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Work / life comparison: Netherlands vs US

Disclaimer: this blog has been co-written with ChatGPT

I love working with both Dutch & Americans In my 25+ working years I mostly have done IT work for Dutch and American companies. So you would think I know with which companies' it's better to work with? US vs NL? Well I can say that it's the combination of working with both that I love! Both cultures accept remote work very well, have a high level when it comes to IT and easily accept work with remote teams and most importantly the economical value you get are good values.

So dear international talents, both are great places to consider when you want to plan your international jump! At Optima Forma we can help you to work with both US and Dutch clients. If you are more interested about living & working in Netherlands, I definitely recommend you to view the videos of David Wen.

Here comes the ChatGPT boosted part of this blog, hence sources are from 2021 ;)

For South Asians seeking a global work adventure, the Netherlands and the United States beckon as promising destinations. Both countries boast thriving economies, diverse cultures, and abundant opportunities for personal and professional growth. However, before embarking on this life-changing journey, it's essential to delve deeper into the differences between these alluring options and make an informed decision that aligns with your aspirations. In this comprehensive blog, we'll explore the key factors to consider when choosing between the Netherlands and the US, including work opportunities, work-life balance, language and culture, healthcare, education, visa procedures, management style, and housing availability, backed by relevant references and statistics.

  1. Work Opportunities: The United States remains a top destination for skilled workers due to its robust economy and diverse job market. As of 2021, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a steady increase in employment across various sectors, including technology, healthcare, and finance, making it an attractive prospect for South Asian professionals seeking career advancement. In the Netherlands, the 2021 Global Talent Competitiveness Index recognized the country's strong innovation and business ecosystem, making it an ideal location for entrepreneurs and highly skilled migrants to thrive. Notably, the city of Amsterdam ranks among the top five European cities for tech talent, according to the 2021 Tech Talent Scorecard.

  2. Work-Life Balance: According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Better Life Index, the Netherlands consistently ranks high in work-life balance. As per their statistics, Dutch employees work an average of 29 hours per week, significantly less than the global average of 40 hours. On the other hand, a 2021 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research revealed that the US lags behind other developed countries in terms of work-life balance. American employees tend to work longer hours, with only 76% of full-time workers having access to paid vacation and holidays, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  3. Language and Culture: Both the Netherlands and the US are welcoming to English-speaking South Asians. The Netherlands ranks high in English proficiency, with 94% of the Dutch population being able to speak English as of 2021, according to the EF English Proficiency Index. Meanwhile, the US is known for its diverse culture and melting pot of languages. It boasts a large South Asian diaspora, which fosters a sense of community and familiarity for newcomers.

  4. Healthcare and Social Benefits: The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks the Dutch healthcare system among the best in the world, providing universal coverage and accessible services. As of 2021, the Netherlands had a life expectancy of 81.8 years, one of the highest in Europe, according to the World Bank. In the US, healthcare access can be more challenging, especially for immigrants without proper documentation or adequate insurance coverage. As of 2021, the US had a life expectancy of 78.9 years, lower than many other developed countries, according to the World Bank.

  5. Education and Research Opportunities: The US hosts some of the world's most prestigious universities, attracting top talent from around the globe. As of 2021, Times Higher Education's World University Rankings listed 28 US universities in the top 100. Despite strong competition, the Netherlands offers high-quality education and research opportunities. According to QS World University Rankings 2021, Dutch universities like Delft University of Technology and University of Amsterdam rank among the top universities globally.

  6. Visa Procedures: Navigating visa procedures is a crucial aspect of international relocation. For South Asian talents looking to live and work in the Netherlands, the Dutch Highly Skilled Migrant Program (HSM) remains a viable option. The HSM Program is tailored to attract highly skilled professionals from non-EU countries, including South Asian nations, and simplifies the work authorization process based on their qualifications and job offers in the Netherlands. In the US, obtaining work visas can be more complex, especially for certain categories like the H-1B visa, where demand often exceeds the annual cap. As of 2021, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provided detailed information about various visa categories and their requirements.

  7. Management Style: The Netherlands embraces a consensus-based management style known as the Polder Model, where decisions are made collaboratively through dialogue and negotiation between employers, employees, and the government. This style is underpinned by the Dutch tradition of social dialogue and cooperation, as cited by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound). In contrast, the US often follows a more hierarchical or top-down management approach, with decision-making originating from higher-level authorities and disseminated down the chain of command.

  8. Housing Availability: The Netherlands has been facing a housing crisis in recent years, especially in major cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam. According to Statista, as of 2021, housing prices in the Netherlands rose by 14% compared to the previous year, creating challenges for potential renters and buyers. The US, by contrast, has a more varied housing market, and the availability of affordable housing varies significantly from state to state and city to city. As of 2021, real estate markets in some US cities experienced growth, while others remained relatively stable, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Conclusion, self written again ;) Choosing between the Netherlands and the US as a place to live and work requires careful consideration of the various factors above. I think it really begins by choosing between these 2 concepts, as also mentioned in David Wen's Netherlands vs US comparision video:

  • Live to Work

    • US would be a more logical fit, where it's normal to have 2-3 jobs. Although this possibility also exists in Netherlands of course. But in Netherlands you will be taxed more.

    • I personally think the strive to work and more money has shown that it's not benefiting most of us. More and more we see that the middle class is suffering as well in recent years from rising costs.

    • Health is a big thing for any of us and it should tell you something that US has lower life expectancy than most developed world countries.

    • However if you're an exceptional IT talent, then in the US you can earn millions / year whereas in Netherlands you will not easily go futher than 100K / year.

    • Although my personal opinion is that work ethic is kind of "low" in Netherlands, many Dutch (or migrants who are attracted to it) are complacent towards the social welfare they enjoy. This also creates an increasingly polarised sentiment towards new migrants among many who have lived and worked hard in Netherlands (yes, native Dutch and migrants).

  • Work to Live

    • I think eventually if you have more life experience or when you are able to see well how incapable the world has been able to fix basic problems with more money, then living and experiencing life makes more sense.

    • But in your younger years when you have all the time of the world and don't have a family to take care of ... traditionally you might think to just work your ass off and reach for the stars. However with younger generations experiencing life before you embark into decades of work life seems to be a trending concept.

    • And be careful when you go into those areas where you can earn a lot ... what's the cost of living? What is your purchasing power? This is where I prefer the hacked version of life that is well available for IT folk, work and earn well with for instance an American or Dutch company ... but live in a lower cost environment like Portugal.

      • In Portugal going for a coffee / drink / lunch probably costs 1/3 of what it costs in America or Netherlands

      • Being able to rely on the affordability of such basic enjoyments in life saves you a lot of stress!

    • How much is an experience worth? Should you buy a house and live in the same place for a long time? What living environment gives you more access to unique experiences? Such questions you should answer when you think that experiencing life has a higher value than the chase to become a millionaire. For me ... I chased of becoming a millionaire before I was 30 and failed, but now after 40 I understand that my current work life balance and the experiences I have are worth more millions.

As life keeps changing, it's easier to have access to a (life)coach. That's one of the benefits when you're one of Optima Forma's talents!

Btw, also check out this video by David Wen about how he views US (as an American) after living a few years in Netherlands:

And if you're interested in the daily practical differences about life in Netherlands, check out how Jessica (from America) experiences her life in Netherlands.

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