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Netherlands or Germany - which is better for family life and work opportunities?(32 Posts)
I recently posted about finding it difficult to settle back into the UK and it has got me revisiting ideas DH and I have had about possibly moving to the Netherlands or Germany. Would love to hear from those of you who know more about these countries (or anywhere in Europe we are overlooking).
We would love to live somewhere that allows us to get some of our lifestyle back that we lost when coming back to the UK - outdoor living, easy and safe outside with kids, cycling, family friendly, good international mix of people, using public transport instead of a car...
DH is a teacher and the main earner so he would lead the move and hopefully DCs could go either to his school or a local school, so we would have options. DD is due to start next September in the UK though. What about in the Netherlands or Germany? Does anyone know if it would be realistic to live modestly on a teacher's wage for us with 2 DCs? We are not big spenders, and only just managing in the UK.
Crucial to our move would be the potential for me to (eventually) work part-time (depending on school / childcare). I speak some languages and would learn Dutch if we moved there. One of the reasons we considered these countries was because we thought that the cities would have plenty of international companies and schools, so there could be admin type work available. (Would most love something in a small company or university department if realistic?!) Is this a reasonable assumption? I have specific qualifications, but would rather not out myself on here.
I'd love to hear back from others on here. It's so hard to get the full picture. This was all so easy pre-kids!!!
How about Luxembourg? Very international country. There are 4 international schools which are either English speaking or have English sections.
Another one is opening in September 2016 and 2 local secondaries now also have an English section.
Lovely place to bring up kids very similar to Germany but with French food and a very international mix.
Lots of job opportunities too for you both.
Anecdotally, housing prices in particular are far lower in Germany than in NL. So I would pay careful attention to that factor as part of the decision-making process.
Affordability on one salary in NL would really depend on where in the country you live and whether you need a car.
We live a nice life on a small income but we have a council house. You might well be part of the 'squeezed middle' which is suffering here just as in the UK.
Admin-type work is currently hard to find in NL (especially, though not only) if you don't speak Dutch, but the economy has to pick up sometime.
Why don't you just look around the EU for COBIS and CIS member schools then look in TES at the right time of year for vacancies?
I would have thought the majority of EU COBIS member schools pay enough to have live on a single teacher's salary.
Belgium has international schools in Brussels, Tervuren, Waterloo, Gent, Antwerpen and Leuven. Not so sure it will give you outdoor living - it is miserable and wet, like Netherlands and UK too! But very safe, far more child friendly than the UK, 3 national language.
On housing prices - Germany isn't one country Obviously it is really... but there are posters on here who always say how cheap Germany is compared to the UK, and are speaking the truth because "their" Germany is cheap... the former east is mostly cheap as chips for example... However if you want cheap housing costs avoid Bavaria, especially around Munich! Lovely place to live but very expensive if you want to live somewhere you can manage without a car (or two be honest if you go very rural and live somewhere where its a lot cheaper but several miles to any sort of shop of Kindergarten - plans to cycle everywhere look less appealing in the Bavarian winter with a baby ).
I am really dubious you'll find part time office work without speaking the language fluently unless you are very lucky. You'd find minimum wage work easily with fairly basic language skills, but not kick start an office based career unless you either were willing to work full time and live right in a city centre or commute there, or learned the language to a high standard (at least a year of full time study if starting from scratch). Of course if you already have a high level of German you'd be fine - the economy is still good.
However everyone I know who works part time in a "career" rather than a job is in the same job they did full time before maternity leave. People who got part time jobs after time out of the workforce mostly do shop or care work.
I can only speak for my bit of Germany but there is no childcare for under 1s, and childcare for 1-3 year olds is limited and expensive. Once children are 3 Kindergarten is really good value, though in Munich city many people can't find a place for 3 year olds unless they travel right across the city - in the countryside that isn't a problem) but then once children start school at 6 they finish at lunch time (or before) and after school club is pretty expensive, even if you only need it til 2pm. Your DD would of course need to learn the language, so its lucky she'd have another year at Kindergarten.
Your DH would need to teach in an international school I think - at least in our state, state schools require native speaker equivalent German fluency in a teacher and don't generally recognise UK teaching qualifications.
In Belgium, childcare for under 3s costs around 500-600 euro per month and some of that is tax deductible. The majority of Belgian resident children (not including those on international contracts or special European commission or NATO status) have 2 working parents, the majority of their babies start at creche aged 3 months full or near full time.
School can start, if you want it, for free, from 2.5 years old.
Public transport in all but the most rural areas is usually pretty good and is excellent in areas where all the international schools are situated. You can easily live without a car in those areas, unless you want to find an unconnected
Oh and most local schools in the international school areas open at 7-7.30 and close at 18-18.30. This wraparound care cost an extra 3 euro a day at our school, more on Wednesdays as half day school.
I live in Bavaria. I guess house prices are high but it is a wonderful place to live. We live on the outskirts of munich and I got a place for my dc nonproblem 5 minutes up the road and a fraction of the price friends paid in UK. My dc are all how in school but where I live it was and still seems to be ok getting v good quality childcare. I work in an international type school. Every year there is a bit of a turnover as quite a few staff seem to be travelling f and spend a year or 2 in one countrey before moving on. It would be almost impossible to get a job in a state school.
I would say quality of life is pretty high. Wonderful Biergarten in the summer and lakes, skiing in the winter. Feel very safe here and everything I need just a few minutes away. Excellent public transport and also motorway connections all over Europe.
Kids generally start school aged 6 here. Seems to be many opportunities for working although part time might not be so easy? Lots of international companies and university etc. It is expensive but it worth it I'm. Good luck with whatever you decide. You can pm me if you want
Thank you so much to everyone for the helpful replies. It seems like you are all happy in the countries you wrote about. I'm curious though, are you all either full-time or work at home Mums? It's the part-time work potential that seems to be a difficulty everywhere.
Expatmomma - Luxembourg is an intriguing suggestion! Do you think there are part-time job opportunities available, as they appear to be hard to come by everywhere else. I do speak some languages, so that could help.
rainydaygrey - Thanks for the info, just very quickly would Amsterdam be the dearest part of the country and therefore best avoided on our income? We previously looked into The Hague and had to rule that out...
It's very interesting that there seem to be huge differences in childcare in all the countries.
BSN in den Haag teacher's salary is more than enough for a family of 4 to live on, a local teaching job would probably not be enough.
An international school teacher's salary in Belgium net would be around 50k euro per year at the bottom of the scale, a huge salary for Belgium and more than enough for 4 to live on.
Part time jobs are available in abundance in Brussels in particular, but would depend on your suitability as masses of competition. Most jobs here are connected with EU or multi-nationals in English, lots of multi-nationals have their European HQs here.
ErnesttheBavarian and lifeisunjust - have sent you PMs.
I think Germany could be a good option if your DH looks at international schools. There are a number of them in and around Frankfurt and depending on where you live I think you can live quite well on one decent salary. There is a huge expat community and although part time jobs aren't easy to come by there are definitely options for people with native English even if your German is not perfect.
We live in a town 20 minutes by train outside of the city and they have v good childcare options here from 6 months plus which only cost €250 a month full time and where kindergarten from age 3 is free.
There are loads of outdoor activities and easy transport links to other regions.
Oh and I work part time now, but like someone else mentioned above, that is only after reducing the hours of my full time job.
I've lived in Munich and we are currently living in Cologne. My DH is a stay at home dad for our kids.
I don't know what a teacher would earn here and I know that I am relatively well paid (I'm in IT) but we could afford to live comfortably here on my salary without DH needing to work (I'm on secondment at the moment so we aren't really living on my salary as work is paying rent etc.).
I'd look at Frankfurt and Berlin rather than Munich, as house prices there will be much lower. Unless you are willing to live a fair bit out of town. Dusseldorf might suit you too - it's a lovely area.
House prices are rising in Germany, and remember that it's totally normal to rent there.
Childcare very much depends on age of your kids and where you are going. Some areas are v good for kids under 3yrs, some are dismal. From 3-6 yrs you are guaranteed a Kindergarten space, and they are incredibly cheap, in comparison to UK. We paid about EU350 for 2 kids, Mon-Fri 8am to 4.30pm
You'd probably have to learn German to get a job, unless it was in an international company.
Kindergeld (child benefit) is very generous, first and second child - 188 Euro /month, third child 194 Euro and for each additional child 219 Euro.
Watch when your DH is applying for a job - make sure that he asks what his take home pay will be. Taxes and health care costs are higher. On the other side, if you aren't working, or just part-time, then he will get a tax break. We lost almost EU1000 when we moved to UK, between family allowance and taxes.
Feel free to PM me, if you have any other questions. I've lived in a few different Bundesländer in Germany, so have an idea what it's like in other areas.
Other than that, have you considered Geneva? House prices are high, but so are wages.
re Kindergarten costs - because I just read MrsMortis' post on free childcare from 3yrs old - that depends on the area you are in. When we lived in Dusseldorf, the costs were adjusted according to income, with low-income families paying nothing, and those on higher incomes paying top rate. Still cheaper than UK!
I know that my SIL in Bavaria had to pay more than we did - because they didn't have the income adjustments. That was a few years ago though, so might have changed.
In Netherlands, school is free from 3 years old but places are limited I think at this age until you reach the kleuter classes at age 4.
In Belgium, school is free from 2.5 years and as long as you apply in time, not that difficult to find places. You only pay for wrap-around care from 7 to 8.30 and from 15.30 to 18.30 and typically 50 cent to 1 euro per hour. You only struggle for child care if you need it before 7.30 and after 18.30 where you need a part time babysitter. Holiday care costs are typically 50 euro to 150 euro per week for 8-17.00, depending on activity.
In France, school age is becoming more often also 2.5 years and child care is similar, maybe not so country wide as well organized and consistent as it is in Belgium which is probably only so consistent because of country size.
Oh and child benefit in Netherlands is similar prices to Germany. Belgium is more from 3rd child. 4 children are worth between 900 and 1100 euro in Belgium (you get a premium if a sole parent like me on low income). I could not live without my child benefit.
In our district of Bavaria Kindergarten costs between €62 and €100 basic, plus €9 drink and play money, per month for a child from 3-6 years old. Children from 2.5 can sometimes get a place but cost exactly double. If you don't pick them up before lunch that is an extra €3.50 per cooked lunch (or you can send them in with a big packed lunch - you provide your own morning snack anyway, which is usually a sandwich and fruit, but that is eaten when ever the child wants - often about 9.30am).
After school club is as expensive as or more expensive than Kindergarten even though its less hours, but you can't work without it as school finishes so early (in years one and two ours finish at 11.20am several days a week - finish times are different each day of the timetable too).
I have mostly been a SAHM doing a little bit of EFL teaching in the evenings since we've lived here, but have just started a part time job 15 hours a week, but its in a care home - I applied for various other things over the year before I decided to apply to the very local care home (I have a Masters degree and UK QTS and in all honesty probably intermediate conversational German but barely pre-intermediate written German) but didn't even get an interview for anything office based that was workable around the kids (my husband has a very long commute so I am not willing to work anywhere where it would take me more than about 45 minutes to get home to a sick or injured child etc.).
Bavaria is a nice place to live, ticks the outdoor and family friendly boxes (and if you were a SAHM you would have lots of company - lots of SAHMs, at least in the countryside), but I would not say it is the place to go if a part time office job is one of your top 3 "must haves".
Don't most international schools ask for international baccalaureate experience btw? I've looked at adverts for the Munich ones out of curiosity and got that impression, but other people will know more about that than me!
one thing about teaching. German teachers were civil servants on good packages, but foreign teachers are usually given much less pay and job security. So in international schools there is often a weird situation with teachers doing the same job, with the foreign ones paid far less than their German colleagues. It leaves several very demoralized.
And kindergarten places can be very hard to find, especially in Berlin.
Also. budget for healthcare costs very carefully. It will cost a few hundred euros per family and is compulsory.
that said, I love the comparative lack of materialism, the ourdoorsiness and seasonal living.
If you choose Belgium you need to be aware of the pension rules A colleague was telling me that everybody who has earnt money in Belgium has to pay 100 Euro a month when they retire regardless of how much pension they receive. I would definitely look into this..
Hi, my experience of living oversees is now very out if date. Wish you very well and hope that You might find this site helpful when considering Germany www.toytowngermany.com All the best
If the OP's DH isn't a civil servant, then he'd have state health insurance, which is less expensive.
I agree re finding office hours to fit around childcare, particularly with limited language skills, will be tricky.
you say that you have specific qualifications - is this something that you could do online in any way? Offer services or consulting based around your qualifications, that you could do via Skype calls?
Message withdrawn at poster's request.