When you first move to a foreign country there are literally a jillion things you need to arrange. It’s no surprise that many of my first days in the lowlands were spent at the aptly named “Alien’s Police” completing endless red-tape. I felt like an alien; there was the thrill of all things new and exciting, yet even the simplest tasks were confusing and utterly foreign.
On my list of things to arrange was insurance – and boy, was I in for a treat! I sat across a pimply banker who handed me a tattered laminated folder, of what appeared to be, hundreds of different types of insurance policies. After struggling through the list, I looked up and asked him what I really needed. He mumbled a few things about not being allowed to give personal advice and then pointed to one entry entitled personal liability insurance.
“You definitely need this one!” he blurted out, almost excitedly, “The Dutch ALL have this one!”
I asked what it was actually for, and he launched into a long and dull explanation of coverage for damage or harm to a person or property. Failing to understand exactly why this was of critical importance to all Dutch people, I asked for an example.
He was prepared for the question and got right to it: “Imagine you are at a friend’s house for dinner tonight and you spill red wine on their white carpet! Instead of you having to pay for a new carpet, your insurance company will!”
Back at the office, I decided to broach the subject with a few of my Dutch colleagues. Sure enough, they ALL had the infamous “personal liability insurance”. Before I even had a chance to ask more, one of my older female colleagues chimed in “Colleen, what would you do if you spilt red wine on a friend’s white couch? Now where would that leave you. How silly not to have insurance for that!”
Based on the morning’s conversations I could only help but assume three things:
- The Dutch were very clumsy wine drinkers
- White carpets and couches seemed to be very popular in the Netherlands
- Dutch people apparently charged other Dutch people for damages incurred at dinner parties
The above didn’t necessarily leave me eager in anticipation for a Dutch dinner party (…I couldn’t imagine a scenario in Canada where we would suddenly swap bank account or insurance policy numbers over spilt wine).
Clearly I had a thing or two to learn about the Dutch, for it turns out they do simply LOVE insurance! In fact, they love it so much they are the second highest consumers of insurance in the ENTIRE WORLD! Yes, this tiny nation of freakishly tall folk, are only second to Switzerland in their national obsession with all things insurance (and we all know what a fun-loving bunch those Swiss are
With this unsettling obsession you would be safe to assume the Dutch are a rather pessimistic and fearful bunch. However, this peculiar behaviour isn’t based in fear, but rather a pragmatic mentality, coupled with a healthy dose of herd mentality. As my pre-pubescent banker alluded to, the “everyone-else-is-doing-it” sales-pitch was apparently quite convincing.
Can there be a point when a nation is too cautious or overly prepared for impending diasters? You betcha! In 2012 the Dutch National Consumer Bureau announced that far too many Dutch people were over-insured. Many a Dutchie was double or triple insured; some even having completely irrelevant insurance policies. The spokesman of the Consumer Bureau went as far to say in an interview that purchasing insurance seemed now to be a “national hobby“.
I think it’s fair to say it’s time for a new past-time! One that’s perhaps a tad more upbeat? Let’s show the world you aren’t as paranoid and uptight as the Swiss!
(p.s. I eventually caved into the peer pressure and bought my “spilt-red-wine-insurance”, but am happy to report that I haven’t had to use it yet!)