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Germany vs the Netherlands: An expat's guide

Germany vs the Netherlands: An expat's guide

Germany vs the Netherlands: An expat's guide

The Netherlands and Germany might be neighbours, but in spite of their proximity, there are a wealth of differences separating these two European countries. 

Are you an expat considering a move to or between these countries? Check out this guide that explores the similarities and differences between Germany and the Netherlands, and highlights all the information you need to know about both before you get ready to make the big move. 

Day to day life in the Netherlands 

What makes the Netherlands, well, the Netherlands? Let’s look at some of the facts and figures about day to day life in this small nation, so you’re sure you know what to expect if you choose to live there.

The demographics & geography of the Netherlands

The Netherlands has a population of 17,3 million people, with the central area - known as the Randstad and containing the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague - being the most densely populated. The cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam have the highest individual population levels - 1,149 million and 1,010 million respectively. 

The country is made up of a very diverse population: in 2020, around 24,2 percent of the population had a migration background - 10,5 percent with a “western” background, and 13,7 percent with a “non-western” background.

The country may be diverse and densely populated, but it is rather small - it covers a surface area of only 41,543 square kilometres (33,893  square kilometres without water surfaces). Around a quarter of the country lies below sea level, with the lowest point, Zuidplaspolder, at minus seven metres, and the highest point, Vaalserberg, at only 322 metres.

Cost of living in the Netherlands 

For a Western-European country, the cost of living in the Netherlands is relatively normal, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, the cost of living in one of the big Dutch cities is considerably higher than in more rural areas. 

As in any other country, the cost of food or utility bills can differ greatly depending on where you shop and who your providers are. In the Netherlands, what can have a huge impact on your living costs is housing - cities in the Netherlands have supply-and-demand issues, which makes it quite expensive. On the other hand, you can save a fair amount of money on transport costs, as the country does rely on cycling to get around.  

The Dutch minimum wage is decent, and salaries are quite high. This is offset by the high income taxes though, so get ready to forfeit a fair amount of money to the dreaded taxman. But, there is some good news if you're an expat: the Dutch government introduced something called 30% ruling, which means that your taxable income is reduced from 100 percent to 70 percent, making 30 percent completely tax-free! 

House prices and renting in the Netherlands

As already mentioned, housing costs in the Netherlands can be high - and it seems they’re only getting higher. Rents are expensive, and 2020 has seen the largest increase in rent prices in six years. Obviously, costs in the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague are a lot higher than elsewhere, but the national averages are still significant - 16,77 euros per square metre. If you’re renting, make sure to check if your rental price includes service charges (energy, water, internet, etc). Also a handy tip: there is a rental allowance (huurtoeslag) available if you meet certain requirements, so be sure to check that out.

Buying property in the Netherlands is a good financial investment, but prices across the country can be quite high. The average property price in Amsterdam is over 450.000 euros, but the average price nationally is “only” 300.000 euros, proof that choosing to live outside of one of the big cities could save you considerable cash.

The Dutch Healthcare system

By many, the Dutch healthcare system is considered to be one of the best and one of the fairest in the world. It is split into three sections: long-term care for chronic illnesses, basic and essential medical care (i.e. visiting your GP), and supplementary care (i.e. visiting your dentist). 

Basic care is covered by health insurance, which is mandatory for all inhabitants of the country, so make sure you look into it before you move here. Long-term care is covered by mandatory state insurance, and supplementary care may, depending on the policy, be covered under your health insurance.

Dutch climate and weather

Winters in the Netherlands are relatively mild, summers are generally cool, and there is no designated rainy season because it rains throughout the year. The country may have a reputation for cold and wet weather, but it doesn’t actually rain that much - the average annual rainfall is 790mm - but the issue with the local climate is how unpredictable it is. With Dutch weather, you never know what you can expect when you wake up in the morning. Adding to the unpredictable-ness, heatwaves are becoming a more common occurrence, with the summer of 2020 seeing a record-breaking 13-day heatwave! 

The Dutch government

The Dutch government is made up of a Council of Ministers - comprising of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and Cabinet Ministers - while the Dutch Parliament is made up of the Senate (Eerste Kamer, 75 seats) and House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer, 150 seats). 

The Netherlands also has a royal family, with King Willem Alexander as the head of state. The royal family fulfil certain ceremonial duties, but have little real power.

Dutch national and public holidays

The Netherlands doesn’t have very many public holidays compared to many other countries around the world. There are two national holidays - King’s Day (Koningsdag) on April 27, and Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag) on May 5 - and a handful of public holidays, such as Christmas Day, New Years Day, and Easter Monday. 

Day to day life in Germany

With all that in mind, how does life in Germany compare to life in the Netherlands? Let’s find out!

The demographics & geography of Germany

With a population of 83,1 million people, Germany is the most populous country in the EU - and one of the most populous countries in the world! The country is split into 16 federal states, three of which are city states (Berlin, Hamburg, and Bremen), while the rest are known as area states. The most populous are North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria, and Baden-Württemberg.

As for the makeup of Germany’s population, well, safe to say it’s very diverse. According to statistics from 2019, there were over 10,5 million people living in Germany that came from a migration background. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the states with the largest migrant populations are Berlin, Hamburg, and Hesse.

On top of having a diverse population, Germany also has a pretty diverse environment. Travelling through the country’s changing scenery - all 357.022 square kilometres of it - you’ll come across a little bit (or a lot) of everything. Germany stretches from the flat shores in the northeast and northwest, down to the steep foothills of the Alps in the south. The variety in this geography is evident from comparing the country’s highest and lowest points: the Zugspitze (2.963 metres above sea level) and Wilstermarsch in Schleswig-Holstein, which sits at minus 3,54 metres.

Cost of living in Germany

It may come as a surprise but the cost of living in Germany is actually relatively low - especially in comparison to its European neighbours. But it is worth noting that the costs of clothing, housing, food, and cultural activities are slightly higher than the European average. Due to the size of the country, prices differ greatly depending on where you are: prices in South- and West-Germany are higher compared to those in the north and east, and the cost of living in one of the big cities is considerably higher than in more rural areas.

There are some steps you can take to limit your spending on food and utilities - like in the Netherlands, different shops / providers offer different deals and rates - your largest expense if living in Germany is likely to be your rent. But where there are higher rents, there are also higher salaries! The average income in Germany is already fairly generous, but in cities in western and southern Germany, you can earn even more. One final, and very, very important, cost to keep in mind, however, is tax: as much as 30 percent of your monthly paycheck will go towards income taxes and compulsory social security contributions. 

House prices and renting in Germany

As already mentioned, the cost of renting in Germany can be high, and so it should come as no surprise that the same goes for the cost of housing. The country has been lucky enough to experience a booming housing market for some years now, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Between 2009 and 2019, house prices in Germany’s seven largest cities rose by a whopping 123,7 percent! On top of this, the housing and rental demand outweighs supply in many of the bigger cities, further fueling the rising prices. 

Don’t worry though, because unlike many countries around the world, owning one’s own home is less of a so-called social aspiration in Germany, thanks to strong tenant rights, high property transfer taxes and limited tax benefits for owner-occupiers. Only around 45 percent of households own the home they live in.

Should you rent instead of buy, it’s good to know that in Q1 of 2020 the average rent in Germany for a newly-constructed house was approximately 9,96 euros per square metre.

The German Healthcare system

Funded by a mixture of employee and employer contributions and government subsidies, the German healthcare system is run by the Federal Ministry of Health, insurance schemes, regulatory bodies, and both private and public healthcare providers.

Like in the Netherlands, health insurance and long-term care insurance are compulsory for everyone, so make sure you’re covered.

German climate and weather

Due to the vastness and diversity of Germany’s geography, the weather can differ greatly depending on where you’re situated. On the whole, the country has a temperate climate with significant amounts of rain over the summer months, while winters range from fairly mild in much of the country, to (very) cold in the south in the Alpine region. The south does experience more extreme weather conditions, while North Germany is generally more moderate. 

However, as is the case with many European countries, climate change means that heatwaves and drought are becoming more common across Germany.

The German government

There are three tiers of government in Germany: the municipalities, the federal states, and the federal government, who share political power between them. In separate elections, the German population votes for representatives to send to both the Bundestag (Federal Diet) and the Bundesrat (Federal Council). 

The Bundestag, which consists of at least 598 members, elects the federal chancellor, the German office with the greatest political power. The chancellor then chooses the other members of the federal government, known as federal ministers, and the federal cabinet. 

While Bundestag members are directly elected by the German people, the Bundesrat represents the governments of the 16 individual states. It is sometimes described as an upper house of parliament like the US Senate or the House of Lords in the UK. The head of the German state, known as the federal president, is a largely ceremonial position. 

German national and public holidays

You may be sensing a theme here, but holidays also vary widely depending on the federal state you live in. There are, of course, some public holidays, such as Christmas day and German Unity Day, but some are only observed regionally. Looking to enjoy as many holidays as possible? Bavaria is the place for you - residents enjoy 13 a year!

Work culture in the Netherlands and Germany

A key factor to keep in mind when considering a move is what your career prospects and job opportunities will look like should you make the move. Many may think the Netherlands and Germany are similar in a lot of ways - but what are these countries’ work cultures like? And, perhaps more importantly, what kinds of opportunities are there for expats?

Jobs on offer in the Netherlands and Germany

The Netherlands offers a wealth of job opportunities for expats looking for work, and there are even recruitment agencies that specialise in placing internationals in jobs in the Netherlands. There are also a number of job boards specially designed with expats in mind to help them find work. If you’re on the hunt for a job, it might be useful to know that some of the sectors currently thriving are the creative industries, chemicals, energy, IT, health and life sciences, and logistics.

The work culture in Germany isn’t quite as English-heavy as the one in the Netherlands, but nevertheless, the country still has plenty of opportunities for expats looking for work. The industries expats are most likely to find work in are healthcare, engineering, retail, and MINT. Plus, the number of opportunities are only growing, which also means there are more and more expat-friendly job boards and recruitment agencies specialising in international candidates.

The job application process

The application process in the Netherlands is pretty standard - candidates are asked to submit a CV, and will be asked to write and submit a relevant cover letter, or a motivatiebrief. They may potentially ask for references, and while this doesn’t happen too regularly in the Netherlands, it is still good to be prepared. 

If the company likes what they see in the CV and cover letter, then the candidate will be invited to interview. The interview may include a skills assessment or exam, depending on the position. Depending on the kind of company you have applied for a job with, the interview process in the Netherlands could range from fairly relaxed to more intense, but be warned that interviewers could ask questions unrelated to the position and also be interested in getting to know you as a person. 

If you’re applying for a job in Germany, it’s worth taking note of some of the formats and standards that are expected in a German CV and cover letter. Doing your research means your CV is sure to fit with what recruiters and employers will expect (i.e. add a photo, but leave out all the buzzwords). Aside from the CV customs, the application process in Germany is fairly straightforward. 

If your CV ticks all the right boxes, you will be invited to interview, which - like in the Netherlands - could also include a skills assessment. In contrast to the Netherlands, though, job interviews in Germany tend to be relatively formal, so be prepared.

Working hours and overtime

The Netherlands doesn’t have much of an overtime culture, and many people choose to work part-time - sround 74 percent of people working in the Netherlands work less than 36 hours a week! Data from the OECD shows that people in the Netherlands work an average of 1.434 hours a year.

Perhaps surprisingly, employees in Germany work fewer hours than those in the Netherlands: an average of 1.386 per year. Work-life balance is also considered extremely important in Germany, and companies will make an effort to ensure their employees aren’t overworked. The average full-time employee will work between 36 and 40 hours a week. 

Is there an international working environment?

A number of large international companies have decided to set up (head)offices in the Netherlands, and so the working environment can be quite English-heavy and very international. The Netherlands also has a very high level of spoken English - in the 2020 Education First English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) the country took first place with a score of 652, and it has always achieved a top-three ranking. 

Germany also achieved a very respectable ranking in the 2020 EF EPI (8th place), but English proficiency varies substantially across the states. Outside of the big German cities, many locals will struggle with English, and public institutions are known for failing to employ staff that speak English. But, the number of international companies based in Germany is growing, so while at the moment German remains the dominant language, this could change in the future.

The Netherlands vs Germany: Family life

Planning on bringing a family along with you? Then you want to make sure you have all the information you need to make the right decision and keep their best interests in mind. What could moving to the Netherlands or Germany mean for you and your family?

Education system the Netherlands

Education is mandatory for children aged five to 16 in the Netherlands. Dutch primary schools are split into eight grades, known as groepen, for children between the ages of four and 12. When children are in their final year of primary school, they sit an exam that determines the stream they will go into for secondary school

Secondary schools are split into three streams: 

As for the different kinds of schools on offer in the Netherlands, there are of course international schools which offer education under the British system, the International Baccalaureate (IB), the European Baccalaureate, and more. There are also public schools (openbaar), run by the government with no religious or philosophical affiliation, and special schools (bijzonder) which are independently operated and adhere to a religion or educational philosophy (e.g. Montessori or Steiner schools).

The Netherlands is split into three regions which all have staggered school holiday dates to avoid one busy holiday rush. 

Education system Germany

Children in Germany attend primary school (Grundschule) from the age of 6 until 10 or 12, depending on the federal state. There is also a stream system in German secondary schools, and the qualification your child receives affects the higher education they are eligible for:

  • General secondary school (Hauptschule) - for vocational education
  • Secondary school (Realschule) - more extensive general education (for vocational higher education)
  • Academic secondary school (Gymnasium) - most intensified general education (for university)

Schools are split between public and private, but all of them receive government funding and adhere to the same streamed system. The government funding ensures education in Germany is much more affordable than in other countries in Europe. There are also international schools but these typically charge higher tuition fees. Homeschooling, however, is illegal in Germany.

Like in the Netherlands, school holidays in Germany are staggered to avoid overburdening the transport structure. The dates change every year. 

Quality of life

The OECD Better Life Index breaks overall quality of life down into 11 topics categorised as essential to determine general well-being across countries around the world: environmental quality, civic engagement, education and skills, work-life balance, health status, subjective well-being, income and wealth, jobs and earnings, housing, personal safety, and social connections.

Quality of life in the Netherlands

The Netherlands performs well in the OECD index - achieving top scores in the work-life balance category, and above average in nine out of the 10 remaining categories. The only aspect in which the Netherlands would appear to be lacking is income and wealth, where it scores below average. 

The country achieved particularly high scores for the following categories: work-life balance (9,5 out of 10), life satisfaction (9,3), safety (9,2), health (8,4), and jobs (8,3). 

Quality of life in Germany

On the whole, Germany performs well in the Better Life Index, achieving above-average scores in all 11 categories. The country’s top scores are for work-life balance (8,4 out of 10), safety (8,3), and jobs (8,2). 

However, the country is let down slightly in the community (6,2) and civic engagement (5,3) categories. 

People in the Netherlands appear to be slightly more satisfied with their lives, as when they were asked to rate their satisfaction they gave it an average of 7,4 out of 10 - slightly higher than in Germany, where people scored their lives a 7.

The German lifestyle vs the Dutch lifestyle

There’s a lot to consider when moving from one country to another - but aside from all the vital information about jobs, tax, education, cost of living etc, there’s also the more fun, but equally as important, details, like where you’ll live, and what kind of stuff you’ll be able to get up to in your free time.

Major Dutch Cities 

The Netherlands is quite densely populated and has a variety of cities to cater to everyone’s needs and preferences. Let’s look at the major Dutch cities that many internationals chose to settle in.

Amsterdam

Chances are you’ve heard quite a lot about Amsterdam - perhaps you’ve even visited the city yourself. But the Dutch capital is so much more than its party-city reputation. Aside from being a great destination for tourists, the city is also home to hundreds of thousands of Dutch and internationals who live and work in the city. The population is extremely diverse, with over 170 different nationalities living in Amsterdam, which means it’s easy to get by and feel welcome, even if you don’t speak the language. Amsterdam really is a great option for any expats looking to make the Netherlands their home.

Amsterdam is the largest of all cities in the Netherlands, and so unsurprisingly serves as the country’s financial, cultural, commercial, and business capital. On top of all that, it is a unique and historic city, and in the city centre, you can find hundreds of buildings that date back hundreds of years, and are still being lived in today. Plus there are, of course, the museums everyone knows and loves, as well as countless coffee shops and brothels. On top of all of that, Amsterdam is regularly ranked as one of the best cities in the world for quality of life!

Rotterdam

Of course, there is so much more to the Netherlands than just Amsterdam. More and more people are turning to other Dutch cities and looking for a home - and Rotterdam is a popular option for many. The second-largest city, Rotterdam is wildly different to Amsterdam, with impressive modern architecture dominating the skyline, and one of the largest ports in the world. Many fans of this city feel it rivals the Dutch capital for its history, culture, and industry. 

The Hague

Last but not least, The Hague is the third-largest city in the Netherlands, and serves as the home for the royal family, Dutch government, and a number of international courts. The city is, therefore, home to several large businesses, and is consequently exceedingly international, but has a quieter and calmer vibe than either Amsterdam or Rotterdam. One of the many reasons this city is so great and so widely loved is that it's only a very, very short tram ride away from Scheveningen, the most beloved beach in the Netherlands.

Major German Cities

Germany is a little bigger than the Netherlands, so it should come as no surprise that there are more cities - and bigger cities - than you’ll be able to find in the lowlands. In Germany, there are 79 cities that have a population of over 100.000 people, so if you move there you really will be spoiled for choice. Depending on what you’re looking for - a buzzing nightlife, or a wealth of culture - each city has something different to offer.

Berlin

Berlin has developed a reputation as the most famous and beloved city in Germany, and has been a favourite among expats for years. While the cheap rentals that once tempted people to the city are long gone, the creative and enticing atmosphere means the city is still a popular choice for many looking to make Germany their home.

Hamburg

The second-biggest city in Germany, Hamburg is a gorgeous and packed with history that you can still glimpse traces of today. Garmany’s “Gateway to the World”  is also home to the third-busiest port in Europe and a world-famous red-light district. Starting to think Hamburg sounds more Dutch than German? Well, to add to your confusion, the city is also home to even more canals than Amsterdam! 

Cologne

Compared to Berlin, Cologne has a slightly more laid-back vibe. The second world war left the city almost entirely destroyed, and it was dubbed the world’s “greatest heap of rubble.” Recently though, Cologne has reinvented itself, becoming renowned as a hub for engineering, insurance, and media. Plus, it's the home of carnival, Kölsch, and a delectable chocolate museum - what more could you ask for!?

Frankfurt

Frankfurt: the Manhattan of Germany. No, really! This city is known for its business and finance districts, and is home to over 200 (inter)national banks. But, while the city might be known for its ultra-modern skyscraper skyline, Frankfurt is also home to Germany’s largest expat community. Plus, on top of everything else the city has to offer, it also holds a yearly apple wine festival!

Düsseldorf

A very short trip away from Cologne, you’ll find the charming (and wealthy) city of Dusseldorf - the home of banking, advertising, fashion, and communications. On top of all this, extensive renovation following the second world war means this modern city has also become a hub for art, architecture, and electronic music. Fun fact: Dusseldorf is home to the largest Japanese community in Germany, and has been nicknamed “Little Tokyo on the Rhine.”

Munich

If, when you think of Germany, you dream of picturesque gingerbread-type houses, then Munich might be the city for you. Known for beer halls, lederhosen, and oompah bands, the city of Munich cherishes and celebrates German tradition. Combine this with its booming tech industry and modern art scene, and it isn’t surprising Munich is regularly ranked as one of the best cities in the world for quality of life.

Stuttgart

Last, but certainly not least, we have Stuttgart, famous as the car manufacturing capital of Germany. In contrast to this booming industry, Stuttgart is surprisingly rural, surrounded by valleys, forests, rivers, and vineyards. Are you looking for a more rural setting that still offers the career and social opportunities of a bustling city? Then, Stuttgart might be the place for you!

Popular events in the Netherlands

Local culture and events are vital to maintaining an active lifestyle in your new home. What might you and your family have to look forward to when moving to the Netherlands?

Sinterklaas 

Recently, the Dutch have embraced Christmas more, and have done more to mark and celebrate the holiday. However, the traditional winter gift-giving figure in the Netherlands is Sinterklaas, who travels around the country on his white horse on the evening of December 5 delivering sacks of gifts to well-behaved children. 

Unlike Santa Claus, Sint arrives on a steamboat in mid-November, travelling with his horse and helpers (pieten) from his home in Spain. He then stays in the country until pakjesavond on December 5, and children leave out shoes for him to leave snacks and sweets in in the lead up to the big event. Sadly though, Sinterklaas is not a public holiday in the Netherlands, but it is still a day filled with festivities and family fun. 

Kingsday

Kingsday, or Koningsdag, is one of the biggest celebrations in the Netherlands, and unlike Sinterklaas, this one actually counts as a public holiday! The day marks a celebration of the King’s birthday, and on April 27 the whole country turns orange and parties together, come rain or shine. 

So, what should you expect when celebrating Kingsday? Well, no matter where you are, make sure you stock up on beer and orange clothing and accessories. If you don’t want to party the day (and night) away, you can spend your day walking around aimlessly to see what gems you can find in the traditional street markets. Or, even better, make the most of the day and the use it as an opportunity to declutter your home.

Amsterdam Pride

Cities around the world have their own pride parades, but Amsterdam’s Pride celebrations in August are genuinely on another level. People travel from all around the world to take part and enjoy the canal parade - the only pride parade on water! Amsterdam Pride is genuinely one of the highlights of summer in the Netherlands. 

Music Festivals

The Netherlands loves a good music event, and there are a number of renowned music festivals that take places across the country throughout the year, celebrating every kind of genre you could possibly imagine. 

The bigger, more mainstream festivals include PinkPop (always held on Pentecost weekend), North Sea Jazz Festival, Lowlands, Mysteryland, and Awakenings. Then, as if that wasn’t enough for you, every year, the Dutch capital is transformed by the Amsterdam Dance Event, which takes over venues up and down the city. The five-day electronic conference festival is truly electric. 

Carnaval

The Netherlands might not be one of the countries that come to mind when you think carnival, but the yearly carnaval celebrations are a highlight for many. Typically celebrated in the south of the country, people travel from all over to partake in the fun, using it as an excuse to dress up and party. 

The Dutch carnaval is held annually on the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday immediately preceding Lent, and while the weather may not always be sunny, the celebrations most certainly are.

Popular events in Germany

Throughout the year, there are a number of fun events and festivals taking place across Germany. Here are some of the most notable ones: 

Berlinale

One of the most important film festivals in Europe, Berlinale takes place every February in the German capital. The international film festival hosts over 400 screenings and is open to the public.

Carnival

Germany also has a carnival season, which kicks off at 11.11am on November 11. But if you’re wanting to get involved in the main festivities, then it’s worth noting that these take place between Silly Thursday and Ash Wednesday. During these so-called Crazy Days, people don their most flamboyant costumes and take to the streets to sing, drink, and beg for sweets and kisses. You can enjoy carnival all across Germany, but the biggest events can be found in Cologne, Munich, Mainz, Aachen, and Dusseldorf.

Auer Dult

Auer Dult is a traditional market that takes place three times a year in Munich, with each event lasting for a total of nine days. The Maidult (Spring), the Jakobidult (Summer) and the Kirchweihdult (Autumn) events also feature funfair rides, food stalls, and plenty of German beer

Carnival of Cultures

Another Berlin event, the Carnival of Cultures is a four-day street festival that allows people to celebrate the diversity of the German capital every spring. Expect lots of music, food, performances, and a colourful parade. 

Pride

Cologne Pride takes place annually on the first weekend of July, and sees hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets to celebrate love. The real highpoint is the parade, which is held on the Sunday. Of course, other cities and towns also host their own Pride events, but they’re usually known as Christopher Street Day (CSD), which is a reference to Christopher Street, where the Stonewall Riots took place. 

Oktoberfest

Infamous and now celebrated all around the world, you couldn’t talk about German events without giving a nod to the world-renowned Oktoberfest in Munich - a 16- to 18-day festival that takes place in the autumn and celebrates all things beer. Known as Wiesen to the locals, Oktoberfest is the world’s largest and most famous folk festival and is attended by over six million people every year. 

Christmas Markets

And last, but certainly not least, German Christmas Markets are famous around the world. Yes, you may be able to find a Christmas market in pretty much every city around the world nowadays, but for the best and most authentic experience, you’ll have to travel to Germany. Of course, there are the big ones in Cologne, Munich, and Nuremberg, but every city, town, and village will host their own, each with a unique atmosphere.

Germany vs the Netherlands: Food 

Wherever you live, you have to make sure you and your family are well fed. And, when living abroad, it's always fun to take the time and try out the local delicacies for yourself. Aside from bratwurst, beer, and bitterballen, what foods do Germany and the Netherlands have to offer?

Food in the Netherlands 

The Dutch are of course known for their cheese - but what else do they eat?    

Most of the more traditional Dutch dishes are warm, stodgy meals, but the Netherlands’ colonial history also means that there are a number of traditional dishes that are inspired by other cuisines. Therefore, Dutch cuisine can be seen as quite varied. 

Traditional Dutch foods

Some of the most popular and well-known dishes in the Netherlands are pea soup, stamppot, and, of course, pancakes, which are traditionally eaten for dinner. There is also a (perhaps surprisingly) strong Indonesian influence on the local cuisine, particularly in Amsterdam, and so an Indonesian rice table (Rijsttafel) is also generally considered a part of the traditional Dutch food culture

Some of the more iconic Dutch foods are the (often unhealthy) snack foods, such as raw herring, bitterballen, and kroketten - oh, and cheese! Of course, there are some other traditional Dutch foods that are specific to certain regions, such as the Brabant sausage roll.

Breakfast in the Netherlands 

The Dutch eat a fair amount of bread at both lunch and breakfast time, and so while Dutch breakfasts can vary, the most common choices tend to be slices of bread with either sweet or savoury toppings - such as cheese or the famous chocolate sprinkles (hagelslag). Alternatively, many people opt for muesli with yoghurt and fruit. Instead of generic bread, you might see someone enjoying ontbijtkoek, a krentenbol - a soft roll filled with currents, eaten plain, or with butter and / or cheese - or ryebread - Dutch rye bread is different from other countries’ rye bread, but is still quite dense and hearty.

Sweet foods in the Netherlands

Alongside the ever-popular pannekoek, you have poffertjes - small, bite-sized, puffed-up pancakes, typically served with butter and powdered sugar. On top of these fuffy and tasty bites of dough, stroopwafels and drop are also widely eaten. Then, throughout the winter months, you may notice a couple of extra products in your local supermarket - these will likely be pepernoten and kruidnoten, which are the traditional Sinterklaas sweet snacks. 

Food in Germany

Similarly to the Netherlands, Germany isn’t known for “haute cuisine,” and yet some traditional and hearty German foods are praised and enjoyed by people from all over the world. Traditional German cuisine is filling, rich, and stodgy, and relies on preserving food through salting, pickling, smoking, and curing.

But, despite what you might believe, Germans don’t just eat tonnes of meat and potatoes. The country’s significant (and ever-growing) immigrant population means that new ingredients and dishes have become staples of the local diet. 

Traditional German foods

The country is fairly large, and so each region has its own speciality dishes which makes German cuisine relatively varied. Some dishes you’ll be able to find and enjoy pretty much everywhere, though, are eintopf (a simple stew), erbsensuppe (pea soup), bratwurst, leberkäse, schnitzel, and rouladen. Pair any of these with a side of fried potatoes (bratkartoffeln), pretzels (brezlen), or sauerkraut - yum!

Breakfast in Germany

Breakfast is generally regarded by the Germans as one of the most important meals of the day, and will typically feature an abundance of baked goods. Take your pick of one of Germany’s hundreds of kinds of bread rolls, and fill it with some butter, marmalade, chocolate spread, or some sliced meat and / or cheese. Alternatively, go all out and grab an egg (or two) and some quark.

Sweet foods in Germany

While you might know Germany for its hearty savoury dishes, don’t be fooled into thinking the country doesn’t have anything sweet and delicious to offer. Why not try käsekuchen (German cheesecake) or the 70s classic Black Forest Gateau (schwarzwälder kirschtorte)? But that’s not all, other German sweet treats include dampfnudeln (steamed buns), prinzregententorte (a many-layered cake from Bavaria), and rote grütze (a thick mash made of red berries and sugar).

Germany vs the Netherlands: Sporting rivals 

Germany and the Netherlands may share many things - including a border - but what about when they battle one another in the world of sport? Let's take a look at some of the major talking points when it comes to the Netherlands, Germany, and sport.

Football

The Netherlands and Germany have met on the pitch countless times over the past couple of decades. The two teams met in the 1974 FIFA World Cup Final in a match that would go down in history for the Dutch as de moeder aller nederlagen ("the mother of all defeats") after the country lost two goals to one. It was a bitterly fought match that defined the sporting relationship between the two countries for many years. 

Luckily for the Dutch, they managed to exact some revenge in 1988 when they beat Germany in the semi-final of the European Championship - the Netherlands went on the beat the Soviet Union in the final, which was held in Munich. While the rivalry isn’t quite as bitter as it was in the 70s and 80s, the countries still meet regularly on the football pitch, and while the Dutch football team has been struggling a little recently, the two countries are relatively evenly matched, which means that whenever they meet, it's bound to be a great game. 

Women’s Football 

The history of the German and Dutch women’s football teams isn’t anywhere near as intense, but the two countries have met several times over the past couple of years. In the 2009 European Championships, the Netherlands qualified for the first time, and made it all the way to the semi-finals where they lost 2-1 to England - who then went on to lose to Germany in the final. Then, in 2017, the Netherlands won their first major trophy, ending Germany’s reign over the sport and winning the European Championship - before that, Germany had won six years in a row. While this was a significant victory, the two countries didn’t actually meet on the pitch that year. 

Interestingly though, the Netherlands and Germany are the only two countries to have won the men’s and women’s European championships, and Germany alone has won both World Championships. Now, the two countries are hoping to work together (with Belgium) to host the 2027 Women’s World Cup

Hockey

When it comes to both men’s and women’s field hockey, Germany and the Netherlands are home some of the top teams in the world. According to the 2020 rankings, the Netherlands has the third-best men’s team and the number one women’s team, while Germany has the third-best women’s team, and the sixth-best men’s team. As such, it should come as no surprise that the countries have battled it out numerous times throughout the decades. In 2004, the German women’s team beat the Netherlands in the final to take home Olympic gold. But that’s okay, the Netherlands has won gold three times since 1984, so they don’t feel too bad about it. 

NL vs DE

While this article attempts to give you a general idea of what you can expect from both countries, you can only truly know a country by living there. Both Germany and the Netherlands have a lot to offer  - and the good news is that, if you chose to live in either country, you’ll never be very far away from the other, so you’ll always be able to pop over for a little weekend break. 

Whichever country you chose, there will be a number of positives and likely a handful of negatives. And remember, moving to a new country can be an extremely difficult and stressful experience, but hopefully, once you’ve settled in either one of these countries, you’ll find yourself in the perfect place for you and your family.

Victoria Séveno

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Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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