7 bizarre things about being German and working in the Netherlands

Oh mein Gott 😬

Powered byUndutchables

Germany and the Netherlands might not be polar opposites, but if you’ve had the pleasure of working in both countries, you’ll undoubtedly have noticed many little (and not-so-little) differences. 

Flat landscapes, harsh-sounding languages, and a deep-rooted, unwavering love for beer — to the untrained eye, Germany and the Netherlands might seem like the same deal. 

READ MORE | Vacation, free time and working hours in the Netherlands: all you need to know

But behold, when it comes to working and professional life, there are some surprising differences between these two neighbours. 

Here are seven of the Dutch/German work culture gaps. 

Who knows best when it comes to German workers in the Netherlands? The top-notch recruitment agency Undutchables, of course! They’ve helped hundreds of Germans find jobs in the lowlands (and have stacks of vacancies just waiting for you). 

1. Dutch lunch culture is quick and efficient

German people might have a (sometimes inaccurate) reputation for being on time, quick, and efficient. Their lunch practices, on the other hand? Compared to the Dutch, quite the opposite. 

In the Netherlands, lunch typically consists of a humble broodje met kaas (sandwich with cheese), and fair enough, German lunch cuisine is not much different. The difference here lies in the fact that lunch in the Netherlands is consumed at rapid speed, with little time for anything but chewing. 

It’s food, we promise. Image: Takeaway/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

In Germany, a worker’s lunch break is holy, and pretty much as important as the other working hours altogether. It’s so holy, in fact, that the right to minimum 30 minutes of lunch break every day is spelt out in the German labour law. 

Taking up to an hour for lunch is not uncommon in Germany, whereas a Dutch worker’s lunch is over before they can say hagelslag. Why? Perhaps because a Dutch lunch break is typically unpaid — and why waste time eating when you can get paid? 

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #12: Be obsessed with peanut butter

2. No one gets paid in cash

It’s no secret that Germany lags behind in certain (relax, only certain) areas, when compared to the Netherlands. One such thing is the German tendency to pay in cash far more often than those in the lowlands. 

That means that if you’re working as a barista, a grocery shop cashier, in retail, or pretty much anywhere else money is being transferred in Germany, you’ll likely have to deal with a lot of coins and bills. 

Always bring cash to a café in Germany! Image: Depositphotos

Anecdotes from our German readers have even mentioned instances of young people (particularly in the service industry) getting their wages paid in cash. 

Although that’s an extreme case, there’s no getting around the fact that working (and just generally living) in the Netherlands tends to involve way less cash than across the eastern border. 

READ MORE | Transaction declined: why don’t my bank cards work in the Netherlands?

3. Dutch people work shorter hours

Some might call it laziness, while others call it having a work-life balance. No matter what you choose to describe it as, however, it is a fact of life that Dutch people work less than Germans. 

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #116: Have a great work/life balance

According to the OECD Better Life Index, the Netherlands outperforms Germany in just about every category (except a minor defeat in the Environment and Income sections), snatching an impressive 5th place in the world when it comes to work-life balance

With an average working week of just 32 hours, we’re not surprised to hear that the Dutch work the least in Europe — and far less than the Germans, who’re working 41.1 working hours a week. Yikes!

4. Dutch people speak English. A. Lot.

Until recently, tourists in Germany had to struggle their way through their holidays with the phrases they remembered from high school German class, crossing their fingers hoping they’d communicated more or less the right thing. Working in Germany was, and still is, relatively difficult without a decent understanding of the German language. 

Germans are not exactly known for their English proficiency, and the frequent translation of foreign news, media, and entertainment into German doesn’t make it any easier to practice. The Dutch, on the other hand, pride themselves on their excellent command of the English language.

The job market in the Netherlands is great for people who speak English or German. Image: Depositphotos

As the number one country in the world when it comes to English proficiency (compared to Germany’s 10th place), and with over 90% of the population comfortable speaking English, it’s no surprise that the Netherlands is famous for being quite a lovely place to work as an international.

High English proficiency is seen in daily life as well as in the Dutch workplace, and it’s not uncommon to speak English on a daily basis in a Dutch job. 

READ MORE | Why are the Dutch so good at speaking English?

Interested in working in the Netherlands, but not exactly fluent in Dutch (yet)? With tons of jobs for German speakers in the Netherlands (as well as a bunch of other languages), Undutchables will give your job search a convenient boost. 

5. The Dutch are ridiculously casual at work

Comfortable to some, frightening to others, Dutch work culture is (in)famous for being very casual. However, being casual does not necessarily mean that the Dutch are known for being chill and relaxed in the workplace.

What the Dutch are known for is being oh-so direct — a fact that manifests in a tendency to show up to work, well, just as you are. No nonsense, lots of gezelligheid

The Dutch workplace might be more casual than you’re used to. Image: Depositphotos

This can mean going to the office in jeans and a t-shirt, or in a three-piece suit — whatever works for you is fine for the Dutch workplace culture. It can also mean addressing your co-workers (yes, and your superiors) as the friendly Je rather than the formal U. The Germans would never — it’s “Sie”, not “Du”. 

READ MORE | The 11 crucial moments you wish you could speak fluent Dutch

Work meetings in the Netherlands can also occur in relatively unconventional places. While Germans prefer the structure of a good table for their meetings, the Dutch can easily meet around a coffee machine, on a park bench, or over a biertje and some borrel snacks. Speaking of…

6. The Dutch borrel is the same as ‘feierabend’ — but also different

Despite the many differences, Dutch and German work cultures have one key thing in common: their love for beer. It’s an integral part of the coworking environment — the one thing that brings people together, regardless of their nationality, seniority, or position. 

Where the Germans religiously celebrate the end of the workday with “feierabend” (literally meaning “evening celebration”) at 5 PM, the Dutch reserve the right to drink beer with coworkers anytime they like. 

Beer is a non-negotiable part of the Dutch work culture. Image: Pexels

READ MORE | What is borrelen? The Dutch art of going for a drink with co-workers

Of course, the Dutch typically organise borrels at the end of the work day too, but the Dutch borrel goes a lot further than the German equivalent. 

Borrel at 5 PM with your coworkers before going home to your wife and kids, borrel at 8 PM with your student friends before going out dancing, or borrel on the weekend — the sky is the limit in Dutch workplace drinking culture

7. Hierarchy in the Netherlands is just not a thing

It might be a stereotype, but Germans are generally structure-loving people. This is typically reflected in a relatively hierarchical workplace structure. 

The Dutch, on the other hand, are (sometimes aggressively) egalitarian at heart, resulting in what the Germans might describe as a frightening lack of structure. The Dutch, meanwhile, will call it freedom. 

Yes, this is what a flat workplace hierarchy looks like. Image: Depositphotos

From liberal dress codes and informal and direct speech to democratic and casual meeting culture — the Dutch love for hierarchy-less workplaces can be found wherever you look. 

In the spirit of keeping things horizontal, it’s common practice for Dutch leaders to get feedback from their employees, not just the other way around. Oh, and coworkers typically address each other by their first name — in true direct, Dutch fashion. 

READ MORE | Culture shock when moving to the Netherlands: from South Africa to Holland

Germany and the Netherlands might have a number of things in common when it comes to the two countries’ workplace cultures — but also a surprising amount of differences.

READ NEXT | The 19 biggest differences between Germany and the Netherlands

What would you add to this list? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Juni Moltubak
Juni Moltubak
Juni moved to the Netherlands after realizing how expensive tuition fees in the UK are, and never regretted her choice of studying in The Hague. After three years of Political Science, she is ready for a new adventure — an internship at DutchReview! When you don’t see her typing on her laptop she can be found strolling around Haagse Bos or sitting in her lovely garden scrolling through interior design TikToks.

Liked it? Try these on for size:

What do you think?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The latest Dutch news.
In your inbox.