The UK vs. The Netherlands: Best Country for Living

If you are looking for a new place to call home, you may be wondering which country is the best. The United Kingdom and the Netherlands are two popular choices, but which one is right for you? There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding where to live. Cost of living, climate, healthcare, and quality of life are just a few things that come to mind. 

While both the UK and the Netherlands offer a high standard of living, there are some key differences that may influence your decision. The cost of living in the UK is higher than in the Netherlands. London, in particular, is one of the most expensive cities in Europe.

If you are looking to save money, the Netherlands may be a better choice. Nevertheless, salaries in the UK are also higher, so you may end up with more disposable income. This post will compare the two countries and help you decide which one is better suited for your needs. Also read this guide on living in the Netherlands vs Denmark.

The UK vs. The Netherlands

Don’t get it twisted, each country has its pros and cons. It really just depends on what you’re looking for in a place to live. If you want beautiful scenery, then the United Kingdom is the better choice with its rolling hills and picturesque villages.

The Netherlands, on the other hand, is known for its canals and vibrant city life. If you’re looking for a more relaxed lifestyle, the Netherlands is the way to go. However, if you want more excitement and nightlife, then the UK is a better fit.

It comes down to what you’re looking for in a place to live. Below are lists of some pros and cons of living in both countries.

Pros and cons of living in the UK

Pros

  1. Free medical healthcare
  2. Cheap air travel around the UK
  3. Historic cities that provide spectacular sites to visit
  4. Cheaper cost of living as compared to the Netherlands
  5. Amazing pub culture
  6. Stunning cottage homes and the chocolate box villages
  7. Easier access to other European countries
  8. More prestigious universities than the Netherlands

Cons

  1. Unpleasant weather; mostly mild winters, warm summers, and not as assorted as the weather in the Netherlands.
  2. Rowdy football culture as compared to the Netherlands, where fans are friendly.
  3. Housing can be a challenge.

Pros and Cons of living in the Netherlands:

Pros

  1. Child benefits for children under the age of 18. The government gives parents quarterly funds to upkeep their youngsters – either biological or adopted.
  2. Fast and efficient healthcare, unlike the UK, which has free healthcare albeit slow and sometimes may take you days to receive medical attention. 
  3. Food centers that provide free food to the less fortunate.
  4. Freedom of speech, protest, and the LGBTQ community have the right to express themselves. 
  5. Plenty of high-standard accommodation to rent or buy as correlated to the UK, though they might be pricey or take time to find a good one.
  6. Great social lifestyle, like the summer music festivals and cafe culture.
  7. Low crime rates as compared to the UK.
  8. Great cycling culture.
  9. Lovely weather with seasons flaunting spectacular sights – frozen canals, blooming tulips, and leaves transforming the forests and parks during autumn.
  10. Greater work/life balance in contrast to the UK.

Cons

  1. There is a great transport system, but the prices are sharp, train delays are common. 
  2. Costly health insurance 
  3. Few job opportunities for the non-EU migrants
  4. Language barrier for non-dutch speaking foreigners
  5. Pricey to buy, insure, fuel, and fix a car
  6. High taxes

The UK vs. The Netherlands: Quality of life

UK

Work-life balance

The work-life balance in the UK is worse compared to that in the Netherlands. Most employees are working for 48 hours a week or more.

The government stopped enforcing the European Work Time Directive, which ensured a maximum of 48 hours a week of work time. Laborers work for longer hours, doing intense tasks, unlike those in the Netherlands.

Housing

Housing in the UK is expensive, with rents in cities like London costing $2,328 per month for a modest one-bedroom apartment. There are very few modern homes in the UK, leaving many unfit for living. Furthermore, new houses are being constructed at a slower rate than the housing demand, escalating the problem.   

Education

Many top-ranked universities like Cambridge, Oxford, LSE, and Imperial universities are located in the UK. This means the UK has one of the best education systems, making it a top choice for expatriates looking for an excellent education. 

International students can also apply for studying loans as long as they live in the UK.

Healthcare

People living in the UK enjoy free medical service through the National Healthcare Service (NHS). The NHS caters for medical expenses ranging from hospital, accidents, and emergencies, dentists to pharmacists, paid through tax deductions. This makes the UK a good place for improved health and well-being. 

For extra benefits, all residents and expats can choose private insurance companies, like the world-known Cigna Global.

Salaries

The average annual average for a UK worker is 37,587 EUR, according to research by Statista. Comparatively, salaries in the UK are less than in the Netherlands at every job level.  

Cost of Living

The UK has a high cost of living but is cheaper than the Netherlands. The estimated average cost of a single person is 651 EUR per month (without rent), while a family of four will need 2,268 EUR for the same period (without rent). Consumer prices without rent are 7.35% lower than in the Netherlands.

Read this guide on cost of living in the UK vs the Netherlands.

Infrastructure

The UK is among the countries with the best infrastructures in the world. There are well-connected railway systems, standard-gauge and electric, ports, motorways, airports, and a sophisticated communication system.

Nevertheless, it measures poorly compared to the Netherlands, which has better infrastructure, apart from air travel. The UK has over 70 airports and plenty of cheap flights, making it easier to travel in the country and to other European countries.

Weather

The UK has temperate weather characterized by moderate summers and winters. Frequent short rains are also common. The weather is almost the same in the Netherlands, but the Netherlands experiences more flexible weather with warmer summers and colder winters.

Lifestyle

People in the UK choose the private lifestyle, hence rarely show their emotions publicly. They might seem snobbish but can be polite, warm, and funny. However, during football matches, which are a big part of their lifestyle, they can get very rowdy. In contrast, the Dutch also love football but are rather friendly during matches and prefer to make it a party.

Whereas people in the UK love tea,  the Dutch love coffee. The UK also has hills and mountains, and the people love hiking.

The Netherlands

Housing

Renting or buying a house in the Netherlands is more expensive than in the UK. A one-bedroom apartment in the city center of the UK will cost from 759.37 EUR per month, while the same size apartment in the Netherlands ’ city center will cost from 849.59 EUR.

Nonetheless, the Netherlands boasts modern housing structures compared to the UK’s dated houses. Because of population growth caused by immigration to the major cities, there is a need for more homes, but the problem isn’t as bad as the UK’s housing problem. 

Education

Studying in the Netherlands is cheaper than in the UK for most courses. This is because the government subsidizes the tuition fees and offers grants for students.

However, international students don’t receive student loans, and studying might be too expensive. Depending on your nationality and university, you will need to pay a semester tuition fee between 1,000 EUR and 20,000 EUR a year.

As an international student, your best bet is to apply for scholarships, fellowships, and grants that the Netherland universities offer.

Work-life balance

In the Netherlands, people enjoy a great work-life balance. According to the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) report, only 0.4% of employees work very long hours, with many working part-time.

More people dedicate their time to their personal well-being, like sleeping or eating out. The other time is spent on things that make them happy like socializing with family and friends, hobbies, watching the TV, and playing games.

There is a high rate of employment and literacy among the youth, and most families practice shared responsibilities in their households. All these factors contribute to the Dutch being among the happiest people in the world.

Healthcare

The Netherlands ranks in the top five best healthcare systems worldwide. Even though some feel the insurance policy is pricey, the government offers assistance to lower-income earners. If you are an expatriate living and working in the Netherlands, you must also pay for the insurance.

Compared to the UK, the Netherlands has superior medical healthcare, notwithstanding the insurance cost.

Expats can also sign for private insurance, which will give them additional benefits at affordable prices; Cigna Global is the most recommended provider.

Salaries

Dutch average salary isn’t the highest in Europe but will give you a good middle-class lifestyle. In 2020, the average employee received 36,500 EUR gross before taxes.

Factors such as age and industry influence salaries in the Netherlands. According to a report by Statista Research Department, the average employee started earning their highest annual salary of 48,000 EUR between the age of 45 and 49 years old. 

The mining and quarrying industry has the highest salaries, with people getting an average annual wage of up to 83,000 EUR. In contrast, the lowest-earning sector is the food serving industry, with an average annual salary of only 13,700 EUR.

Cost of living

The cost of living is higher in the Netherlands than in the UK. However, living in London is more expensive than living in Amsterdam.

In the Dutch capital, the estimated monthly cost of a single person is 2,442 EUR, while for a family of four, it comes to 4,332 EUR. The cost of rent is 10,69% higher than in the UK, according to statistics by Numbeo.com.

Infrastructure

There is a rich coverage of modern infrastructure throughout the Netherlands. This comprises railways, roads, ports, waterways and canals, airways, bicycle pathways, and the telecommunication system. 

Water sports like canoeing and tour boats are common in the canals and are part of the tourist attraction. The port of Rotterdam is Europe’s largest port and the main transit point of shipments entering Europe.

Additionally, the canals interconnect the rivers in the country, enabling transportation by ships into the country and to other countries.

The Netherlands is the most digitally connected country globally, with a 99% 4G coverage in terms of internet connectivity. The country also boasts over 33,000 km dedicated to bicycle pathways, making it a cycling nation.

Clearly, Netherlands’ vast infrastructure is superior to the UK’s. The only hiccup is that transport is more expensive than in the UK.

Weather

The Netherlands enjoys lovely weather of mild winters and warm summers with plenty of rain and wind in between. The country experiences four seasons, but snowfall is a rare event.

Lifestyle

The Dutch are considered among the happiest people in the world. Their happiness is contagious, as they are very welcoming to expatriates and foreigners. They are also very direct, which can startle a stranger, but it’s part of their friendliness.

Generally, Dutch are outgoing, love partying and festivals, football, and cycling.

The UK vs. The Netherlands: Job opportunities

Both countries offer work opportunities to expatriates, especially those with strong academic qualifications and industry-relevant skills, like machine learning. Here are some factors in each country to look at while looking for work.

The UK

The best fields to work in the UK are:

  • Accounting, banking and finance
  • Consulting and management
  • Healthcare
  • IT
  • Marketing, advertising
  • Sales
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Recruitment and HR

Best salaries

Below are some jobs with the best salaries in the UK:

Enterprise Architect£71,400
Risk Manager£68,600
Enterprise Account Manager£65,800
Technical Programme Manager£65,800
Investment Banking Associate£65,000
Strategy Manager£64,000
Equity Research Analyst£62,900
Program Manager £62,800
Creative Director£61,500
Portfolio Manager £60,900
Source: Glassdoor.

High-demand jobs

Apart from considering the salaries, noting the most in-demand jobs is important. Here is a list of the top 15 high-demand jobs in the UK in 2022.

  1. Customs Officer
  2. Machine Learning Engineer
  3. Import Specialist
  4. Business Development Representative
  5. Chief Human Resources Officer
  6. Site Reliability Engineer
  7. Sustainability Manager
  8. Career Counselor
  9. Content Designer
  10. Client Solutions Manager
  11. Network Planner
  12. Laboratory Scientist
  13. Diversity and Inclusion Manager
  14. Talent Acquisition Specialist
  15. Salesforce Administrator

Source: LinkedIn.

As a foreigner, you have the highest chance of receiving a job in the professional field with a great demand for workers.

The Netherlands

Below are the jobs with the best salaries in the Netherlands:

Researcher (Clinical chemistry) £179,440
Pilot £132,710
Commercial Director  £109,330
Neurosurgeon£85,440
Dermatologist£85,440
Company Lawyer£84,830
Accountant £80,820
Mayor£70,030
Lawyer£67,150
Addiction Psychiatrist£65,440
Source: Careeraddict.

Skills shortage

There is a skills shortage in the following jobs and industries. As an expatriate, you are at a better chance of getting these jobs with the relevant qualifications:

  • Engineers
  • ICT specialists
  • Innovators in creative industries
  • Healthcare Specialists

Source: nlalumni.nl

High-Demand jobs

These are the high-demand jobs at the moment in the Netherlands:

  • Technology
  • Data
  • Cyber security
  • Growth Specialists
  • Customer Success Specialists

Source: Welovesalt.

The UK vs. The Netherlands: Salaries

The UK

In the UK, an average employee earns between £30,000 – £35,000 per year. In 2020, the average salary was £38,600, according to the ONS. Salaries in London are among the highest in the country.

At the same time, a monthly net income between £2,000 and £3,000 is considered to be a good salary.

Someone with an annual salary of more than £70,000 is considered rich in the UK. Only 5% of all British earners have this income and above.  

Ultimately, a gross salary of around £40,000 a year is needed to live a comfortable yet not extravagant lifestyle in the UK.

For example, here are some average salaries in London:

Cashier£15,483
Copywriter£34,113
Financial analyst£40,042
Graphic designer£26,738
Mobile developer£41,431
Product manager£46,063
Receptionist£17,553
Software engineer£42,925
Teacher£25,539
Web developer£32,664

Read more about salaries in the UK.

Salary after taxes

In the UK, you will pay income taxes on your gross salary. Luckily UK rates are some of the lowest in Europe. Overall, taxes and social security contributions are around 25% of the employee’s gross salary.

The most common income tax rate is 20%, and social security employees pay between 0% and 12% of their salary, depending on the level and class of income. Employers also pay a share. 

This will leave someone with a gross annual income of £40,000 with £30,864 after taxes or £2,572 monthly. 

However, high earners pay significantly more in taxes:

  1. 20% – for annual salary between £12,570 and £50,270
  2. 40 % – for annual salary between £50,271 and £150,000
  3. 45% – for annual salary above £150,001

The Netherlands

According to the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB), in the Netherlands, the average gross salary was 36,500 EUR in 2020, which is about 3,041 EUR gross or 2,400 EUR net per month, according to the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB). It’s comparable to British salaries, but you can earn more in London.

Amsterdam’s median expat salary is 48,000 EUR gross or 34,882 EUR net. That translates to 2,907 EUR monthly after tax.

What is considered a good income in the Netherlands? Everyone getting between 3,750 EUR and 5,000 EUR gross per month is a good earner.

Here are salaries for some typical jobs in the Netherlands:

ProfessionAvg. salary
Teaching Assistant€2,525
Nurse€3,070
Physiotherapist€4,655
Truck driver€2,260
HR manager€2,820
Recruiter€2,540
General doctor€4,500
ICU Nurse€3,400
Salesman€2,065
Administrative assistant€2,355
Childcare Assistant€2,595
Account manager€3,125
Carpenter€2,720
Logistics Employee€2,140
Lawyer€4,630
Warehouse worker€2,060

Read more about salaries in the Netherlands.

Salary after taxes

In the Netherlands, you will pay more taxes than in the UK if a 30% ruling doesn’t apply to your situation. It will take about 38% of your monthly income.

Personal income tax rates in the Netherlands in 2021 were:

Annual salary (EUR)Tax Rate
0 – 68,50837,10%
68.508+49,50%

However, as an expat in the Netherlands, you can save on taxes by benefiting from a 30% ruling. It’s a tax advantage for highly skilled migrants working in the Netherlands.

Your taxable income will be reduced from 100% to 70%, meaning 30% of the wage is tax-free. 

Eligibility criteria for Dutch 30% ruling:

  1. You are an employee in the Netherlands.
  2. Your salary is above 38,961 EUR.
  3. For employees under 30 with a master’s degree: minimum taxable salary is 29,616 EUR
  4. You have a professional expertise that is in a high demand or not available in the Netherlands.
  5. You have been recruited or transferred from abroad.

The UK vs. The Netherlands: Cost of living

The UK

Shortly about the cost of living in the UK

  1. Family of four estimated monthly costs: £3,564
  2. Single person estimated monthly costs: £2,014
  3. Cost of living in the UK is more expensive than in 64% of countries in Western Europe (6 out of 14)
  4. Cost of living in the UK is more expensive than in 83% of countries in the World (12 out of 63)

You will spend significantly more money in London (at least 20%). In 2020, London was ranked among the 10 most expensive cities to live in Europe. Only rent will cost you above £1,000 in London. Cheaper locations include cities in northern England. 

The average cost of living in London is about £2,892 per person per month.

Moving to the UK? Here are top reasons why you shouldn’t come to the UK.

Housing

Renting a one-bedroom apartment close to the city center in London would cost you about £1,600 a month, but you can choose one outside the city center for about £1,100.

However, other English cities are much more affordable. For instance, in Manchester, a one-bedroom apartment will cost only £700 a month.

Some typical living expenses in London:

  • Rent: £2,219 per month (Average across London for the beginning of 2021)
  • Basic public transport monthly ticket: £146
  • Taxi fare for a 5-mile journey on a business day: £26
  • Dinner for two in a pub: £37
  • 2 theatre tickets: £171
  • 1 cocktail in a club: £11
  • 1 pint of beer: £5,20

The Netherlands

The Netherlands is quite similar to other European countries regarding the cost of living and can be even more pricey than the UK. Amsterdam is the country’s most expensive city to live in but doesn’t stand a chance with London.

Keep in mind that living in Amsterdam’s central areas is particularly expensive, pushing residents to seek accommodation in neighboring municipalities, such as Amstelveen.

House prices in the Netherlands have surged in the last few years, and as a result, finding affordable accommodation in the main Dutch cities can be a challenge.

Here is some data on average living expenses in the Netherlands:

  • Family of four will need approximately 4,306 EUR
  • Single person’s estimated monthly costs are 2,428 EUR

There are some regional differences in living costs in the Netherlands, where Amsterdam and Utrecht are the most expensive and the city Lelystad is the cheapest one.

The rent for a studio or one-bedroom apartment in Amsterdam can range from 1,000–1,900 EUR a month, depending on which neighborhood you live in.

In other popular Dutch cities, including Rotterdam, Utrecht, Amstelveen, and Haarlem, you can expect to pay slightly less than in the capital.

See more on cost of living in the UK vs the Netherlands.

Anna

Anna is an experienced expat and writer. She has been living abroad for over 6 years.

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