Netherlands or Germany – which country is better for expats?

We get the opportunity to talk to quite a few folks who are considering a move to the Netherlands. And for those who don’t have their heart 100% set on the land of the windmills and tulips, the most frequent dilemma is whether to choose the Netherlands or Germany. 

Which one makes more sense? Which one is better to live in? 

To be absolutely honest – we have no idea what’s best for you. But what we can do is give you an overview of some important factors to consider, so you can make an informed decision. 

Living Costs

Let’s be practical and get to the point straight away (like the Dutch are known to do) 

This gets complicated if you look at the differences between living in big cities as opposed to smaller towns in either of the countries. So for the sake of comparison, let’s take a look at the averages, without diving into these specifics. 

If you look at just the numbers, the average cost of living in the Netherlands is about the same as living in Germany. According to Numbeo, a family of four needs these amounts on a monthly level in order to survive (excluding rent):

  • 3,245.4€ in the Netherlands
  • 3,216.1€ in Germany

Both countries have progressive income tax, which means your tax rate increases with your salary. The Netherlands offers the 30% ruling as a perk for skilled workers who were recruited from abroad – in practical terms, this increases your net salary for the first 5 years of living and working in the Netherlands. You can read all about it in our full guide on the 30% ruling.

If we talk about everyday items, something to keep in mind is also:

  • Public transportation is much cheaper in Germany. 
  • Health insurance rates are lower in the Netherlands.
  • If we were writing this guide in the beginning of 2022, we’d say that many Dutchies regularly travel to German supermarkets and stores that sell cosmetic products (like dm for example). However, the scales are tipping, and the German stores are slowly catching up with Dutch prices. 

Netherlands or Germany


If you’re from an EU country, you can obviously just skip this section (and let some of us be very jealous of your freedom of movement!)

If you’re from one of the other countries that need an actual visa in order to visit or reside in Germany or the Netherlands, let’s break this down in a few categories. 

  1. Moving for work

Both Germany and the Netherlands have a visa for job seekers. In the Netherlands, this is the “Orientation Year” visa, and it allows you to stay in the country for a year while looking for work. In Germany, it’s the “Job Seeker Visa”, and it’s issued for a period of six months. One thing to keep in mind though is that for both of these visas – you need to be a recent graduate from a recognized institution. 

For most other cases, in order to move into either of the countries for work – you need a job offer or an employment contract from a local employer. And the job needs to check specific boxes – for example the salary needs to be high enough, or the employer needs to be a registered sponsor. 

The processing times are about the same in both countries as well – the shortest you’ll wait in the Netherlands is two weeks, and that goes up to 90 days. In Germany, they aim to make all decisions within 2-8 weeks, but it can also take up to three months.

  1. Moving for love

If neither you nor your partner are an EU citizen, you can still arrange to move them in with you in both Germany and the Netherlands. 

In both countries, you need to prove that you have sufficient income to support them, and if you’re not married – you need to prove that you’re really in a relationship. In Germany, the application in a foreign embassy costs 75€ and takes up to a few weeks. The partner can then join you in Germany and apply for the residence permit from there, for an additional cost of up to 100€. 

In the Netherlands, partners coming from some countries will need an authorization for a short stay (MVV) before they can join you. If that’s the case, they’ll need to pass a Dutch exam in their local embassy, and they’re not allowed to be in the Netherlands for the time of visa being processed, which is up to 90 days. The application cost is 210€.

One thing to keep in mind is that, in both countries, there will most likely be additional expenses for you to get the correct documentation, and translate it to English/German, and/or get them apostilled in the country of origin. 

Job Market

Both Germany and the Netherlands have strong economies and offer great job opportunities. However, if you’re an English speaker, finding a job in the Netherlands could be easier. One of the other significant differences is that the job market in Germany is more diverse than in the Netherlands. Germany has a lot of manufacturing companies, while the Netherlands has more service-oriented companies.

Culture and Language

Germany and the Netherlands both have a culturally rich and vibrant environment. 

When it comes to the language, about 95% of Dutchies speak English, as opposed to only 56% of Germans. So if you’re planning to operate without learning the local language right away, the Netherlands might be a little easier from the get-go. 

As for culture, it’s quite tough to compare this and be objective. 

Anecdotally, German neighbors are known for being very picky about how you do your recycling, and will not hesitate to knock on your door if you’re taking a shower after 10pm. The Dutch neighbors are often more relaxed in that department. 

Quality of Life

The Netherlands and Germany offer some of the highest standards of living worldwide. Both countries have developed infrastructure and provide excellent healthcare facilities. However, the Netherlands has a more relaxed and easy-going lifestyle compared to Germany, which can be a little more structured and rule-oriented.

The German work culture is a lot more strict and hierarchical, while Dutch is a lot more egalitarian and decisions are normally made as a group (as opposed to a manager telling people what to do)

The Dutch also focus heavily on their work-life balance and often choose to work part-time. Both countries definitely have a high level of protection of workers.

We are of course a little biased and would always tip the scales on the side of the Netherlands! However, the best choice for you really depends on your priorities and goals in life. 

If you’d like to take a deeper dive into whether the Netherlands is the best country for your relocation, please don’t hesitate to book a free orientation call with us!

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