Updated: Oct 2, 2022
Doubting about working in Amsterdam or heading to Groningen, in the North of the Netherlands?
We've drafted a pro and cons list for working in Groningen versus working in Amsterdam.
Pros of working in Groningen
1. Travel anywhere by bicycle
There isn't a huge difference in terms of area size between Groningen and Amsterdam (198 km2 versus 219 km2). However, Groningen, known as a "world cycling city", makes it very easy to travel to the office by bike, without taking public transport.
2. Spend less time commuting
As Groningen is so well designed for bicycles, getting from A to B is very easy, whether you live on the outskirts of Groningen or in the city centre.
In addition, travelling from one side of the city to the other rarely takes above 15 minutes of cycling.
3. Laid-back work atmosphere
Groningen and other regions in the north of the Netherlands have a reputation for being more laid-back and living life in a slower and more relaxed way than in the southern part of the Netherlands, known as the "Randstad" (Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, and Utrecht). If you prefer a slower rhythm in your professional life, Groningen is a great place to work in.
4. Easier to relax after work
Groningen city centre is very easy to access. It's very easy to grab a drink, go play a game of pool, hit the karaoke bar or have a walk in the central park "Noorderplantsoen" right after work, without having the take the metro, tram or bus after a long day of work.
5. More time for hobbies
With shorter commuting time, perhaps shorter working days and a more laid-back business atmosphere, more time is left for leisure activities after work. It's also more motivating to be within a max. 1o minute-bike ride to tennis courts, the language centre, or even the University of Groningen if you need to study after work (yes, this is actually quite common!)
Cons of working in Groningen
While a city like Groningen might offer perfect working conditions for some individuals, it may not be optimal for other workers, used to working in larger Dutch cities.
1. Fewer work opportunities
Groningen has a lower population, is home to fewer (international) businesses and companies and thus has fewer job opportunities. This is one of the main reasons why students from the University of Groningen head to larger Dutch cities such as Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, or Amsterdam after graduating.
2. Lower wages
The average wage in Groningen was 24,431 euros versus 30,482 in Amsterdam in 2020 (Expatica). That being said, life in Groningen is cheaper than in Amsterdam, notably from a rent standpoint.
3. Less variety of after-work activities
Groningen is home to fewer leisure and entertainment locations (e.g.: museums, bars, restaurants, sports events) than Amsterdam. If you're seeking a large variety of after-work activities, Groningen may fall short over a long period of time.
4. Student city
Groningen is home to one of the largest universities in the Netherlands: the University of Groningen. Out of 230,000 inhabitants, the city of Groningen counts about 58,000 (25%!). While this can be a great plus for younger workers, some neighbourhoods and bars can be noisy and overcrowded with students.
5. Less international
Not that Groningen can be blamed for it, but the city is simply less cosmopolitan than Amsterdam. The city is home to many international students, no doubt. For international workers, however, it may be difficult to find English-speaking companies. While difficult, it's not impossible, however! Check out our list of English-speaking-friendly companies in Groningen.
Pros of working in Amsterdam
1. Higher wages
The wages in Amsterdam are on average higher than in all other Dutch regions including Groningen. Depending on your lifestyle and living situation, this may not necessarily be an advantage though, as costs can add up quite fast in Amsterdam.
2. Job opportunities
This is why many job seekers like Amsterdam: there are simply more job opportunities. The Dutch capital hosts a large variety of small, medium and large international companies from all over the world. A perfect place to look for professional opportunities: there are many English-speaking-friendly jobs in Amsterdam. If you're looking to work in a large international company, you might well find what you're looking for in Amsterdam!
3. More after-work options
If you're seeking to be more active and engage in various cultural and leisure activities after work, Amsterdam is the right place for you. The city has countless museums, expositions, restaurants and everything else a big city has to offer.
4. More international
Amsterdam is arguably more international than Groningen, having a larger expatriate community (simply it has more inhabitants). Groningen is very international given its size and location, but can't compete with Amsterdam's history of attracting international populations, workers and tourists.
5. Easier to travel from
Amsterdam is not only closer to other major cities (e.g.: Utrecht, Rotterdam, The Hague), but it's also better located than Groningen in terms of access to neighbouring countries and even worldwide destinations. Schiphol airport is in the top 3 of the largest and busiest airports in Europe and offers up to 317 intercontinental destinations. In contrast, Groningen has a smaller airport that only operates a handful of destinations, mostly with a stopover.
Cons of working in Amsterdam
1. Expensive city to live in
According to recent research, Amsterdam is the third most expensive city in Europe to rent an apartment in (NL Times, 2022). In fact, you can expect to pay an average of 1,641 euros per month to rent an apartment in Amsterdam. In contrast, average rental prices in Groningen are 38% lower than in the Dutch capital.
We talked about tourists earlier. While they bring an international vibe to Amsterdam, tourists visiting the Dutch capital don't have a great reputation and come in great numbers. As some tourists are here for the marijuana and red light district, some districts in Amsterdam may be overcrowded and not visited by individuals you want to share an environment with. Some districts also don't have that "Dutch" vibe you get in Groningen, where you'll hear less English in the streets and more Dutch or Frysian.
3. Very busy
If you're the type of person that needs less stimulating environments after a long day of work, Amsterdam may be a bit too busy for you. The Dutch capital counts 883,000 inhabitants (2022) versus 230,000 in Groningen, and doesn't even have a much larger area! This gives you an idea of how congested the city can be. Not ideal if you need a bit of calm when coming out of the office.
Amsterdam isn't as cycling-friendly a city as Groningen. With a larger population often comes a need for means of transportation, and Amsterdam is not an exception to that. Don't get us wrong, Amsterdam has a great public transportation system with tram lines, bus lines, the metro and a well-connected central station. However, this large network makes cycling a bit more stressful and dangerous.
5. Finding housing
If you're planning on working in Amsterdam, you'll want to start looking for housing well in advance, especially if you're on a "lower budget". The housing shortage in both Amsterdam and Groningen is a harsh reality and you'll have to compete hard to land an affordable apartment. If you're on a higher budget, it may make things a little easier for you, but still challenging enough.