Best Country for Living: The Netherlands vs Germany
The Netherlands and Germany are among European leaders in terms of the economy, the number of foreigners, and job opportunities. High quality of life is another important factor that makes these countries attractive. According to the rankings, German cities like Munich and Düsseldorf are in places 3 and 4 respectively regarding the quality of life.
What about Dutch cities? This post compares the living and quality of life in Germany and the Netherlands based on many factors. That information will help you when making a decision on where to move. Also read which country is best for immigration: Germany or the Netherlands.
Living in the Netherlands vs Germany
The Netherlands continues to be one of the places in the world with the happiest residents. Currently, it’s the fifth most fulfilled country.
Let’s have a look at the rankings. The country ranks above the average in job availability, housing, education and skills, well-being, social connections, environmental quality, personal security, civil engagement, and health.
However, it ranks below the average in income and wealth.
The Netherlands also has the fifth-lowest unemployment rate (3,5%) in Europe, and Dutch people are the second most likely to be able to meet unexpected expenses, meaning they know how to save money.
It’s also one of the best cities in Europe for starting and operating a business. With its clean environment, cultural diversity, and well-developed infrastructure, the Netherlands is a great place to live.
Germany also ranks above the average in education and skills, work-life balance, jobs and earnings, environmental quality, social connections, health status, civil engagement, housing, and personal security.
Furthermore, the country is above average in income and wealth.
In the Netherlands, the average household’s disposable income per capita is 26,441 EUR a year, lower than the European average of 30,277 EUR a year. For more information, read our guide on Dutch salaries.
There is also a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn more than 4 times as much as the bottom 20%. Although it’s a country of equality, the salary can range significantly.
Life in the Netherlands isn’t cheap, but it’s possible to live here without breaking the bank.
Dutch cities tend to be more expensive than German; for example, Amsterdam ranks as the 50th most expensive city, while Frankfurt and Berlin place 68th and 71st.
In Germany, the average household disposable income per capita is 30,901 EUR a year, higher than the average of 30,277 EUR a year.
There is also a considerable gap between the rich and poor. Overall, citizens have stronger purchasing power. Read this article about salaries in Germany.
Employment and work-life balance
The Netherlands ranks top among other countries in work-life balance. Only 0,4% of Dutch people work significantly more than stated in their contract. It’s the lowest rate where the average is 11%. In Germany, this number is much higher.
Therefore, the Netherlands can offer a healthier work-life balance with fewer working hours.
Regarding employment, 76% of people aged 15 to 64 in the Netherlands have a paid job. 80% of men are in paid work, compared with 71% of women.
Salaries range depending on the industry, although they are lower than in the UK, US, and Germany. The average wage in the Netherlands is around 37,000 EUR gross annually or 2,855 EUR per month.
But this differs by sector, experience, skills, and qualifications. As of January 2019, the minimum wage in the Netherlands was 1,615 EUR, and about 1.1 million people are self-employed.
With some of the lowest working hours in Europe, the Netherlands is known for its excellent work-life balance and informal work culture.
There’s more equality, and people tend to be respected regardless of their job. No one is judged for taking a break from work for a year to pursue their passion.
Moreover, Dutch people are less materialistic than Germans; they value family and quality of life more than status and wealth.
It’s common to work part-time to enjoy their hobbies (4 out of 10 people do). You don’t live to work in the Netherlands; you work to live.
Worth to notice that Dutch businesses are much less hierarchical than German. You can see a CEO happily interacting and drinking beer with junior employees.
Indeed, the flourishing Dutch freelance culture here sees many entrepreneurs working from their kitchen table.
There are many jobs in the Netherlands for educated, English-speaking people. If you work in a big international company, you most likely don’t need to learn Dutch.
If you’re seeking employment, check out jobs in Amsterdam, the international and marketing hub of the Netherlands. That’s where most large, English-speaking, multinational companies are located.
Moving to the Netherlands without a job isn’t advisable, especially for people from non-EU countries or without knowledge of Dutch.
It will be wiser to look for a job from home and maybe travel for interviews and an apartment hunt. Otherweise you might spend 4–6 months looking for a job in the Netherlands and doing nothing.
Apart from the best work-life balance, workers get a month of paid vacation. Add that to the national holidays, and you’re looking at over a month of paid time off.
Another benefit of being an employee in the Netherlands is law is always on your side; it’s almost impossible to get fired.
And even if you get laid off for some reason, you’ll receive unemployment benefits that can sustain you for months or even years.
The Netherlands experiences a labor shortage in many fields that offer good chances for foreigners to be hired.
Most open vacancies are in technical professions such as construction, industry, and technology, but employers in ICT, healthcare, logistics, pedagogical and agricultural jobs, and service areas such as cleaning and catering also need personnel.
In terms of employment, about 75% of people aged 15 to 64 in Germany have a paid job. 79% of men are employed, compared with 72% of women.
In Germany, more than 5% of employees work very long hours, which is more than 12 times more than in the Netherlands. Regarding vacation, German employees receive between 25 and 30 free working days annually.
Germans tend to be more hardworking and sacrifice their private life to follow their careers. In the Netherlands, it’s a rare case.
Law is also on the side of the employee in Germany, so it’s hard to get hired without a significant reason if you passed the trial period.
Although in comparison with the Netherlands, fired employees don’t receive unemployment benefits equal to the full salary. In fact, it’s significantly lower.
Typical German organizational structure is very hierarchical where job position and responsibility are strictly in line, working relationships are more official and straightforward.
It’s not common to spend private time with your colleagues after work. Separating personal and work life is important; here, Dutch and German are pretty similar.
Both countries are performing excellently in terms of social security. Even the self-employed can apply for childcare subsidies and maternity leave.
All foreigners who live and work in the Netherlands are required to pay contributions to the Dutch social security system, and, in return, they can claim various government benefits.
These benefits are:
- Family benefits, maternity and paternity leave, unemployment benefits, long-term care, sick leave, disability benefits, and pension.
However, healthcare in the Netherlands isn’t covered under Dutch social security, so all residents in the Netherlands are required to enroll with a health insurance provider on their own.
In Germany, social security works the same way as in the Netherlands; employees pay regular contributions from their salary and receive support from the government when needed.
One main difference is healthcare is also a part of social security. Workers pay only half of the cost; the rest is on the employer.
The mandatory Social Security System in Germany consists of health insurance, long-term care and nursing insurance, pension insurance, unemployment insurance as well as accident insurance.
German employers also secure maternity and paternity leaves. Besides, child support is a part of social security. In contrast, maternity and paternity leave lies more in the employer’s responsibility.
Like in the Netherlands, a fixed percentage of an employee’s monthly salary contributes to these social security funds.
Overall, both social security systems are well-developed, and residents can expect the government to take good care of them.
Like in Germany, everyone needs health insurance to live or even visit the Netherlands. The most basic health insurance has a minimum payment of 385 EUR per year.
However, in the case of employment, an employer will pay a small percentage towards medical coverage as well. However, this depends on the company and the contract.
Expats can choose from the wide range of international health insurers in the Netherlands, including:
- Allianz Care
- BUPA Global
- Cigna Global
The basic Dutch insurance package covers the most common medical care costs. This includes general practitioner and specialist services, medication, and most maternity care.
You will need extra insurance if you want coverage for extensive dental treatments, physiotherapy, or anything else the government considers to be your own responsibility; it is in these additional areas that companies compete.
In Germany, you will need to pay extra for some treatments, but no additional insurance is required.
As mentioned above, healthcare is a part of German social security and is already included in your monthly contribution.
Moneywise, 14,6% of your salary will go into health insurance, 7,3% will be paid by you, and 7,3% by the employer.
Up to a certain income, the employee is automatically insured in the statutory health insurance system (GKV). The insurance also covers your family members.
Basic statutory insurance covers all costs for the most common medical care, including treatment by GP and specialists.
Above certain income, employees can sign up for private insurance. The amount of coverage will be based on the agreed tariff.
The basic tariff is roughly comparable to the cover provided by the GKV. Some more expensive offer shorter waiting times and better hospital conditions.
Read more about all the benefits of employment in Germany.
Good education and skills are essential requisites for finding a job. The Dutch rank highly in many fields of education. In fact, the World Economic Forum has ranked the Netherlands as the third most educated country in the world.
Dutch schooling system has high quality, and even though the country is small, many universities are ranked in the top 100 universities worldwide.
Many international students take advantage of modern English teaching universities. Each year thousands of students from all over the world come to study in the Netherlands.
Everybody in the Netherlands has access to higher education, yearly tuition fees are relatively cheap (around 2,000 EUR), and even if students cannot pay this amount, they will receive aid from the government.
You can also take a student loan for up to 10 years, which generally has a low-interest rate (3 – 5%).
Besides the financial side, student life is great. There are many student cities with a wide range of entertainment options.
You can also join many social groups, participate in activities, parties, and much more. Yet, you will find it all in Germany too; countries are very similar in the aspect of student life.
As we mentioned, Germany and the Netherlands both have great student life and education overall. However, the German education system has an excellent reputation, as the country is bigger and has more established and older schools.
Moreover, a significant number of foreigners study at German universities, and higher education is free for everyone. Therefore, Germany has become the favorite country in Europe to study abroad.
If German students don’t have enough funds to study, the government will provide aid (BAFÖG) to them as well. Usually, it’s a monthly payment of between 580 – 850 EUR.
German gymnasiums, so-called high schools, also have a generally high quality of teaching. And of course, we need to mention excellent vocational training, since a big part of German society graduated this way. The Netherlands doesn’t have this kind of education.
In general, the German educational system is more diversified, layered, comprehensive, and specialized but also more complex and challenging to understand.
Most of the time, German universities won’t accept your school leaving certificate (if non-EU), and you will need to complete a year of preparational course or some other way to get your diploma recognized.
Read which country is best as a destination to study abroad: Germany or the Netherlands.
In terms of health, life expectancy in the Netherlands is 82 years. In the past years, Dutch have become more health-conscious.
Although the country is better known for its liberal drug laws than its cuisine, the Dutch diet was ranked as the healthiest in the world in one year. A report by Oxfam looked at factors like food availability, affordability, food quality, and obesity rates.
The Netherlands is officially healthier than Germany. Dutch people consume less beer, meat, and bread. Also, many visit the gym regularly or do some kind of sport. They tend to be slimmer and fitter, making healthier choices and overall life.
In addition, Dutch people love their bikes, it’s a cheap and healthy way of transport, and cities are super bike-friendly too. Just going for a gentle 30-minute ride can burn 200 calories. So you can do the math.
Consequently, while living in the Netherlands, you will notice yourself losing weight and getting your legs toned simply because of riding a bike every day.
A car is not necessary if you have a bike and access to public transportation.
In Germany, on the other hand, people love cars. Of course, it’s a country of auto manufacturing. But it’s also the unhealthiest and most expensive way of commuting.
In terms of health, life expectancy in Germany is 81 years, just one year lower than in the Netherlands. However, Germans tend to have unhealthier habits than Dutch people.
On average, they drink, smoke, and eat unhealthier food than their neighbor, the Netherlands.
But this doesn’t mean that healthy food is unavailable or unaffordable; most of the population still prefers the traditional german diet, which mainly contains meat, potatoes, baked goods, cheese, and ham.
In fact, there are two most unhealthy states in Germany: the western North Rhine-Westphalia and southern Baden-Württemberg, where only 9% of residents live healthy lives, according to the statistics.
Outdoors is the way most Germans remain healthy; they also like to ride a bike, but most likely not in a city and along the river or in the forest instead.
Most major cities are cycle friendly, and many citizens use their bikes too as a way of transportation, but less than in the Netherlands.
You can also find many gyms and sports facilities all over the country, together with supermarkets with organic or vegan food.
It’s hard to say which country is healthier. Ultimately, they both have enough options for individuals to choose which lifestyle they want.
Society and community
The Netherlands and Germany have a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation.
For Dutch society, some aspects of social life are more important than others. For example, the main values are respect for each other, tolerance, integrity, acceptance, perseverance, efficiency, and reliability.
They also strongly believe in equality, so everyone in society has the same rights and possibilities in life.
Furthermore, Dutch have a very egalitarian and tolerant approach to others. They are also very friendly to locals or foreigners and will help whether they can.
Volunteering is a great way to contribute to the community; almost one-third of the people in the Netherlands are volunteering in some form.
Besides, the Netherlands, particularly Amsterdam, has one of the strongest expat communities in Europe.
Dutch people don’t have problems making friends. They are generally way more open-minded and easy-going in social situations. Besides, they are great at making conversations in a relaxed manner.
As we mentioned, Germans have a strong sense of community too. Germans and people with migration backgrounds feel to belong strongly to the German society (over 85%).
Germans also love to volunteer and participate in different non-profit organizations, which are literally in each big, mediocre, small city, and even each village has at least one NPO (non-profit).
Of 82.87 million people in Germany alone, 10.96 million have a foreign passport. No other European country has this large number of immigrants. So Germans got used to living together with foreigners as one big society.
The Netherlands has a temperate maritime climate influenced by the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, with cool summers and moderate winters.
Dutch weather can be very unpredictable. One second, the sun is shining; the next, it’s raining like hell. You can expect clouds, rain, sleet, hail, sun, and wind — often on the same day.
The Dutch weather is influenced by the sea and is similar to the British.
The number of sunshine hours (on average 1,600 hours) is on the lower end compared to Germany with 1,800 on average and regional differences. So in the South, you will have many more sunny days than in the North or elsewhere.
You are lucky if the entire day is sunny in the Netherlands. There is a reason why the country has over 1,000 windmills; expect to feel the wind on your skin almost every day.
In most of Germany, the climate is moderately continental, with cold winters with average daily temperatures and warm summers. It’s also less rainy and windy than in the Netherlands.
Weather varies depending on the region. In the Northwest, you will experience almost the same situation as in the Netherlands (wind, rain) when South and Southwest will remind you a bit of Italy.
Whether the quality of life is good, mediocre, or bad, it doesn’t matter if a country doesn’t commit to sustainable choices. The world won’t have a chance in the future if we don’t change our habits.
Which country is more sustainable or at least set a goal to become one?
The Netherlands is one of the most bike-friendly cities on the planet: it has more bikes than people, and 63% of its residents use them for their daily commute. The use of cars and public transportation is much lower than in Germany.
However, the country still lags behind in sustainability. In 2014, only 5.5% of energy in the Netherlands was produced from sustainable sources.
Compared to other countries like Sweden, which derives almost half of their energy supply from sustainable sources.
Yet, the Netherlands is on the right path, maybe one day. For now, the country provides companies with renewable resources and people with an eco-friendly place to live.
The Dutch way of transporting goods is still by sea, which is the most eco-friendly method. For example, the port of Rotterdam is home to Europe’s most prominent maritime transportation hub.
The country also produces renewable energy through wind power. The Netherlands has committed to provide 50% of the country’s electricity through sources such as wind and solar by 2025.
Germany also behaves more cautiously with natural resources. Therefore, it produces renewable energy in many ways, mainly with the help of wind power, solar power, and biomass.
Germany has been called the world’s first major renewable energy economy. Also, green transportation such as electro cars has become more and more popular.
Both countries are taking waste recycling very seriously and responsibly. All garbage must be separated into different categories: plastic, paper, residual waste, bio waste, glass, and cans.
All clothes, shoes and other unregular or big garbage must be sent to the special place in your town.
Cities with the best quality of life
- The Hague
Read this article to learn about the best cities to live in for foreigners in Germany.