staff transferred to the u.s. for awhile. Meetings were one of the most confusing changes for them - they'd be waiting in the conference room with no one showing up, then a few stragglers 10 minutes after the start time, and then every stands around talking about non-work stuff like they were at a high-school mixer. One colleague asked to have them start the meeting the first few time but eventually gave up and just started doing it the American way.
I'm lucky to have learned from some excellent meeting-chairs but have only been able to reproduce the efficiency when I formed and ran my own team. Never pulled it off when joining someone else's.
That means they're unproductive. On the other hand, if you force a venue change, you're just going to get hyper aggressive git commit messages or something equally stupid to show "who's boss". The only solution I'm aware of is to select employees for hire based on likelihood of not being "into" primate dominance rituals, at least not at work. This is pretty hard to figure out at the interview stage and once a company is eventually infected, its plague dynamics time, and much like a bad flu season, work grinds to a halt.
I don't think that's necessarily even a subconscious purpose, but most human group face-to-face interactions end up involving some elements of such rituals, and in the case of meetings they are particularly dominant when the "rich interaction" that is enabled by face-to-face communication isn't used specifically for something else.
Lots of meetings, IME, are held by one person to gather information from many people or to distribute information from one person to many people -- these kind of one-to-many or many-to-one scenarios are the easiest thing to see doesn't require a meeting (many-to-one being the more inefficient.) There's even some cases of many-to-many communication where there isn't any real need for interactivity. And plenty of cases where a meeting that is held for a many-to-many interactive purpose spends much of its time doing top-down, one-to-many communication for much of the meeting because something that ought to have been distributed to be reviewed by participants to be ready for a productive meeting was instead distributed for the first time in the meeting, wasting most of the meeting time.
I've seen this play out in social groups, too.
at one point, I was paid for more time in meetings than work. The only way this didn't happen was when we were putting out fires because mysteriously, we weren't making project goals and upper management was putting pressure on my boss.
I currently work for a fully remote company and it's completely the opposite.
We do one weekly status meeting which is usually 20-30 mins. Then project planning/troubleshooting/teambuilding meetings as needed usually around 2-4 hours per MONTH.
EVERYTHING else is discussed/solved very efficiently via IM.
I hope to never work for a company with meetingitus again, big waste of time and resources.
It's acceptable to skip a few of the meetings after things inevitably turn into a cluster bomb and somebody has to start writing the actual code.