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:

  1.  The Dutch were very clumsy wine drinkers
  2. White carpets and couches seemed to be very popular in the Netherlands
  3. 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 😉 😉


“I’d like some insurance on my insurance.”

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!)

81 Responses

  1. Caterina

    This article could have been written by me. I had the EXACTLY same experience and the exact same conclusions! Only the “colleague”example went a little more extreme: what if you break a EUR 1000 lamp in a friend’s house? 😉

    • Michael

      A Dutch person probably wouldn’t spend more than 10 euros on a lamp, never mind 1000 euros.

    • JCK

      It’s not just for breaking things or spilling wine, it’s also for personal harm. For example: If I’m not WA-insured and I hit you with my car and you become paralysed, I have to pay for that the rest of my life. So That’s why I’m WA-insured.

      • NV

        But isn’t that covered by your car insurance?

      • Eric

        JCK, please do not make things even more confusing to foreigners by mixing up car insurance with the other liability insurance, because even if the words sound similar, it’s NOT the same!

        Now I have to invest some time and explain it all to those confused expats and to those fellow Dutchmen who don’t understand what they signed for. Please keep these Dutch words in mind:

        WA => Wettelijke Aansprakelijkheid (abbreviation)
        WAM => Wettelijke Aansprakelijkheid Motorvoertuigen

        wet = law
        wettelijk = by law/lawful
        aansprakelijkheid = liability
        motorvoertuig = motor vehicle
        verzekering = insurance
        bedrijf = company

        The insurance that Colleen mentioned in her blog, calling it spilled-wine-insurance is not legally mandatory, although many Dutch people think it is. If you have several millions in a savings account and decide you want to accept the risk to be held liable for some damages that you may (n)ever cause, you are free to pay those claims from your savings

        There is however a widely accepted moral obligation for Dutch people to buy that WA-insurance, because it will cover claims that an average person would never be able to reimburse from their savings account. Instead of joking about spilling wine on your friend’s couch, think of damages that your children or your pets might cause to other people.

        Kids who break the neighbour’s window playing football could set you back with several hundreds of Euro’s. By law, you can be held liable for the deeds of your children, so no matter if they did it on purpose or by accident, you have to pay the new windows to your neighbour. Should you have no insurance and no savings to pay with, your neighbour could sell your belongings to get his money.

        People without insurance and without money will be frowned upon and deemed ‘asociaal’ (antisocial) if they play the role of the ‘kale kip’ (bold chicken, no feathers, no money), hence the moral obligation to have insurance that protects you(r neighbour). Being a law student in the late 1990’s, I remember reading weird cases in which small accidents had ridiculously big consequences.

        Let me give you an example: You are blissfully enjoying the sun, walking your male dog, but he suddenly pulls loose from his leash, because he saw a lady dog across the street. An oncoming cyclist tries to avoid your dog, crashing his bike on a parked Mercedes and leaving him in a wheelchair for life time. Now how will you ever pay for the salary he lost by losing his job!?

        Two things you need to know about the WA-insurance (Wettelijke Aansprakelijkheidsverzekering): the standard insurance does not apply to the use of motor vehicles; you need car insurance with WAM to cover that risk. The standard insurance also does not apply to your activities as a commercial company; you need a Bedrijfsaansprakelijkheidsverzekering to cover that type of risk.

        WAM (Wettelijke Aansprakelijkheid Motorvoertuigen) car insurance is mandatory for car owners. When you buy an old car for €500,- WAM is enough. If however the car is rather new, if you took a credit to buy it and/or if you have no savings to buy the same car, you had better taken the all-risk-insurance. It’s more expensive, but it also covers your own damage, whereas WAM covers only the 3rd party.

        If you hit a cyclist, you will be held liable by default, even if it was not your fault, because bikers and pedestrians are seen as more vulnerable traffic and protected by Dutch law. Some claim that cyclists abuse this protection for reckless behaviour, so I recommend a dashcam to proove recklessness and save yourself from injustice, both in court and with the insurance company.

        If you ever happen to cause an accident with a car without insurance, a state warranty fund will first pay to the victims, but then they will come chasing after your money. To put it bluntly: You would ‘hope’ your victim dies, because a funeral costs ‘only’ €5000, whereas getting a promising sales manager crippled in a wheelchair might cost you anything between €75000 and a million Euros.

        That also applies to liability for accidents outside traffic! Famous among law students is Kelderluikarrest, the case where the Coca Cola delivery service came to a bar. The truck driver went there every week, so he did not say much to the café’s owner, went down into the cellar, but left the cellar cover open. A customer left the toilet and fell 2 meters into the cellar, leaving him crippled for life…

        Now I did not finish my law study, but I hope I convinced everybody that accidents can suddenly appear (Dutch saying: ‘een ongeluk zit in een klein hoekje’) and buying the WA-insurance is a matter of common sense. The risk you run by not taking this liability insurance could go far beyond the glass of wine spilt on a white IKEA-carpet that you might pay from your own pocket.

        Health insurance (basiszorgverzekering) and car insurance (WAM) are both mandatory by Dutch law, but you can choose to keep it cheap and basic, or go for some extra cover. Paying more to cover your dentist, alternative treatments, or covering the risk of you wrecking your own car in a traffic accident caused by your own fault is a matter of free choice and comparing costs to risks.

        Home-insurance is also a matter of choice, but you are expected to have it. In other parts of Europe people often are not covered against the risks of burglary, fire or flooding. In countries like Serbia or Bulgaria the church would help those victims. In the Netherlands, people would call you stupid if you have no money to buy all your belongings anew, because you had no insurance!

        As a result of this peer pressure, almost every Dutchman has home insurance. With rather low risks and about 95% of the population covered, companies can offer cheaper insurance than they would offer if only those who feel they are at risk would buy home insurance. The ‘inboedelverzekering’ covers what’s inside the house; the ‘opstalverzekering’ covers the house itself.

        The funeral insurance is also often seen as a moral obligation, because you should not leave your relatives behind with big bills that you could have prevented by buying insurance cover. Insurance brokers play upon feelings of guilt and responsibility, but a funeral insurance often limits your choices and is utter nonsense if you own a house, of have at least €5000 in your savings account.

        Do you really want to poke fun of over-insured Dutch? Then have a laugh about Dutch people spending an extra €200 for some vague extra warranty on a washing machine. Laugh loud about Dutch people who buy a so-called ‘annuleringsverzekering’ that covers them if they have to cancel their vacation, forgetting it doubles the price of what started out as a cheap airplane ticket!

        The thing with insurances is, you have to compare the risk with the price of your insurance, but that takes time, so most people never sit down to reconsider their insurances. For those €200,- you can buy an insurance that pays your lawyers in all kinds of conflicts, ranging from work, home rental, nasty neighbours, government decisions, or… a broken washing machine. 😉

      • Martijn Biesheuvel

        not true JCK! all accidents involving motorvehices are automatically covered by your, yes, motor vehicle insurance which ALWAYS includes the WA. But this WA ONLY applies to your m-0v and not spilt red wine on someone’s couch

      • Henk

        Sorry Eric, but what started as something that I though could be an interesting read became pretty dull very quickly and I couldn’t get myself to read it all…

        One thing I wonder about is how people elsewhere, such as here in the UK, manage without a ‘WA-verzekering’ considering it such an important thing to have.

        Some people, like tradesmen & women have Public Liability Insurance because they could cause significant damage to their customer’s property while doing jobs in/to their house. I can understand this. But, the red wine on white carpet story isn’t convincing me that it’s all that necessary.

        It sounds a bit like insurances companies try to sell you for appliances, in case the item stops working after the warranty has run out. I’ll tell you a secret: all appliances stop working at some point and will need replacing one day! It’s just something you have to consider when buying stuff: if you decide to buy something and risk getting used to the convenience of it, then you know at some point you’ll have to buy a replacement.

        If one of my friends spilled red wine on my carpet and it was bad enough that the carpet had to be replaced, I think they would be decent enough to offer paying for it. After all, they saved themselves so much money over the years by not having this insurance that they could easily afford that. However, I have home & contents insurance myself, so I could just claim it on that!

        Personally I only have a few insurance policies: 1) car insurance, because legally I have to have this and because the risk of damage is quite high when you travel in a tin can at high speed, 2) home & contents insurance, because my family wouldn’t have a roof over their heads if something happened to our house, 3) life & critical illness insurance, so that if I got a critical illness and I couldn’t work anymore or I would die, our mortgage would be paid off and my family could keep living in our family home, 4) travel insurance, so that if I got ill or injured on holiday I wouldn’t get bankrupted by the hospital or repatriation costs. In other words – important stuff.

        Anyway, I’ve now typed up a similarly boring essay and have bored even more people to tears with gelul about insurance! Thanks very much! Dear reader, I really didn’t mean to! He made me do it!!


  2. baasbraal

    Hilarious! Even if your cat or dog damages the goods of a neighbour, the insurance pays….. I am a Dutch women living in Sweden, but I suppose they are third on the list of most insured people……

  3. ferryswart

    I have lamps here that cost over 500 euro’s. But they will not break easily:) Better save then sorry. My colleague gave his laundry to his daughter for washing but he left his smartphone in one of the pockets. Sure enough the smartphone was still in the pocket while in his daughters washing machine, Her insurance paid for a new phone, Handy, isn;t it? LOL

  4. karin

    Liability Insurance (WA wettelijke aansprakelijkheidsverzekering) is mandatory though, just like liability Insurance for your car is. Not really a choice. It doesn’t actually cover you, nor your car, just what you might do to someone else, or what you might do with your car while driving it.

    • Jochem

      This is false. The insurance is not legally required. Also, it doesn’t cover anything involved with your car (that’s where you actually have a legally required third party insurance). It does cover any damages you may cause on your bicycle.

    • markrosier

      Liability is ONLY mandatory for your car Insurance. The only thing called WA is that for you car, the other is the AVP (AansprakelijkheidsVerzekering Particulieren) and this isn’t mandatory

    • Mitch

      Karin and Ragna, the liability insurance IS optional. Many confuse the ‘aansprakelijkheidsverzekering’ (personal liability) with the Wettelijke Aansprakelijkheid (WA), which is the compulsory liability insurance on a car. These are two different things.
      Another reason why the Dutch have the personal liability insurance: it covers to €1,500,000 for not more than €4 per month.

      • Vincent Jansen

        I am Dutch and I have a (Personal) Liability Insurance (aansprakelijkheidsverzekering). This is not a mandatory insurance.
        Healthcare insurance and liability insurance for cars (wettelijke aansprakelijkheid) are the only mandatory insurances in the Netherlands. In general the personal / family liability insurance is advised (because kids and animals are included and it’s a small fee for a small risk).

  5. Rodrigo Lopes

    Once I heard a dutch colleague calling their insurance plan because his kid had broken a flower vase in a friend’s house during a visit… That was wierd!

  6. Ragna

    The liability insurance is actually NOT optional. Though no-one will use it for wine on a couch.
    But it does come in handy if my dog (while under my supervision) damages property.(or worse and more costly: a person)
    Or if my neighbour ploughs of the driveway and destroys my brand new bike.

    And you think Funeral insurance is mad? My god haven’t you heard of no-snow-on-your-ski-holiday insurance?
    Really it exists!

    (I duly agree on your notion that we are absurdly overinsured though)

    • Mexidutch

      I work at a bank and sell insurance. Just wanted to comment on those saying personal liability insurance is mandatory. It’s not! There are only two insurances you have to have in the Netherlands: health insurance and a liability insurance for your car if you own one. The rest is optional. I’ve never had someone call me about a glass of spilled wine, but sure have used that example a lot when advising on insurance 😉

      • Jan

        The problem is in the example. A personal liability insurance is very useful, but for glasses of wine, it looks superficially like you’d could easily do without it.

        The better example is: What if you (or your kid) ride your bike checking your phone, accidentally swerving in the car lane, and an overtaking car has to avoid you, hitting another car heads on. You might be held liable for two cars and some hefty medical bills.

      • Henk

        What about home insurance: normally mortgage companies bemand you have this.

    • A.Hendrickx

      Having seen the bill for my mothers funeral, I had to say. I was very happy she is insured. Her insurance not only covers the cost, but also make all arrangements you want them to make. Knowing the Dutch paperwork involved that was a big relief.

  7. Mariska (coralynx)

    I feel like I am not dutch at all.. Ok I haven’t lived there since I has seventeen but I rather have no insurance at all if it saved me a mountain of paperwork and NEVER EVER would I be seen wearing white leggings! Oh and my hair is more caramel-colored than blonde and I am only 5.3ft.
    I guess I had an Dutch-overkill in my childhood; eating boiled potatoes six days a week and having to cycle 40km’s (24 miles) to go and come back from school from my 12th until my 16th. This probably scared me out of the country!!

    • Thorwald

      No jnsurance at all? You’re definatelly not dutch lol… Just wait until something happens… I remember when i was in the USA, so many people werent Insured for what i would call basic stuff. I can imagine people See us as overinsured lol

    • sara

      @mariska , I am the same way left the country at the age of 16 and I am also only 5’3 tall, hate white leggings and most of all i despise the famous Agenda, I would never sign up for an addition insurance , Bah

  8. ditdenkik

    Being a Dutchie, I used to have a lot of insurance. Since I’m travelling and I’m not registered as a citizen anymore, I could finally get rid of this pesky mandatory private health insurance. The funny thing is, I will have to keep on travelling for at least a year, because if I would register myself again within this time, I will have to pay back all the months that I didn’t pay any insurance (about €120 per month).

    • Jochem

      I’m curious who’s going to pay in case you get hospitalized. Or do you have so much money that you can afford having no health insurance? Health insurance is actually one of the more sensible insurance policies one can have, as the costs can quickly run out of hand. One day in a hospital can cost as much as €1000 and this doesn’t even include any procedures you might’ve needed (the whole point of being in the hospital).

  9. Jochem

    I’ve read a while back that one reason of insuring everything has to do with our level of control on our lives. These days we feel that we make all the decisions and hardly anything unexpected will happen. For the few risks we still face, we want to be sure to cover those as well. Hence the comprehensive amount of insurance policies and the popularity of those among the Dutch.
    I go by the motto: don’t insure what you can afford yourself. So I don’t have a massive amount of policies, but I do have some (including the famous personal liability insurance).

  10. Jurgen

    “Having already spent already far too long at the appointment…”
    This is kind of a weird sentance, isn’t it?

  11. Linda

    So far I’ve definitely spent more on insurance than they ever covered for me… but it’s still nice not having to worry about huge financial issues whenever anything goes wrong or I get sick.
    I am amazed at the situation in the USA where people go bancrupt or end up homeless because they get sick and can’t pay the hospital bills (and then get sacked because they can’t work), or people get sued for something they did by accident and have to pay enormous amounts of money. That’s exactly the kind of thing we get insurance for.

    • JCK

      My father works in insurance, and this is true: Unless you die suddenly from heartfailure or in an accident you don’t pay more than you use, in the last few years of your life you really cost a lot of money on medical bills.

    • frood

      You can’t use the USA as an example, it’s too weird even for the rest of the world 🙂

      Where I live, I have home/contents insurance in case I get robbed, and health insurance only because it’s free with my company. Public health system covers health, and a government-managed insurer insures everyone for accidents (and it’s illegal to sue for accidents, too.) If I “spill wine on carpet”, the owners home insurance will cover it. If I cause someone to have a car accident, the government insurer will cover it.

      If I owned a car, I’d have at least 3rd-party insurance because it’s a good idea, but it is still optional.

  12. Aimee Woods Desjardins

    yes living here in Dutch Wonderland is confussing, especially insurance(S) – Een aansprakelijkheidsverzekering is in de meeste Europese landen niet verplicht. De aansprakelijkheidsverzekering wordt vaak verward met een WA – verzekering. Het verschil tussen een WA – verzekering en een aansprakelijkheidsverzekering is dat een WA-verzekering een verplichte verzekering is en een aansprakelijkheidsverzekering niet. In Nederland is een WA – verzekering wettelijk verplicht voor de houder van een motorrijtuig, voor jagers en voor exploitanten van kerncentrales. [1]; So NO 3rd person liability insurance is NOT required by law, yes i was wrong told by my inburgerin instructors at the local ROC is was and they too like most dutch sheep were Wrong, and yes mostly everyone uses the Red Wine spilling example, or your kid throws a rock thru a window. They never stray far from the herd.

  13. Mudlark

    Personal liability insurance is not mandatory unless you own a car ( motor insurance ) or you are a hunter or run a nuclear power station. Otherwise , you are not legally obliged to insure yourself against breakages/damage to other peoples property.

    Een aansprakelijkheidsverzekering is in de meeste Europese landen niet verplicht. De aansprakelijkheidsverzekering wordt vaak verward met een WA – verzekering. Het verschil tussen een WA – verzekering en een aansprakelijkheidsverzekering is dat een WA-verzekering een verplichte verzekering is en een aansprakelijkheidsverzekering niet. In Nederland is een WA – verzekering wettelijk verplicht voor de houder van een motorrijtuig, voor jagers en voor exploitanten van kerncentrales.

  14. heqety

    Also, “oh, you have still familly in X, Y country, you should have travel insurance”, “you have a cat- so insurance for animals”, “extra computer/ camera etc”. That’s way too much!

    I also love this “all people have it”. It should be very convincing for Dutch people. Every time there is somebody coming and asks for money (Africa, dogs, cancer etc etc), they use it “everybody pays, all your neighbors took it/ gave the money”. In our case, it’s contrary reaction: “you got money from everybody, so you have enough, you don’t need ours”.

    • heqety

      I should try this “red wine on white carpet” 🙂

  15. Lizzy

    I think it’s more useful when you are a pedestrian and cause a severe accident: all the damage on vehicles AND medical care for the victims will be charged on you… (Thousands of euros….)glad I have that WA-insurance, it’s not even 2 euro’s a month.

  16. Erwin Hekkert

    I’m so glad that we had a “spilt-red-wine-insurance” when the axle of our wheelbarrow broke causing it to tip to the side which meant that the entire load of bricks went crashing into the door of the (brand new) car that was parked there.

  17. Thomas

    Mobile phone insurances, dentist visit insurances.. And you can even insure your rabbit and cat for vet costs… Yep guess you are right, the Dutch overdo it a bit.

    A while ago a woman hit my car’s side mirror with her bike. Quite likely if she wouldnt have insurance she wouldn’t have left her contact information under the windscreen wiper…

  18. pantser

    and then you haven’t even started on “eigen risico” own risk which means that when you damage for less than 350 euro your insurance pays nothing

    • pantser

      this 350 is on yearly basis so it count the diverent accidents in a year

      • baasbraal

        Yes, but if you claim too many accidents, your insurance cancels the contract. …..

      • Henk

        How many accidents can you possibly have? I never have any!

  19. Lanalia

    making fun of your experiences with the netherlands and dutch people is one thing, but stereotyping an entire nation in a derogatory way as you’re doing with switzerland is rather shameful…

  20. Daniel

    This is soooo true.. I am a Dutch citizen living in Switzerland.. I have a Dutch Worldwide Health Insurance (covering me 100% for any medical bills) and now also have a Swiss Medical Insurance.. even though it’s doubled up, I can’t cancel either of them for various reasons.
    We Dutch people simply love our insurances ! 😉

  21. Jan

    also nice is the Bike insurance which gives you the certainty to have a new bike when the old one gets stolen. Only 60 EUR premium per year!
    But Linda is right; we may be over-insured but I would not want to trade with the third world system in the US. At least we are assured to have an income when we get ill, disabled, old, jobless or pregnant.

    • Thomas

      For 60 EUR you can buy 3-6 ‘new’ bikes from some shady people in most of our big cities. 😛

      • E.Hekkert

        True for 60 euro’s you can commit a felony.

  22. Geraldine

    I have two kids, and I do remember that when I was little, my brother really scratched up the neighbor’s car – and the insurance covered it. So when I moved to the USA, I started asking around for personal liability insurance. They all looked at me like I was crazy… Now I know why. I never realized this was a uniquely Dutch thing…

    • heqety

      in France also exists: “responsabilité civile”

      • Mirjam

        In Germany you have the ‘Haftpflichtversicherung” the exact same thing, even more required in personal and public life!

  23. Jan van Haarst

    I once parked my shoppingcart in front of a shop, and when I came out, it had rolled of the sidewalk into the side of a rather expensive, and rather new Mercedes sportscar.
    I think with that single accident, I will have recovered the expense for most of my life, it came to about 6000 euro’s…
    So, the WA insurance might seem overkill, it also saves everybody a lot of trouble if a kid/pet/yourself breaks something of a stranger. If we didn’t have it, I guess the courts would be overflowing with small cases where the judge has to find who is exactly to blame.

  24. Reagan Timberland

    Liability insurance can make you quite rich if you know how to game it a little bit. Say… spill red wine on a white couch that needs replacement. (Like, not a white couch)

  25. Sander

    Man, you really fail to see the brilliance of this insurance 😛 let me break i down for you without the cheesy white couch red wine bullshit 😉

    Lets say I crash into your car while riding my bike along the street. As you’ve put it, in other countries you’d have to either pay for yourself or sue the liable party i.e me, who would then have to cover all costs en expenses. Great. This insurance will make sure that when this situation happens hére, you wont have to cover the costs of repairing your car (which leaves you with all your money still in your pocket) and neither will I. the only one paying up, would be the insurance company 🙂 now, if thát isn’t pure brilliance then I dont know what is!

  26. Eric van der Horst

    Hilarious! Again spot on! LOL!

    The infamous “personal liability insurance” was exactly the one my British wife spotted as well as ridiculous when she joined me in The Netherlands.

    Sure enough, when I moved to Britain with her later on, I cancelled this insurance straight away on her advice…

    And yes; I got caught out!

    When my Dutch uncle picked me up from Schiphol Airport and, by accident, my wedding ring got stuck on the corner of his car door window (and only very slightly damaged it) he asked me for my “personal liability insurance” cover, so he could get it fixed at the garage at no cost… A difficult period followed, especially as we were pretty broke at the time (as a result of losing jobs because of moving countries) I just couldn’t afford to pay for my uncle’s new car door window. In the end, he paid himself, but I try to refuse his offers to pick me up from Amsterdam Airport now…

    What we also found out while I still lived with my wife in The Netherlands:

    Dutch housing content insurance doesn’t cover loss as a result of flooding, as such a policy would make all insurance companies go bankrupt straight away if it ever was going horribly wrong; what about that?

    And indeed, Dutch people are over-insured. I just can’t total what I paid on unnecessary insurances in all those years before I met my wife. If I had put all that money into savings I would now be able to cough up a deposit to buy a home.

    That is another hidden advice by the way: don’t marry a different national and don’t make a habit of moving between the two countries involved; it doesn’t encourage a stable financial situation! There must be a Dutch insurance company providing cover for that risk…

  27. Mirjam

    A personal liability insurance is pretty hot in Germany too! Being Dutch and apparently fairly used to our zillion insurances, I was flabbergasted when I moved to Germany. Germans are even more (very much more!) fan of (over)insurance, and the “Haftpflichtversicherung” (yes personal liability insurance) is by far the most coveted and necessary. The Haftplichtversicherung is also the FIRST thing you are required to fill in when you want to enroll your child in school. However, it is also an insurance where you get kicked out of, when your insurance has to pay up! Insane, because you have it for accidents and mishaps, particularly for your kids. But if your child ruins the famous white carpet, and one year later, scratches a car, it is bye bye insurance, and then you have to hunt for some other insurance company, that naturally increases the premium by a few 100 percent. The same for the insurance for your house! Have it pay out, and you get kicked out!

    Also, German children are insured by the school when they go from home to school or from school to their home (they travel independently and either walk or go by bus). However, if a child deters from the shortest route, for instance because he/she wants to stop by a friend or buy something in a shop, they are not insured anymore. There a countless of these silly ‘rules’ in Germany, so for me, the Germans top the charts.

  28. Jorrit Tulp

    Well we invented the insurance, so it shouldn’t surprise anybody that we have a lot of them.
    Hell, our collective pension scheme is technically a huge insurance against becoming older then average.
    Most of the taxes you pay on your payslip are actually insurance premiums (volksverzekeringen) Then you have the obligated health insurance etc etc. Don’t be surprised if 25%+ of your gross income is going to insurances…… Then again when stuff goes wrong, we’ve got you covered.

    I always see insurances a bit like collective saving (something we are also very good at) you put money into a fund every month, so that when it all goes wrong you can cover it.
    Saving the money yourself would be cheaper in the long urn… but by buying the insurance you’ll never have to worry about it.

  29. Marc V

    I’m very happy to have a WA insurance! My daughter dropped our tablet accidentely on the floor. Broken. But: the insurance covers it!

    • Esme

      Most personal liability insurences are part of inboedel/opstal verzekeringen ( home/belongings insurance) wich woukd cover such things, so easy to get them confused. But as long as it works…
      By the way, I’ve never seen a house with white carpet in the dining area, or a white couch that wasn’t leather. Looks to me like an accident waiting to happen. If so, I would ask for white wine

  30. Cora

    Being a dutchie it seems so normal to have these insurances. Reading it from a foreigner’s perspective it is hilarious. How silly we can be.

  31. H2H

    Hmmm…wonder if the insurance man would be thrown if you replied “No thank you. I’ll pass on that policy… I drink white wine.”

  32. Carrie-Lynn

    Not to mention there’s a legal required for everyone to have WA insurance…

  33. Hugo

    There are 2 main rules for insurances:
    – If you can pay for it, don’t insure it
    – The more they promote it, the less you need it

    Liability + (house) contents insurance + continuous travel insurance are often bought as a package with discount for little money. These three, on the long term, will cost very little, as the change of using them is substantial. Together with the mandatory health insurance, these should be the basic package for everyone.

  34. CJP

    I’m Dutch, and I’m definitely less insured than most people here. My general philosophy when it comes to insurances is that if you can pay it from your own pocket multiple times, it isn’t worth insuring. It’s probably cheaper on average to be uninsured, since you don’t have to pay for the profits the insurance companies probably make on you. The downside is that you have to have some savings (which has its own (hidden) costs, since the bank has to make profits too), but the advantage of a savings account over an insurance is that, with a savings account, YOU decide whether you get the money, and not the insurance company.

    However, I DO have a liability insurance. I started with that insurance when I first traveled to the United States. People here say you REALLY SHOULDN’T travel to the U.S. (or Canada!) without a liability insurance, since liability amounts can be so high in those countries. So I’m kind of surprised that you, coming from Canada, are unaware of the concept.

  35. Pete

    With unruly Dutch kids you better have WA insurance. At least.
    Broken windows, vandalism, running into an elderly person breaking a leg or worse, etc. etc. What always baffles me is Life Insurance. According to me life cannot be insured. Funeral Insurance I can understand, as we all need that. Sooner or later.

  36. Hazelnut Mocha

    Oh my! I really enjoyed reading this post and all of the comments. I am a Canadian living in Canada, but I was raised in a Dutch home. My parents must have left Holland before the insurance fad started, because we always had the cheapest insurance policy, if it was necessary, and none at all if it wasn’t. That being said, it may have been because the insurance policies generally cost more than the item itself. In Canada, Car insurance and basic medical insurance are necessary, but that’s all. Most people have contents/house insurance as there are enough people that have had house fires to make it worth it.

    I have never even heard of personal insurance in Canada, but from everything I am reading here I think it’s a good idea! I can count several occasions in my life where that would have saved me a lot of money. However, it is true that insurance is expensive in North America, so it most likely wouldn’t be worth it.

    I don’t know how it works in Holland, but in Canada, if you make an insurance claim your premiums will increase significantly the following years. As a result of this it generally isn’t worth making a claim unless you really can’t afford to pay for the item(s). I find it ridiculous! The reason we pay for insurance is to cover the cost of replacing or fixing items, but if you have to use your insurance your premiums go up so that in most cases it’s cheaper to pay out the claim then to let your insurance take the hit. It’s just silly. Insurance in Canada is really only useful for extreme situations where you permanently injure someone, have a house fire/flood, or hit a Lamborghini!

  37. jonny

    i heard that in the usa and i other countrys people get sick or wounded and they cant pay for the docter. well.. you should be happy you have a Insurance. almost Always acces to healtcare…

  38. Durk

    Ah yes, the Dutch tendency to get ‘over insured’, I don’t know exactly what drives my fellow country men to insure everything under the sun but as a Dutch man I can make some educated guesses.

    1) We have a crap load of mandatory insurances, any working man is in fact ‘insured’ for getting fired. You’ll get 70% of your last (average paycheck) for *incomprehensible formula that changes on the whim of the ruling govt*. Every hour that you are working in “loondienst”, you (or rather your employer) is paying a (small) fee to cover for those expenses.

    Aside from that, we have mandatory health insurance. Everyone, even those of us on welfare have to be insured for at least the basics of healtcare. You have a choice in getting the cheapest health insurance (with high ‘personal risk’) but you WILL have at least some form of health insurance in the Netherlands.

    Now, those are mandatory MANDATORY insurances. Besides that you also have the WA insurance, meant to cover inflicting damage onto others. This insurance is mandatory as soon as you start driving any motorized vehicle. So this insurance applies to, well, let’s say , 90% of ppl over 16?

    2) We want to protect our assets. As soon as you buy a house or any expensive assets, it is wise to get fire and theft insurance. Those won’t protect you from a myriad of ‘exceptions’ such as ‘storm damage’ (that requires a entirely different type of insurance, even if your house burnt down because of short circuits in the power grid due to flooding), pissed off ex-lovers and what not.

    3) Since at this point we are pretty much use to insuring everything and anything, we are easy pickings for insurance companies. “Yes, you HAVE to get the extended package, cuz look at what is NOT being covered in your standard fire/theft/whatnot-package!”. The sad thruth being that those extende packages are in general not worth the money. cuz of the many exceptions in them. “Yes, your house burnt down due to water damage that caused the short circuit that burned your house down which is the fault of your local water management, so we can’t pay you. Say, you are two months behind on payments on your “Extended flood and fire coverage”-package, if you don’t pay within 10 days we’ll have to send in the collection agency, have a nice day!”. Still, being used to insure as much as possible, many of us get the extended package….

    4) Well, since we are on a roll, and everybody seems to be getting insurance packages they don’t need left and right, why not turn it up a notch?!?! You need insurance for when you die! “Say what? I’m pretty sure I can die and get burried without ppl hunting me down in the afterlife for a bill…”. Ah, but your descendants? They will have to pay those bills! Yes, of course they will have to pay those bils, and after the inheritance minus the funeral bills they will prolly be richer for it. I’ve had numerous discussions about this subject with friends and coworkers. I KNOW their assets are way, way beyond the value of any normal funeral ceremony in the Netherlands yet still they claim that they need some kind of burial insurance…. The really sad part being that you will be paying more on monthly fees than your descendants will have to pay for an uninsured burial… That is of course no suprise to any sane person, since any company exits to make proffit.

    5) Since we’re insuring everything left and right (and not getting much in return), I think it’s time we insured the cat for medical expenses! I shit you not, the cat seems to need medical insurance according to a lot of my fellow country men…. Yes, pets need their shots (which are more than covered for in the insurance fees), yes, pets can have accidents which require surgery that can cost a few hundred bucks. But what are the chances? Chances are that whenever your pet requires surgery that is not related to it’s reproductive cycle, it’s not going to be around much longer anyway.

    In a nutshell, I would like to advise my fellow country men: insure what is mandatory (cuz you’ll get in a whole lot of trbl if you don’t), and insure your valuable assets like your house, car etc with ‘basic’ packages. Everything else: as a rule of thumb, not worth insuring. Exceptions: really good deals insurance companies sometimes dish out to lure customers and specific personal cirumstances…

    As a friend of mine who used to work in insurance related business once said to me: “We Dutch are so inclined to insure everything, I bet I could sell ppl insurances covering their bathroom use….”.

  39. Midas

    Great blog! Would love to read you book. Your link saying “over-insured” leads to an article about large number of Dutch being uninsured though.

  40. stysia

    But is this insurance mandatory actually? I am still lost. I am paying it for 3 years already and I am still not sure if it is mandatory. I almost forgot I have it. I changed bank account recently and I see it is still deducted from the old account.

  41. Mavadelo

    A WA insurance is not mandatory by law (only as others mentioned the car insurance) however it can be mandatory with certain companies (for example a few bike rental companies)
    It cost just a few bucks and can save you milions (literally) so why not have one 🙂

  42. Joop Speth

    Last year I was moving a dishwasher. It turned over and bumped onto the neighbour’s car. That’s what the insurance is for.


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