After three and a half years in The Netherlands, I felt like now I have seen enough to compare this small European country with its neighbour, Germany. Now even though both countries have a lot of similarities and the languages are related, there are still a couple of differences, that I am going to point out in this post.
Of course, these won’t include obvious differences like location, language, history etc. but rather differences related to transportation, food habits or payments.
I’d like to say upfront that these are things that I have noticed so if you disagree with anything in this list then this is totally fine. Of course, regions in both countries differ so not everything will apply to each part of both countries.
Table of Contents
- Differences in Payments in the Netherlands and Germany
- Transportation Differences in The Netherlands and in Germany
- Food and Drinking Habit Differences between Germany and the Netherlands
- Other Differences Between the Two Countries
- Which country do I prefer?
Differences in Payments in the Netherlands and Germany
1. Bank Cards Acceptance
Bank cards are accepted pretty much everywhere in the Netherlands.
In fact, I never see people paying cash, it feels like I am the only one who does that. While in Germany, people pay mostly with cash and cards are not accepted at a lot of places. In the Netherlands some restaurant don’t even take cash at all.
Therefore, if you travel to Germany make sure to always have cash on you and a working bank card in the Netherlands. However, paying by card is becoming more acceptable in Germany especially with the current situation, but they are still a little behind on that.
2. Grocery Store Payments
If you queue in the grocery stores and spot a sign that says “alleen pinnen” then that means you can only pay by card. This is super efficient because it’s a lot faster. In don’t think you can find that in Germany where it is exclusively card payment.
3. Use of 1 and 2 Cent Coins
In the Netherlands they don’t use 1 and 2 cent coins. In Germany if you buy something for 3.99€ then that is what you will end up paying. But in the Netherlands it would just be 4€ because they do not use one and two cent coins as long as you pay in cash.
If it would be 4.02€ then it be rounded down to 4€ rather than up. That makes it way easier and you do not have to carry around that much unnecessary change.
4. Girocard vs. Credit Card
Like discussed earlier, card payment is much more accessible in the Netherlands. But there is a catch. Often, a lot of places (e.g. Albert Heijn Supermarket, some vending machines etc.) only accept giro cards and no credit cards. Usually those places would then take cash instead. In Germany if you can pay by card, you can usually pay with any card and also your credit card.
5. Train Payment
Train payment also differs between the two countries and again the Netherlands is a bit more advanced. In Germany people just use old-fashioned paper tickets or maybe mobile tickets when you book it online.
In the Netherlands on the other hand, people have cards (OV chipkaart) that they need to enter the train or metro stations and which an be topped off with money. There are personalised or anonymous cards. For the personalised ones there are also options for the money you spend on travel just being taking off your bank account on a monthly basis.
Tipping culture is also a little different in the Netherlands and in Germany. In Germany tipping is usually expected, there is no set percentage but you usually just round off the bill or tip whatever you want. Like when your bill is 9.10€ you will just pay 10€ or something like that.
Now in the Netherlands I am not quite sure exactly what the tipping culture is like. I have read online that it is expected to tip 5-10% sometimes. But to be fair I have never seen any of my Dutch friends tip when we went out so I feel like tipping is not really a thing, like you can tip but you don’t necessarily have to. In Germany not tipping is rather rude on the other hand.
7. Tikkie and Money Transfers
In the Netherlands it is really common that you can not split the bill at the table so apps like Tikkie are really common so that people can transfer money to their friends easily. With Dutch bank accounts it is super easy to transfer money as it is really fast.
In Germany though that is not really used. Like most of the times you will just split the bill at the table, but if you do need to send somebody money you just pay them in cash or transfer it which just takes a lot longer with German bank accounts.
Transportation Differences in The Netherlands and in Germany
8. Wifi in Trains
Dutch trains have Wifi. While in the Netherlands, every train has Wifi and you can get work done on your laptop when on the train, German trains do not. There might be Wifi in the fast trains like the ICE but you will usually have to pay for it.
9. Bike Paths
The Netherlands has better bike paths and everyone bikes (also Germans wear helmets).
The Netherlands is known for its biking so it makes sense that there will be a lot of bike lanes and cities will be bike friendly in general. Overall, there are more bikes than inhabitants in the city. In Germany, they also have good bike lanes but they are just not as good as in the Netherlands.
Also you can always spot the Germans biking in the Netherlands just because they wear helmets and the Dutch don’t really do that.
10. Types of Bikes
In the Netherlands you will often encounter the typical Dutch bikes which don’t come with any gears. We all know the country is pretty flat and those Dutch bikes look way better anyway. In Germany, on the other hand, the majority of people prefers a standard bike that comes with gears.
Also, in the Netherlands bikes are usually locked twice. You have the standard lock and then you lock it again near the seat. In Germany those locks near the seat are usually unknown. Like I never knew they existed before moving to the Netherlands.
Food and Drinking Habit Differences between Germany and the Netherlands
11. The Bread is Different
Bread in Germany is usually bigger and I guess more “bread-like.” Bread in The Netherlands is usually more soft and just has a different texture to it. There are also less bread flavours in The Netherlands. See below a picture of typical bread in Germany.
12. Dutch people put sprinkles on their bread
I don’t think they do that in any other country, or at least not to my knowledge, but Dutch people put sprinkles on their bread. It is called “Hagelslag”. That definitely does not exist in Germany.
If you buy “Kroketten” in Germany they will usually be a lot smaller and filled with just mashed potatoes. In the Netherlands, they are usually filled with meat as well and there are different types such as chicken or saté.
14. Drinking Age
The drinking age is also different between the two countries. The drinking age in the Netherlands is 18 years for all alcoholic drinks. In Germany on the other hand it is 16 years for wine and beer and then 18 years of everything else.
Statiegeld/Pfand is the deposit you pay on plastic bottles. While both countries have “Statiegeld” (in Dutch) or “Pfand” (in German) it still has some differences. It basically means that you pay a deposit on plastic bottles when you buy them that you will receive back once you return the empty bottles again.
In the Netherlands this deposit is only for bigger bottles, whereas, small bottles and cans have none.
In Germany, however, you also have this recycling process on bigger as well as small bottles and cans. But still it would be best to not buy any plastic bottles at all.
16. Tab Water vs Sparkling Water
Dutch people in general drink a lot of tab water. It is really common to get free tab water when you go to the restaurant as well. In Germany on the other hand, most people drink carbonated water instead and most people do not drink tab water even though it is perfectly drinkable.
If you go to the restaurant and ask for free tab water you most likely won’t get any. You will have to pay just to get still water.
17. Drinking on the streets
Not a habit but just a difference in the law. Whereas drinking in public in the Netherlands is forbidden and can get you a fine, especially in Amsterdam, drinking on the streets in Germany is allowed.
18. Sauce to eat with your chips (fries)
In Germany most people just eat Ketchup and/or Mayonnaise with their fries. In the Netherlands you usually have a lot more sauces to choose from. One popular option is ‘Patat Oorlog’ which translates to war chips and is a mix of saté sauce, raw onions and mayonnaise.
And just saté sauce is just really popular in the Netherlands anyway. In Germany it is impossible to find. I could not find any place that would sell me fries with saté sauce in the city I was in. Really upsetting. So I guess that were some of the food differences in the Netherlands and Germany.
19. Food Vending Machines
In the Netherlands you can find these food vending machine type stores that I love as it is so easy to just buy a quick snack. They usually have Kroket, Frikandel and other fried Dutch snacks. These stores sadly don’t exist in Germany.
Other Differences Between the Two Countries
20. Store Opening Times
In Germany everything is closed on Sunday. Basically with everything I mean all clothing stores and grocery stores. Therefore, make sure to buy all your food supplies before Sundays in Germany.
In the Netherlands, on the other hand, some supermarkets are open on Sundays. Especially in the bigger cities or during limited hours in smaller ones.
You might also like: 10 Things to know before Studying Abroad in The Netherlands!
Maybe this is just my own perception and not true but I feel like the Netherlands is a lot more informal. Both languages have formal versions of addressing people by using Sie/U. For example, I have never been to a university in Germany but honestly my school in Germany was more formal than my University in the Netherlands.
Like professors would always sign emails with their first name which I thought was really weird at first, whereas in High School in Germany I didn’t even know any of the teachers’ first names. Another example would be supervision during my thesis.
I had a Dutch supervisor during my Bachelor thesis and a German one during my Master thesis. And the communication was just completely different and so much more formal with the German supervisor.
22. Living Costs
The Netherlands is more expensive (Food, Housing, Gas etc.)
Living costs in the Netherlands are usually higher. Of course, it depends on the region where you live in both countries but groceries are always more expensive in the Netherlands.
Especially in Amsterdam you can expect to pay a lot for accommodation as housing is really scarce.
23. The Dutch speak better English
Obviously not everyone speaks English but in general their English is better than when Germans speak English. Since in Germany all movies and tv shows are synchronised into the German language, this is not the case in the Netherlands. Mostly only kids movies are synchronised into the Dutch language.
Dutch people therefore watch a lot of programmes in English with Dutch subtitles. That would explain why their English is better since they are exposed to the language more often.
24. Marijuana Tolerance
While not legal, marijuana is tolerated in the Netherlands for personal use. So you will have a lot of coffeeshops located in the country, where you can purchase cannabis products. In Germany, cannabis for recreational use is illegal.
25. Gym Opening Times
One thing that I have noticed which might not be too important for most people are the differences in opening times of the gyms, mainly on the weekends.
In the Netherlands I had been a member of two different Gym chains (Big Gym and Fit for Free; not at the same time obviously) but what I noticed is that they both closed super early on the weekend, at 3pm to be precise. My current gym in Germany closes at 8pm on the weekend which I already think is quite early but 3pm is just way too early for me.
26. Underground Trash cans
In the Netherlands you often find big trash cans for your trash that you collect at home which are underground. Often you also need a key or key card to be able to open them. In Germany mostly standard bins are used and they are usually in places where only people that live in the area have access to anyway.
27. Christmas Holidays
Christmas in the Netherlands is celebrated on the 25th and 26th of December. But the most important holiday in December is Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas), which is celebrated on the 5th of December. Children will usually get their presents then.
In Germany on the other hand, Christmas is celebrated from Christmas Eve on the 24th of December to the 26th of December. When people say Christmas, they usually mean the 24th of December as that is the most important day. People will usually get their presents in the evening on the 24th.
28. Language Skills
Most Dutch people speak a bit of German or at least know some of the basics. But Germans usually don’t know any Dutch unless maybe they have grown up close to the border. Also it is a lot easier for Dutch people to understand German than the other way around.
Which country do I prefer?
The Netherlands. 100%. I don’t think that’s a secret. To be fair, most of these points that I have mentioned don’t really matter or impact your daily life. I just wanted to point them out for fun.
I just prefer living in the Netherlands because even though I don’t speak the language fluently I feel a lot more welcome in the Netherlands. Everything seems more casual and I don’t really have to think about what to wear or worry about people judging me.
Germany on the other hand, makes me feel really uncomfortable. I speak German fluently but I still feel really unwelcome in the country. It also feels like everybody is constantly judging you, so that I will wear completely different clothes or hair styles than to what I would wear back in Amsterdam.
I don’t know, that is just my personal opinion and of course you might have a different perception. I am curious to hear yours so tell me about your experiences in the comments if you’d like.
Talk to you later x