Germany vs The Netherlands: Best For Immigration

Germany and the Netherlands are the two immigrant-friendly countries in Europe. Are you are considering moving to one of them? Before making the final decision, you want to understand all the important aspects and differences of immigration to those countries.

This article explains the differences and similarities between Germany and the Netherlands and which of them is a better place for living and integrating as a foreign national.

Attitude towards foreigners

The Netherlands

The Netherlands has 1.9 migrants 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. 1 out of 3 people in cities like Amsterdam, and Rotterdam have a foreign background.

Dutch are more accepting, open-minded, and tolerant of people from other cultures. You most probably won’t experience any racist attitudes too. However, 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.

Thus, the Netherlands has a very international culture that is distinctive from Germany. Compared to the latter, you can find almost any food, while German cuisine still dominates in Germany.

The Dutch work environment is also more international, with many companies operating in the English language and employing plenty of foreign workers including British, Turks, Arabian, Indian, Romanian, Russian, American, and others.

Another positive factor for people from abroad is the English proficiency among Dutch people. Someone in the village might not be that advanced, but in major cities like Amsterdam or Rotterdam, you can expect a good level of English language.

This is especially helpful if you want to make friends with Dutchies. Besides, it makes daily life much easier. Whether you go to a supermarket or call government services for some paperwork, they can help you.

Germany

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, mostly ethnic German migrants.

Currently, 9 million out of 80 million population are foreigners, who are living and working/studying/do nothing in Germany. One of 10 employees in Germany is an immigrant.

As you can see, Germany is less internationally diverse than the Netherlands. However, it has a larger number of foreigners due to its size and population.

A large part of foreign nations are immigrants who came a few dozens of years ago with their families mainly from Turkey and Balkan countries and are well-integrated into society.

Moreover, thanks to the refugee crisis in 2014, Germans got used to foreigners and exotic looks. Still, people from abroad don’t have an easy time integrating into 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 major cities.

Speaking fluent German will help you to integrate and earn respect from locals in a big way. In contrast to the Netherlands, Germany functions in German, and the use of English is less prevalent. Hence, foreigners could experience some difficulties in communication with locals and in day-to-day tasks.

Overall, Germans are friendly and welcoming folk, but English won’t bring you far in social and in professional life unless you work in an international company or as an expat for a fixed period of time.

Becoming a citizen

The Netherlands

It’s possible to receive Dutch citizenship after 5 years of uninterrupted living in the country. Overall, the Netherlands is more open and loyal toward immigrants and naturalization.

It also applies if you have been married to or lived with a Dutch national for three continuous years (including abroad). Another option to get a Dutch passport is to have a valid residence permit for 10 years, and reside in the Netherlands for at least the last two years continuously.

You need to speak Dutch on at least the A2 (beginner) level to receive a passport. The Netherlands gives foreigners many opportunities to become a citizen. The only obstacle you might face is the cost – the fee is 840 EUR.

Germany

Although Germany is a country of immigrants, getting citizenship is more complicated than in the Netherlands and takes more time & work. You will need to live in the country for at least 8 years, in addition to the list of other requirements.

Consequently, foreigners can receive German citizenship either by living here on a residence permit for at least 8 years or 7 years and attending an integration course.

Germany will also require you to have at least a B2 level of German. Yet, naturalization costs less than in the Netherlands: around 300 EUR.

University and student life

The Netherlands

The country has impressive 2,500 English programs including undergraduate and postgraduate. So, if you don’t speak German, you might consider studying at a Dutch university.

In addition, an English degree isn’t more expensive than a degree in Dutch, compared to Germany, where students usually pay significant tuition fees only because of the teaching language.

Also, most Dutch professors and teachers speak good English and many of them are from English-speaking countries such as the UK, USA, and Canada. German universities have significantly fewer native English speakers among the academic staff.

To apply to study at a Dutch university, you will need an English certificate. The IELTS with a score of 6.0 or TOEFL with a score no lower than 550 in paper-based or 213 computer-based tests or 80%, are among those that are accepted.

In the Netherlands, you can also expect to see a large community of international students – more than 112,000 students come from around the world.

Similar to 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 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 EUR – 2,100 EUR per year if you come from the EU and 6,000 EUR and 15,000 EUR/year if from outside of the EU.

Besides that, you might pay higher fees for accommodation, and food and have to cycle everywhere (even when not convenient) because the monthly transport ticket isn’t subsidized for international students (as it’s in Germany).

Visa process

Because both Germany and the Netherlands are part of the European Union, EU students won’t need a visa to study. 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 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 the paperwork for you. Isn’t it a dream for an international student?!

However, you will need to pay a visa fee for this, which is 319 EUR. I think this money is 100% worth the work!

After arrival, you will need to apply for a residence permit to stay longer than six months. And even this process university will do on your behalf!

I guess it’s clear, why so many international students choose the Netherlands, the biggest hurdle of studying abroad taken over by universities. Therefore, the student can avoid all this stress.

Germany

Germany has over 370,000 international students, 3 times more than in the Netherlands. The German education system and German degrees have an excellent 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 don’t exist for locals and for international students, but practically everyone will need to pay between 100 EUR – 350 EUR per semester for administrative costs. Which is still cheaper than anywhere else.

Most universities and colleges in Germany are public and funded by the state.

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’s 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 that a work permit is granted together with your student visa. So you can easily work without any paperwork. Hence, international students can take on employment for up to 20 hours per week and earn 450 EUR per month before they get taxed.

In the Netherlands, employers need to apply for a work permit on the student’s behalf. Many companies decline applications for this reason, especially due to the long process and waiting time.

Visa process

All non-EU/EEA citizens will need a student visa to study in Germany. The visa application process isn’t as easy as in the Netherlands and nobody will do it for you. To enjoy free German education, you will need to do solid work to get there finally!

You should apply for a visa from your home country as soon after receiving an acceptance letter from the university. But it’s essential to start to collect all the required papers around 3-6 months before.

Similar to 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.

Studying in Germany will cost you less than in the Netherlands, so you can make the right decision depending on your budget and willingness to learn German. If you want to study in English pick the Netherlands, if studying in German doesn’t hinder you, choose Germany.

Besides, Germany offers 585 master’s programs taught in English. So if your goal is a master’s degree, you can do it almost in each German city without additional costs.

You can read more about studies in the Netherlands vs Germany in this article.

The Economy

The economy is by far the most critical factor if you move with the intention to work there. Both countries are European and even world leaders, so you don’t need to be concerned, but let’s look at their economies in detail.

The Netherlands

Due to its proximity to the sea, the Netherlands, the sixth-largest economy in Europe, 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 home to some world’s biggest players such as Royal Dutch Shell, ING, Philips, Heiniken, Airbus, and 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 than Germany’s: 52,516 to 46,334. What directly tells us about the standard of living in each of these countries.

Germany

Germany has the lowest unemployment rate (3.1%) in Europe. The fourth-largest economy in the world and Europe’s largest, the German economy is a leading exporter of machinery, vehicles, chemicals, and household equipment.

Germany benefits from a highly skilled labor force and high-quality standards. Everybody knows popular German brands, nevertheless here are some DHL, BOSCH, Siemens, BMW Group, Allianz, and Volkswagen.

Despite the GDP of Germany of 3,846 trillion, there are 16.7% of people living below the poverty line, while in the Netherlands, it’s only 8,8%.

Job opportunities

The Netherlands

Many foreigners move to the Netherlands to find a job because the country needs many foreign workers (at least 50,000 each year).

Working opportunities are especially good for software engineers, some other types of engineers, and medical workers. In Rotterdam, logistic staff will have good chances, while in Amsterdam marketers will find the best companies to work for.

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 native English speakers to work for.

Overall, the Netherlands is constantly looking for people to fill the gaps in customer service. With the country’s international mindset and very welcoming toward foreign employees, finding a workplace that is operating in English isn’t that challenging.

The conditions are also good for graduates of Dutch universities. They have 12 months to look for a job after completing their degree.

After finding a suitable job, they can apply for a working visa, which does require a minimum salary of 2,364 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.

Germany

It might be challenging to find a job in Germany exceptionally in English. You might opt for bigger cities such as Berlin, Munich or Hamburg for this.

There are good chances in the IT sector, in international customer service, some kinds of engineering, and others for English speakers. It’s beneficial to be fluent in the German language when seeking work in Germany, but not always essential.

After two years of employment in Germany, it’s possible to apply for permanent residency status. 

Germany also gives chance to graduates to work after completing their 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.

Salaries

The Netherlands

The average income in the Netherlands is about 36,500 EUR which is 2,816 EUR gross per month. Some well-paid industries are law, medicine, dentistry, software development, and aviation among others.

German workers earn more, yet, Dutch employers are required to pay an 8% (of the total gross salary) holiday allowance. That makes German and Dutch salaries almost equal.

Germany

The average income in Germany was 51,009 EUR gross with monthly payments of 4,250 EUR (2021).

Gross salaries are definitely higher in Germany than in the Netherlands. Some German industries are particularly well paid, e.g. pharma, banking, medicine and dentistry, law, industrial engineering, industrial engineering, and computer science.

Income taxes

The Netherlands

The Dutch income taxes are somewhat in the same line as Germans: not that high as in Scandinavia countries, and not as low as southern European.

The Dutch income tax brackets for 2022:

Tax bracketApplicable tax rate
0 EUR – 69,397 EUR37.07 %
69,398 EUR and more49.50 %

Referring to the average salary in the Netherlands: most people pay around 38,1% in tax.

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 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 the most important one has to be met:

  • the employee was transferred from abroad or was recruited abroad

Germany

In Germany, the first 9,984 EUR earned in a year is tax-free. Any amount after that will need to be taxed. Income tax is progressive. Below you can see German income tax brackets.

IncomeTax Rate
Less than 9,984 EUR0%
9,985 EUR – 58,596 EUR14% to 42%
58,597 EUR – 277,825 EUR42%
More than 277,826 EUR45%

The second bracket means that your marginal rate will depend on your salary, the more amount the higher 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.

The tax rate for single, childless workers (including social contribution) is 49.4%, and 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

The Netherlands

Family reunification can be a crucial factor for someone who has family and is willing to move abroad. The good news is that people who plan to live in the Netherlands can bring their partners 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 girlfriends or boyfriend by registering them within the municipality. The only requirement is that they need to be registered at the same address.

Family reunification may apply to spouses, unmarried partners, couples of the same sex, and children under the age of 18 who wish to join their parents in the Netherlands.

Germany

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. Non-EU nationals can apply for a family reunification visa to join their significant ones in Germany.

However, the difference with the Netherlands is that here you won’t be able to bring your girlfriend/boyfriend over. To join you, he or she must be your registered partner. Otherwise, obtaining a visa to enter Germany isn’t possible. 

Additionally, the person who invites their relatives must speak German and the coming partner must have at least some basic knowledge of German. Bringing children is also possible assuming one parent has a residency in Germany.

Inviting other relatives, such as sisters and brothers and sometimes even parents is restricted and you need a special reason to do so.

Cost of living

The Netherlands

Overall the Netherlands is slightly more expensive compared to Germany. Yet, some German regions 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 EUR – 1,200 EUR a month for a typical student/single life. As a working individual willing to live in a separate apartment, you need to budget at least 1,800 EUR  per month.

The rent is your biggest expense. Second is food which is more expensive in the Netherlands. With that said, the minimum monthly expenses for two adults with one kid living in the average Dutch city will be:

  • 1,000 – 1,500 EUR rent, considering gross income above 40,000 EUR/year
  • 150 EUR utilities like gas, water, electricity
  • 30–50 EUR internet connection
  • 180 EUR mandatory health insurance (2×90 EUR, children under 18 free of charge)
  • 30 EUR other insurances
  • 100 EUR public transport
  • groceries/shopping 100 EUR/week = 400 EUR/month

This would mean you’d spend between 1,980 EUR and 2,500 EUR/month and if you have a car (or would like to have one) add another 500 EUR per month on top.

With that said the recommended cost of living in the Netherlands is 2,584 EUR for a single and 4,750 EUR for a family of four.

Read more on the cost of living in the Netherlands in this article.

The average Dutch 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

Germany

Not only can you study for free in Germany, but it’s also a pretty affordable country. Compared to the Netherlands, the living costs in Germany are cheaper.

Furthermore, it’s 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 cost of living for a student/single person range between 800 – 1,000 EUR/month, including accommodation. Depending on your location prices vary, for example, the 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, 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

The Netherlands

Housing in the Netherlands belongs to one of the disadvantages. On the one side, it can be very difficult to find a suitable house, on another it can be too expensive for your budget.

The reason for this is that the Netherlands is one of the densest populated counties in Europe, and it’s by far not the biggest one in size!

As a consequence, there are higher home prices than in Germany and fewer offers. Cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Hague, and Haarlem are the most expensive to live in.

If in Germany, Munich, Hamburg, and Berlin are on top of the highest housing prices, yet people at least get compensated more (receive a higher salary) in these cities. It’s a win-win situation.

In the Netherlands, employers won’t receive significantly higher salaries depending on their 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 to start the search well in advance and even then, there are no guarantees that you’ll find a place straight away.

Germany

Due to the size of the country and the number of large 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 the east and northwest is lower and housing is plentiful and more affordable.

In fact, you can rent the same apartment twice as cheaper in Leipzig as in Munich.

In the end, all people find a 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 to rent an entire flat.

Language barriers

The Netherlands

English is widely spoken in the Netherlands as opposed to Germany. The Netherlands is very advanced when it comes to English. The country has some of the highest English-speaking proficiency among EU states.

No surprise, Dutch learn English and actively practice it 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 is the same!

So if you want to have a comfortable life without confusion and disappointment – you should learn some local language!

Despite the fact above, the Netherlands is 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.

Germany

Germans speak English as well, better than many other European countries, but not as good as in the Netherlands. So if you never plan to learn German in your life, it probably won’t be the best country for you.

To fully integrate into society, have long-lasting success, build friendships and relationships, and even extend your EU Blue Card you want 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. Yet, in the long-term, speaking the local language will help you a lot.

Making friends and having relationships with locals

The Netherlands

The Netherlands and Germany are quite similar in that way.

It’s can be hard to make friends with Dutch people because of the strong individualism in the 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 go out with.

Most of the time, the Dutch already have their friends from school/university/childhood and aren’t very interested in befriending 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.

Germany

In the beginning, for many foreigners, it can be hard to make friendships with Germans, at least the real ones. 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 a 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.

However, if you go partying with them they will be absolutely different people compared to when sober and or at work. Germans love to party, it’s time when they can forget about the 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.

Anna

Anna is an enthusiastic expatriate with experience of living in Germany, Austria and Greece. She shares her passion for living abroad on this website.

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