The Netherlands and Germany both are European leaders in the economy, immigration, and work. Quality of life is another important factor which characterizes a country. Accordingly, to the rankings Vienna, Austria is the best country regarding the quality of life, German cities Munich and Düsseldorf in places 3 and 4 respectively.
What about Dutch cities? In this post, we compare Quality of Life in Germany and the Netherlands based on many factors that help determine your decision where to move.
Overview of Life in the Netherlands and Germany
The Netherlands continues to be one of the happiest places in the world, currently, it is the fifth happiest country.
Let’s have a look at rankings:
The country ranks above the average in job availability, housing, education and skills, well-being, social connections, environmental quality, personal security, civic engagement, and health status.
However, it ranks below the average in income and wealth.
The country 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 is 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, civic engagement, housing, personal security.
Furthermore, the country is above average in income and wealth.
Money is an important means to achieving higher living standards.
In the Netherlands, the average household has a disposable income per capita is 26,441 EUR a year, lower than the European average of 30,277 EUR a year.
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 exactly cheap, but it’s possible to live here without breaking the bank.
Dutch cities tend to more expensive than German, for example, Amsterdam ranks as the 50th most expensive city, when and 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.
And there is also a considerable gap between rich and poor, overall citizens have a stronger purchase power.
Employment and Work-Life Balance
The Netherlands ranks top among other countries in work-life balance. Only 0,4% of Dutch people working significantly more than in their contract. Its the lowest rate where the average is 11%. In Germany, this number is much higher.
Therefore the Netherlands can offer a more healthy work-life balance with fewer working hours.
In terms of 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.
Wages have industry range, though they are lower than in the UK, US, and Germany. The average salary in the Netherlands is around 37,000 EUR gross annually or 2,855 EUR per month.
But this differs by industry, experience, skills, and qualifications. As of January 2019, the minimum wage in the Netherlands was 1,615 EUR, about 1.1 million people are self-employed.
With some of the lowest working hours in Europe, the Netherlands is renowned for its excellent work-life balance and informal work culture.
There’s much more equality and people tend to be respected no matter their job is. No one is judged for taking a break from work for a year to pursue their passion.
Moreover, Dutch people are less materialistic people than German, they value family and quality of life more than status and wealth.
It is quite common to work part-time to enjoy their hobbies (4 out of 10 people actually 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 who happily interact and drink 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, definitely 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 smarter to look for a job from home and maybe travel for interviews and 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 do get laid off for whatever reason, you’ll receive unemployment benefits that can sustain you for months.
The Netherlands experiences 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 professions, and service areas such as cleaning and catering, also need staff.
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. In terms of vacation, German employees receive between 25 and 30 free working days per year.
German people tend to be more hardworking and sacrifice their private life to follow their careers. In the Netherlands, it’s a rare case.
Law 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 size of the 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 more official and straightforward.
It’s not common to spend private time with your colleagues after work. Dividing private and work life is important, here Dutch and German are pretty similar.
Both countries in a very good standpoint 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 into the Dutch social security system and in return 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 is not 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 it works in 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 health care also a part of social security, worker pays only half of the cost, the rest is on an 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.
Maternity and paternity leave exist too, together with child support, but only the last one is a part of social security. Maternity and paternity leave lies more in the responsibility of the employer.
Same as in the Netherlands a fixed percentage of employee’s monthly salary goes to contribute these social security funds.
Overall, both social security systems are well-developed and residents can expect the government to take good care of them.
Same as in Germany, everyone needs health insurance in order 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 contract.
Expats can choose from the wide range of international health insurers in the Netherlands include:
- Allianz Care
- BUPA Global
- Cigna Global
The basic Dutch insurance package covers all costs for the most common medical care. 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 required.
As I mentioned above health care is a part of social security and 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 automatically compulsorily insured in the statutory health insurance system (GKV). The insurance also covers all family members.
The 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 here more about all the benefits of employment in Germany.
Good education and skills are important 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, a relatively high number of universities are ranked in the top 100 universities worldwide.
Many foreign students take advantage of modern and 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 aren’t able actually to pay this amount, they will receive aid from the government.
You can also take a student loan up to 10 years, which generally have 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.
As well as many groups to join, lots of activities all the time, lots of partying, lots of socializing. But you will find it all in Germany too, countries are very similar in this aspect.
As I mentioned, Germany and the Netherlands are both having a 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, higher education is free for everyone, therefore Germany 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. Normally it’s a monthly payment of something between 580 – 850 EUR.
German gymnasien 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 more diversified, layered, comprehensive, specialized but also more complex and difficult 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.
In terms of health, life expectancy in the Netherlands is 82 years. With 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 of Oxfam that 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 gym regularly or do some kind of sports. They tend to be slimmer, fitter and have heathier choices and life overall.
In addition to this, Dutch people love their bikes, its a cheap and healthy way of transport, 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 got toned simply because of riding a bike every day.
A car is really not necessary if you have a bike and have access to public transportation.
In Germany on another hand, people love cars, of course, its a country of auto manufacturing. But its also the unhealthiest and expensive way of commuting.
In terms of health, life expectancy in Germany is 81 years, just 1 year lower than in the Netherlands. However, Germans tend to have unhealthier habits than Dutch people.
On average they drink, smoke and eat more unhealthy food than their neighbor the Netherlands.
But this doesn’t mean that healthy food is unavailable or unaffordable, the biggest part of the population still prefer the traditional german diet, which mainly contains meat, potatoes, baked goods, cheese, and different kind of bacon.
In fact, there are two most unhealthy states in Germany: the western North Rhine-Westphalia and the southern Baden-Württemberg, where only 9 percent of residents lived healthy lives, according to the statistics.
Outdoors is the way most Germans remain to stay healthy, they also like to ride a bike, but then 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 in the end, but one is for sure they have enough options for individuals to choose from and decite which lifestyle they want.
Society and Community
In the Netherlands as well as Germany exist 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, respect to each other, tolerance, integrity, acceptance, perseverance, efficiency, reliability are the main values.
They also strongly believe in equality, so everyone in society has the same rights and possibilities.
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 forms.
Besides, the Netherlands and particularly Amsterdam has one of the strongest expat communities in Europe.
Dutch people don’t have problems with making friends, they are generally way more at ease in social situations than Germans and are great at making conversations in a relaxed manner.
As I mentioned Germans have a strong sense of community too. Original Germans and people with migration background feel similarly strongly belonging to the German society (over 85%).
Germans also love to volunteer and participate in different nonprofit organizations, which are literally in each big, mediocre, small city and even each village has at least one NPO.
From 82.87 million people in Germany alone 10.96 million have a foreign passport, no one European country has this big amount of immigrants. So Germans already get used to live with foreigners together in 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 — oftentimes on the same day!
Overall the weather is very influenced by the sea and also very 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 much more sunny days, then 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 with regions, in the Northwest, you will experience almost the same situation than in the Netherlands (wind, rain) when South and Southwest can remind a bit of Italy.
My personal favorite is the south, here officially sun appears more often and summer lasts longer.
Whatever quality of life is good, mediocre or bad, it’s all doesn’t matter if a country doesn’t commit to the sustainable choices. The whole 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. Use of cars and public transportation is for sure lower than in Germany.
However, the country still lags in big messuages for sustainability. In 2014, only 5.5% of energy in the Netherlands was produced from sustainable sources.
Compare that to other countries like Sweden who derive almost half of their energy supply from sustainable sources.
At least the Netherlands is on the right way, and maybe will be there one day. For now, the country provides companies with renewable resources and people with an eco-friendly place to live.
The Dutch way of transport goods is still sea, and this is the most eco-friendly method. For example, the port of Rotterdam is the home to Europe’s largest maritime transportation hub.
The country also produces renewable energy through especially wind power.
The Netherlands has committed to providing 50% of the county’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, mostly 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 become more and more popular in Germany.
Both countries are taking waste recycling very seriously and responsible, all garbage has to be separated and allocated in different categories: plastic, paper, residual waste, bio waste, glass, and cans.
All clothes, shoes and other unregular or big garbage have to be submitted to the special place in your town.
Cities with the best quality of life
- The Hague
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