Though the countries share a border and a similar language, the business cultures in Germany and the Netherlands have some differences that may influence your decision of where to work.
In general, Germany is known for rigidly following procedures and adhering to the rules in the workplace, while the Dutch handle business with a more laidback approach. International recruitment agency Undutchables explains the other differences between Dutch and German work culture, and where their characteristics overlap.
Undutchables is a recruitment agency for expats. Operating across the Netherlands (with branches in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, The Hague and Eindhoven), Undutchables helps everyone from first-jobbers to experienced executives progress their careers when moving to the Netherlands.
The Netherlands tops work-life balance
While both Germany and the Netherlands both rank above average in terms of work-life balance, the Netherlands recently overcame Denmark to land in the No. 1 spot, according to the OECD Better Life Index. Employees in the Netherlands should not expect to work very long hours — only 0.4 percent do so, according to the index. For Germany, that figure jumps to 5 percent, allowing for less leisure time for those working in the country. If a healthy work-life balance is highly important, the Netherlands is the better choice.
In both countries, however, it’s not entirely common to regularly socialise with colleagues during that generous leisure time. While there are the occasional teambuilding activities and group dinners, German and Dutch employees generally keep their private life private.
Hierarchy in the workplace in Germany
In German business culture, there is generally a higher degree of professionalism and formality in the workplace than in the Netherlands. Hierarchies are in place, and those with more authority expect immediate respect. A junior member of the team would be less likely to give an unsolicited opinion to the CEO of the company in Germany than in the Netherlands. In fact, in the Netherlands, companies are more likely to actually encourage collaboration among ranks. The hierarchical positions in the Netherlands are there, but employees are generally treated as equals.
With titles being so revered in Germany, it is not surprising that the country’s residents beat the Dutch by a substantial margin in terms of academics: according to the OECD Index, 87 percent of German adults between the ages of 25 and 64 have completed upper secondary education compared to 76 percent of Dutch adults.
Perks of working in Germany vs. the Netherlands
There are certain benefits that differ depending on the country. For example, parental leave in the Netherlands is restricted to just two days of paid leave for the partner (though it can be extended to five), while Germany encourages fathers to take a minimum of two months of paid paternity leave thanks to its recent reforms in the country. Germans make more money, too: the average net-adjusted disposable income per capita in Germany, according to the OECD Index, is USD 31,925, while the Dutch earn USD 27,759.
On the other hand, Dutch employers are required to pay 8 percent holiday allowance to its workers; in Germany, there is no such law, and holiday allowance is given at the discretion of the employer. Furthermore, when you’re sick in Germany, you’re required to give your employer a note from your doctor if you miss work — in the Netherlands, your word is enough.
Shared values in the Dutch and German workplace
Being so close in proximity means that there is some overlap between the Dutch and German work cultures despite the stark differences.
In both Germany and the Netherlands, when you make an appointment, that time is held sacred — you are even expected to show up before the meeting begins. Workers who come from countries that don’t keep to strict schedules, such as those in Latin and South America, for example, may need to adjust their behaviours in order to adapt to the work culture and avoid offending colleagues and clients.
If you are not used to hearing honest opinions, you may need to mentally prepare yourself when working in the Netherlands or Germany. In both countries, directness is valued — they say what they mean without dancing around the subject or trying too hard to protect someone’s feelings. It may take some getting used to, especially if you are from a country in which extreme politeness is placed above clear communication, such as Japan.
If you’ve been living in Germany and will start working in the Netherlands (or vice versa), it is helpful for both your career and social life to understand even the slightest differences in doing business in either country — you may impress your new colleagues with your work culture knowhow even before you sit down at your desk.