Germany and the Netherlands are the two immigration friendly countries in Europe. You are probably considering to move to one of them?
Before making the decision you need to understand what is your goals and preferences. This post will help you understand if particular aspects of one or another country fit your expectations.
Welcoming towards Foreigners
The Netherlands has 1.9 migrant on 1,000 population with different ethnic groups living together such as Dutch 76.9%, EU 6.4%, Turkish 2.4%, Moroccan 2.3%, Indonesian 2.1%, German 2.1%, Surinamese 2%, Polish 1%, other 4.8%. With a population of 16 million inhabitants, more than 3 million of them have a non-Dutch background.
Dutch are more accepting, open-minded and tolerant to people from other cultures. You most probably won’t experience any racist attitudes too. Though they are known to be direct, but also very loyal and tolerant people as well. Overall, foreigners find the Germans a little colder than Dutchie.
One out 3 people in cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam has not the dutch background.
The Netherlands has a very international culture which is very distinctive from Germany. You can find almost any food restaurant from any culture, compare to Germany, where German cuisine still outweighed.
The work environment is also more international with many companies operating in the English language and plenty of foreign workers such as British, Turks, Arabian, Indian, Romanian, Russian, American, etc.
Another positive factor for people from abroad is the widespread ability of Dutch to speak English. People in villages might be not that advanced, but in big cities like Amsterdam or Rotterdam, you can expect a good level of language.
This is useful if you want to make friends or if you have questions to ask. Either you go to a supermarket or call government services to handle mandatory stuff, they can at least help you.
Germany has 1.5 migrants on 1,000 population with smaller diversity in ethnic groups such as German 87.2%, Turkish 1.8%, Polish 1%, Syrian 1%, other 9%. There is also a big group of Russian folks in Germany, which has arrived mostly under ethnic German migrants.
Currently, 9 million out of 80 overall population are foreigners, who are living and working/studying/do nothing in Germany. One of 10 employees in Germany is an immigrant, especially in Gastronomy proportion is big.
As you can see Germany is definitely less international than the Netherlands. But it has bigger numbers of foreigners because the country is bigger and therefore a population.
The huge part of foreigners are migrants who came a few dozens year ago with their families and well-integrated into society.
Since the refuges boom in 2014 Germans are get used to foreigners and exotic looks. But still, people from abroad have not an easy time integrating to society.
Often foreigners in Germany have their own communities and exclude Germans from the social circle, you can find Turkish, Syrian and Russian communities in almost all big cities.
Speaking fluent german will help you a lot to integrate and earn respect from locals. The reason for this is a small practice of English in daily life. Germany function fully on German and so foreigners could experience difficulties in communication with locals but also in day to day tasks.
Overall Germans are friendly and welcoming folk, but English won’t bring you far in social life and in professional as well, unless you work in an international company or an Expat.
Become a Citizen
It’s possible to receive Dutch citizenship after 5 years of uninterrupted living in the country. Overall the Netherlands if more open and loyal towards immigrants and naturalization.
It also applies if you been married to a Dutch national or lived with a Dutch national for three continuous years (including abroad) or you have resided in the Netherlands with a valid residence permit for 10 years, with at least the last two years continuously.
To receive a Dutch passport you need to speak Dutch at least on the A2 (beginner) level.
The Netherlands gives foreigners many opportunities to become a citizen, the only obstacle is the cost – 840 EUR.
Although Germany is an immigrants country (just remember referees boom) get citizenship is harder and takes more time/work. You will need to live for at least 8 years in residence permit there, in addition to the list of other rules.
Foreigners can receive citizenship in Germany either by living there on a residence permit for at least 8 years or 7 years and attended an integration course. Germany will also require you to speak German at least on level B2. However, naturalization costs slightly cheaper than in the Netherlands: around 300 EUR.
Become a Student
The country has impressive 2,500 English programs inc. undergraduate and postgraduate, so if you don’t speak German you might consider the Dutch university.
In addition to this, an English degree also isn’t more expensive than a degree in Dutch, compared to Germany where most of the time students pay significant tuition fees only because of the language.
Also, most Dutch professors and teachers speak good English and quite many of them are from English speaking countries such as the UK, USA, Canada. German universities have significantly fewer English native speakers among the academic staff.
To be able to apply to university you will need a certificate about sufficient knowledge of English. It can be done by completing IELTS with score 6.0 or TOEFL with a score no lower than 550 Paper Based or 213 Computer-Based or 80%.
In the Netherlands, you can also expect a large community of international students: More than 112,000 students from around the world.
Same as in Germany the majority of all universities are Universities of Applied Sciences. They offer a more practically oriented education that is adapted to the demands of professional life. Read here more about the differences between the University and the University of Applied Sciences.
Unfortunately, higher education isn’t free in the Netherlands even for Dutch people. Expect to pay for your bachelor’s degree between 700 – 2,100 EUR per year if you come from EU and 6,000 and 15,000 EUR/year if outside.
Besides this, you might pay higher for accommodation, food and have to cycle everywhere (even when not convenient) because the monthly transport ticket was not subsidized for international students (in Germany it is).
Because both Germany and the Netherlands are part of the European Union, EU students won’t need a visa to study in any of the countries. Non-EU students will have to apply for a student visa and a residence permit after arrival.
For all Non-EU students planning to stay in the Netherlands for more than 90 days, the visa process has two parts: to apply for a Provisional Residence Permit (MVV) and Residence Permit.
First is an entry visa you need to receive in your home country before the arrival. Your MVV application will take some time to process, and it is recommended that students apply at least 3 months before the arrival date.
Luckily, the Dutch Universities took this responsibility for a visa and do almost all dirty work for you. Isn’t it a dream for a foreign student?! However, you will need to pay a visa fee for this which is 319 EUR. I think money 100% worth the work!
After arrival, you will need to apply for a residence permit to be able to stay longer than 6 months. And even this process University will do on your behalf!
I guess it’s clear why so many foreign students choose the Netherlands, the biggest hurdle of studying abroad taken over by Universities. Therefore the student can avoid all this stress.
Germany has over 370,000 international students, 3 times more than in the Netherlands. The German education system and German degree have a very good reputation worldwide, and therefore a significant number of foreigners study at German universities.
Germany is officially the cheapest country to study in Europe. Theoretically, tuition fees do not exist for local and for foreign students, but practically everyone will need to pay between 100 – 350 EUR per semester for administrative costs.
Most universities and colleges in Germany are public and therefore free, they receive all funding from the state governments.
In addition to public institutions, there are now more than 121 private universities and colleges, which provide officially recognized degrees.
If you’re aiming to study at an undergraduate course in a public university in Germany you will hardly find a course taught in English because the absolute majority of them are in German.
To complete a bachelor in English you need to opt for a private University or University of Applied Sciences. To apply for an English program in Germany you need to pass TOEFL or IELTS test beforehand with a TOEFL score of 80 points ( 550 paper-based or 213 computer-based and IELTS of 6.0.
A big advantage of Germany over the Netherlands is work permit is granted together with your student visa. So you can easily work without any paperwork.
In the Netherlands, employers need to apply for a work permit on the student’s behalf. Many companies decline for this reason, especially due to the long process and waiting time.
All Non-EU/EEA citizens will need a student visa to study in Germany. The process of visa application isn’t that easy than in the Netherlands and nobody will do it for you. To enjoy free German education you will need to do solid work to finally get there!
You should apply for a visa from your home country as soon as they receive an acceptance letter from the University. But start to collect all the paper around 6 months before!
Same as students in the Netherlands, you need to apply for a residence permit after arrival. Usually, it’s an easy procedure and doesn’t require that many additional documents.
I won’t publish a list of documents here as I don’t want to scare anyone, so you can check it (if ready) in my other post. German student visa its also cheaper than the Dutch one. Overall all permits and visas in the Netherlands are much more expensive.
Studying in Germany will cost you less than in the Netherlands, so depending on your budget and willingness to learn German you can make the right decision. Study in English –> the Netherlands, study in German—-> Germany.
Have I mentioned that Germany offers 585 master programs taught in English? So if your goal is master then you can do it almost in each German city without additional costs!
The economy is by far the most important factor if you move with the goal to work there. Both countries are European and even World leaders, so you don’t need to concern, but let’s pay attention to the details.
The Netherlands, the sixth-largest economy in Europe, due to its proximity to the sea plays an important role as a European transportation hub, with a consistently high trade surplus, stable industrial relations, and low unemployment rate.
Industry focuses on food processing, chemicals, petroleum refining, and electrical machinery. Also, the informational technologies sector is growing with worldwide digitalization.
The Netherlands is a home for some world biggest players such as Royal Dutch Shell, ING, Philips, Heiniken, Airbus, Yandex.
Dutch GDP (924.4 billion) is times lower than in Germany, but the overall economic situation isn’t worse than in Germany.
If we look at GDP per person is actually significantly higher German’s: 52,516 to 46,334. What directly tells us about the standard of living in each of these countries.
Germany has the lowest unemployment rate (3.1%) in Europe. The German economy – the fourth-largest economy in the world and Europe’s largest – is a leading exporter of machinery, vehicles, chemicals, and household equipment.
Germany benefits from a highly skilled labor force and high-quality standards. Probably everybody knows popular German brands, nevertheless here are some DHL, BOSCH, Siemens, BMW Group, Allianz, Volkswagen.
Despite the GDP of Germany of 3,846 trillion, there are 16.7% of people living below the poverty line, when in the Netherlands it’s only 8,8%.
Many foreigners move to the Netherlands to find a job because the country needs foreign workers, a lot (at least 50,000 each year).
Working opportunities are especially good for software engineers, some other types of engineers, medical workers. In Rotterdam, logistic staff will have good chances of hiring, while in Amsterdam it’s more marketing jobs (speaking dutch might be required).
Some of the world’s largest companies are Dutch (Shell, KPMG, Philips, Heineken, etc.), and many other global groups have their European headquarters in the Netherlands. They can be a good option for English speakers to receive a job offer.
Overall the Netherlands constantly looking for people to fill the gaps in customer service. Together with the country’s international mindset, to find a workplace that is operating in English and very welcoming towards foreign employees it’s not a difficult task.
There are especially good conditions for international graduates of Dutch universities. They will have 12 months to look for a job in the Netherlands after completing their degree.
After finding a suitable job they can apply for a working visa and residence permit, which does require a minimum salary of 2.364,00 EUR gross per month excluding holiday allowance.
People coming from non-EU countries must be highly qualified so they can compete with Dutch and European applicants.
It might be difficult to find a job in Germany exceptionally in English, you might opt for bigger cities such as Berlin, Munich or Hamburg for this. For English speakers, there are good chances in the IT sector, in international customer service, some kinds of engineering and others.
But the rule is the better your qualifications, the better your chances! Unless you pretend on low-end jobs, then Germany has lots to offer, especially for people willing to work hard.
To work as a foreigner in Germany you will need to apply for an EU Blue Card – a residence permit which allows you to stay and work for a 4 year in the country.
You can do it after fulfilling requirements: receiving a job offer that fits your qualifications and has the minimum salary of 53,000 EUR per year or 41,808 EUR if STEM profession.
After two years of employment in Germany, it’s possible to apply for permanent residency status. It’s beneficial to be fluent in the German language when seeking work in Germany, but not always essential.
Germany also gives chance to graduates to work after completing the degree. Often they will need to speak German but in big cities and big international companies, English speaking job is also possible.
International students from Non-EU/EEA countries with a residence permit can extend it to stay in Germany and seek work for up to 18 months after graduating, as long as the job is related to their field of study.
The average income in the Netherlands is about 36,500 EUR that is 2,816 EUR gross per month.
Some well-paid industries are among others: law, medicine, and dentistry, software development, aviation.
German workers earn more yes, on the other hand, Dutch employers are required to pay an 8% (of the total gross salary) holiday allowance to its employees. What can make german and dutch salaries almost equal.
The average income in Germany is 45,240 EUR gross with monthly payments of 3,770 EUR (2017).
Gross salaries are definitely higher in Germany than in the Netherlands. Some german industries are especially well paid, such as pharmacy, banking, medicine and dentistry, law, industrial engineering, industrial engineering, computer science.
The Dutch income taxes are somewhat is the same line with Germans: not that high than in Scandinavia countries, and not as low as Southern European.
The current Dutch income tax brackets are:
|Bracket||Taxable income||The marginal rate|
|1||up to EUR 20,385||36,65%|
|2||EUR 20,386 - EUR 68,507||38,1%|
|3||from EUR 68,508||51,75%|
Referring to the average salary in the Netherlands: most of people pay around 38,1% in tax.
The Dutch 30% tax ruling?
The 30% ruling is a Dutch tax exemption for employees who were hired abroad to work in the Netherlands. If various conditions are met, the employer can pay you 30% of your salary as a tax-free allowance and the rest 70% will be taxed.
The tax-free allowance is considered a compensation for the expenses that the employee incurs by working outside his or her home country. You can calculate how much difference this can make from here.
Who can claim it?
To be eligible for the 30% ruling there are many conditions, but most important one has to be met:
- the employee has to be transferred from abroad or has to be recruited abroad
In Germany, the first 9,408 EUR earned in a year is tax-free. Any bigger amount will need to be taxed.
Income tax in Germany is progressive. Below you can see German income tax brackets.
|Bracket||Taxable income||The marginal rate|
|1||up to EUR 9,408||0%|
|2||EUR 9,408 – EUR 57,051||14% rising progressively to 42,00%|
|3||EUR 57,051 – EUR 270,500||42%|
|4||from EUR 270,500||45%|
The second bracket means that your marginal rate will depend on your salary, the more amount the higher is the rate (max. 42%). The tax rate is very hard to define without mentioning your relationships and living status.
To improve the economic situation and infrastructure for certain regions in need, the German government is charging a 5.5% solidarity surcharge tax. The surcharge is imposed as a percentage on all individual income taxes.
Finally, if you are a member of a registered church in Germany, you will also have to pay a church tax of 8 or 9% of your gross income, depending on which federal state you live in.
Tax rate for single, childless workers (including social contribution) is 49.4%, only Belgium is higher with 54%. Germany’s tax rate is much lower for married couples with children – 34% on average.
Consequently, the income taxes are higher in Germany than in the Netherlands, but again it’s all very individual, in Germany the tax rate is very individual.
Family reunification can be a deciding factor for someone who has family and willing to move abroad. Good news, people who plan to live in the Netherlands, can bring their partner too.
In the Netherlands, the definition of the term “partner” is very broad. They don’t need to be married or be indifferent gender to come with.
Foreigners can live with their girlfriend or boyfriend by registering him or her to the municipality. The only requirement is that they need to register to the same address in here.
Family reunification may apply to spouses, unmarried partners, couples of the same sex, children under the age of 18 who wish to join their parents in the Netherlands.
Family reunification is also possible in Germany! The Immigration Authorities in Germany support the families and therefore have established a special visa for this purpose, which non-EU nationals can apply for to join their family members in Germany.
The first difference with the Netherlands is that here you won’t be able to bring your girlfriend over. To join you, he or she must be your relative. Otherwise obtaining a visa to enter Germany isn’t possible.
And additionally, the person who invites their relatives must speak German and the coming partner must have at least some basic German knowledge! Damn!
The second difference with the Netherlands is that bringing kids will be possible only if both parents reside in Germany.
An advantage of German law is that foreigners residing in the country allowed to invite their relatives, such as sisters and brothers and sometimes even parents. Although these permissions are harder to get than for partners and kids.
Whether a marriage visa, fiance visa, spouse visa or for other family members, he or she must be a relative of the resident in Germany.
Cost of Living
Overall the Netherlands is more expensive in comparison with Germany. Some particular regions of Germany have significantly lower living costs. You won’t see this regional difference in the Netherlands, the prices remain to be the same throughout the country.
The expected cost of living is approximately 1,000 – 1,200 EUR a month for a typical student/single life. Notice that rent is higher than in most German student cities and will be your biggest expense.
Second is food which is also more expensive than in the eastern neighbor.
The minimum costs per month for two adults with one kind will be:
- 800–1,000 EUR rent, considering gross income above 40,000/year
- 150 EUR utilities like gas, water, electricity
- 30–50 EUR internet connection (you want to use Quora, don’t you)
- 180 EUR mandatory health insurance (2×90, children under 18 free)
- 30 EUR other insurance
- 100 EUR public transport home-work
- groceries/shopping 100 EUR/week = 400 EUR/month
This would mean you’d spend between 1,780 and 2,000 EUR/month, if you have a car (or would like to have) add 500 EUR per month.
The average prices accordingly to the Numbeo:
- Meal in restaurant 15 EUR
- Cappuccino 2,88 EUR
- Water 1,97 EUR
- Local Cheese (1kg) 11 EUR
- Apples (1kg) 2,28 EUR
- Monthly Pass for public transportation 90 EUR
- Utilities 171 EUR
- Rent Apartment (1 bedroom) 1, 084 EUR
- Average Monthly Net Salary 2,416 EUR
Not only can you study for free in Germany, but it is also a pretty affordable country. Compared to the Netherlands, the living costs in Germany are cheaper.
Furthermore, it is easier to find reasonably priced and quality accommodation in Germany. Also, food is more affordable, although eating and drinking out cost relatively the same.
The average costs of living for student/single person range between 800 – 1,000 EUR/month, including accommodation. Depending on your location prices are vary, for example, east of Germany is very affordable for living due to its ridiculously cheap rent.
The average prices accordingly to the Numbeo:
- Meal in restaurant 10 EUR
- Cappuccino 2,75 EUR
- Water 2 EUR
- Local Cheese (1kg) 8,24 EUR
- Apples (1kg) 2,33 EUR
- Monthly Pass for public transportation 75 EUR
- Utilities 221 EUR
- Apartment (1 bedroom) 750 EUR
- Average Monthly Net Salary 2,329 EUR
As you can see food prices are quite similar to dutch, but rent and transportation are significantly cheaper in Germany. Maybe that’s why so many people in the Netherlands use bicycles instead of public transport.
Housing in the Netherlands belongs to one of the disadvantages. From the one side, it can be very difficult to find a suitable house from another it can be too expensive for your budget.
Reason for this, that the Netherlands is one of the densest populated counties in Europe and its by far not the biggest one in size!
As a consequence, there are higher prices than in Germany and less offer. Cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Hague, Haarlem are most expensive to live.
If in Germany its Munich, Hamburg or Berlin are on top of the highest housing prices, but people at least get compensated more (receive a higher salary) in these cities. It’s a kind of win-win situation.
In the Netherlands, employers won’t receive significantly higher salary depending on their living location.
Particularly, in Amsterdam, close to the city center, the rents are generally around 1,500–2,000 EUR without including services like gas, electricity, water, etc.
To get a house that is closer to 1,000 EUR or less you need to live in the outer areas of Amsterdam. Rotterdam or Utrecht is relatively cheaper.
Finding a place to live in the Netherlands is really difficult as so many people are here doing the exact same thing. It’s important that you look well in advance for housing and even then, there are no guarantees that you’ll find a place straight away.
Due to the size of the country and the number of big and middle cities housing in Germany isn’t that problematic.
We can see a regional difference as well, the south is more populated, hence rents are higher and less available, meanwhile, density in east and northwest is lower and housing is more affordable. In fact, you can rent the same apartment twice cheaper in Leipzig than in Munich.
In the end, all people find the place to live, and if not there are always plenty of rooms in a shared apartment for an affordable price. Many students opt for this type of housing since they can’t afford an entire flat yet.
English is widely spoken in The Netherlands as opposed to Germany.
The Netherlands is very advanced with the English language, they learn it and actively practice from a young age, movies are also don’t translated into the Dutch language, which encourages locals to learn and master the English language.
If you decide to learn Dutch be aware that it’s a difficult language. Therefore, reading and speaking Dutch might be a challenge. Fortunately, a lot of Dutch people speak English so you can almost always rely on that.
However, in the Netherlands itself almost everything is written only in Dutch. There is no alternative English description on the packages, or there are a few English announcements during trams or trains. This can be challenging, but Germany has the same!
So if you want to have a comfortable life without confusion and disappointment – you should learn some local language!
Otherwise, Google Translate will become your right hand.
Despite this fact above, the Netherlands has the best English out of any Non-native European country, meaning that it’s the perfect place to be if your native language is English (or you speak English) and are looking to get away from your homeland.
Most people can at least speak conversational English, you can always ask people and they will be able to help you.
Germans speak English as well, better as many other European countries, but not that good than in the Netherlands. So if you determined never to learn German in your life, this probably won’t the best country for you.
To fully integrate into society, have long-lasting success, build friendships and relationships and even to extend your EU Blue Card you WILL NEED TO SPEAK GERMAN.
Although Germany can be a good place for a couple of years and you won’t need to learn a new language.
But is it really the life you want to have: walking on the street and don’t understand what people are talking about, don’t understand movies in cinema (yes they dubbed in German without subtitles), always have to ask people for explanations of something you don’t understand (everything written in German)? REALLY?
Making Friendships/Relationships with Locals
The Netherlands and Germany are quite similar in that way.
It’s can be hard to make friends with Dutch people because of strong individualism in society and the lack of spontaneity in social meetings.
For some foreigners with too different cultures, it can be isolating, particularly when you’re older and don’t have young colleagues to going out.
Most of the time, the Dutch already have their friends from school/university/childhood and aren’t very interested in befriending us foreigners (fair enough).
However, Dutchies are lovely, friendly, polite people, even if they keep to themselves. You can expect to be treated with respect, tolerance, and kindness. Remember, everyone is equal is the Dutch slogan.
The Dutch are decent, kind, civilized people and foreigners must have respect for them as they do. If they see it they also can open up more, finally, there is a weed for this reason, meet your Dutchie smoke and relax!
Besides, they are great people to live among, compare to some other nationalities.
In the beginning, for many foreigners, it can be hard to make friendships with Germans, at least the real one. This north folk is reserved and it takes time for them to open up to new people.
Same as Dutch, the Germans have strong friendships from school or university and they prefer to keep shallow relationships with others, without deep connection.
You will notice that it’s hard to break the ice in conversation with German, they usually don’t share personal information and stay quite superficial.
Many people from the southern countries or Asia and Latin America will find it very difficult to create a genuine connection with german folks and really get to know them.
Since I am from Russia, where people take even longer to open up, it wasn’t a big obstacle for me, but I want to make conscious other nationalities.
However, if you go partying with them they will be absolutely different people compare to when sober and or at work. Germans love to party, its time when they can forget about order, rules, and schedule.
They live under work hard, play hard rule. Therefore, bars are the best place to make friends, there you will meet more relaxed and open Germans.
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