Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Expat View: Dutch do not value money

Deviating from hair, I thought for those of you interested in tales about Netherlands might like this. I am not one to do things for a monetary reward. I regard money as a means to live, enjoy life and whatever is an excess is wonderful to enrich the lives of others. I absolutely do value money  but I do not let it rule my life. In Netherlands, I am struck by the lack of value for money. Here are a few examples:

Shopping: Cents Do Not Count
As an example, the vast majority of shops never give out change in cents/pennies. Therefore if your bill comes to 24.34 the bill is rounded up to 24.40. It is always rounded up not downwards. This irks me because it does not make sense for businesses to price things in cents and I am essentially gifting the business a few cents which add up to a whole lot more over the course of a year. The fact that Dutch shoppers do not find this objectionable is strange.

Health Insurance: Pay the Government, Pay Privately
The second aspect that convinced me of the lack of care for money is the health insurance system. Health insurance is mandatory here in Netherlands and there are a multitude of companies to choose from however the basic rate that is charged across the board is 100 euros. The concept of competition does not exist..........how exactly are these insurance companies going to be motivated to give value for money? Furthermore, despite having to pay for private insurance, you are still taxed for health care in your salary. So what is the point of a government taking money for health care and additionally making you take out private health care?

Income Tax: Double the charge
In Netherlands, a salary attracts a wage tax. This wage tax is essentially your income tax charge which is withheld by your employer and paid to the government. However the wage tax is part of what the Dutch call the gross gross salary. Your salary minus the wage tax makes up the gross salary and guess what..........this is taxed again! It is odd to me that again the Dutch do not object to this and just accept it

Customer Services - What customer services?
It is very typical to walk into a shop and find two workers chatting away. These conversations are not work related, they can be about handbags or how the football went or what happened at the weekend. This conversation must be finished before you are served. There is no sense of value for the customer's time and in my view that points to a lack of value for money because you can bet your life I will not be walking into your shop again. I choose internet shopping and opt to give my money to companies outside of Netherlands.

The rule is that when you live in a country, you have to view local behaviour and adapt to it. I am learning now that although I get personally annoyed by the lack of value for money, it is not something that the Dutch care about or even think is important. It is not an attitude that I will adopt though, hopefully just get less annoyed over time.



27 comments:

  1. Very funny to see my country through your eyes. One tint though, if the bill is 24,34 it should become 24,35. Otherwise it would really be unfair.

    The healthinsurance is something everybody complains about. The point is we don't know à better system. So we keep this system. We want everybody to have acces to healthcare. So we pay millions to keep it this way.

    Fun post! Do you already know what gezelligheid means:p

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    1. In Eindhoven the majority of shops do not carry 1 cent or 5 cent coins. I have learned to pay by card for everything, even if it is 0.12.

      I think that Netherlands is getting a raw deal. In UK the NHS gives free health care to everyone. We pay for it via deductions to our salaries and it is about the same as what you pay here for private insurance. I think that the extra deduction to salary is hoodwinking, but Dutch people seem to tolerate that alot (i.e if someone says you must do xyz in order to get this service, people just agree and assume that the figures and calculations are correct).

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    2. Oh gezelligheid I have been told is a 'secret' word. I have another post on how Dutch regard foreigners coming up :)

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  2. I found your post fascinating. I live in the US and don't understand their method for double taxing. Incredible.

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  3. This made me chuckle! I truly enjoy learning about other cultures cause as an American we see our way as the best way, it so American of us.

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  4. I find this very interesting, and agree that it sounds VERY annoying. You seem to be handling it with the right attitude as an "outsider". Thanks for allowing me the vicarious visit...

    Deevelyn

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  5. Thanks for the comments - Mimi, Tiffany and Deevelyn

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  6. I don't really agree on the cents-issue. When the Euro was introduced it quickly turned out the 1 and 2 cents were very inconvenient, for everyone (both shops and customers). So the prices are rounded to 5 cents (so 24.34 becomes 24.35 and not 24.40 :) ). Also, 24.32 should become 24.30 so prices are definitely not always rounded up (and if they are, you should say something about it because it's not the way it works!).
    I do agree on the customer services part.
    Although a lot of shops are trying to improve on that part, it might take some time for the employees to adapt to that attitude because they're not used to it.
    I really hope your annoyance with the dutch gets less!

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    1. Rianne you have just proved my point. It is only in Netherlands where cents are termed incovenient. There is a general disregard for 1 or 2 cents and since I have been in Eindhoven also 5 cents. I have been to Belgium, France, Germany and Austria and all those countries use the Euro and all those countries do use and issue cents. Before I came to Netherlands I had a Euro coin purse with cents which I quickly learned to use when I realized my change was incorrect. Sadly I have run out so it is my plan to stock up on cents when I go to another European country. To me money is money, whether it is 1 cent or 1000 euros. In Netherlands 1 cent is not money.

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  7. Wow, this is very educative and eye-opening because I have never been to the Netherlands.

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  8. Interesting post about The Netherlands :) I as Dutch citizen do care about the value of money, that is way I always pay by card here in Holland :) Lovely blog!I just discovered it today after a google search about some oil on natural hair

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    1. Thanks Janis and welcome to the blog! I also pay everything by card now until I get some cents! You are the first Dutch person to agree with me on this. I had a discussion with some colleagues and they all thought that a few cents are not worth bickering about.

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  9. Stayopenminded5 July 2012 at 18:15

    Wow, great article.Moving to a new conutry is a brave and courageous thing to do.I know you will be fine though as you seem open minded and willing to learn.

    I am French born of West African descent living in the UK since i was young! I feel all three parts of those cultures are part of me. :)

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    1. I love your mix of cultures and I agree with you since I was born in Kenya and have lived in UK for a long time so I consider both cultures as my own. Netherlands is another matter lol.

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  10. Fascinating! In the U.S. health insurance is through your employer, which inevitably leads to problems for adults who are unemployed/self employed. Even though you are paying twice, at least you know you have coverage. However, I wonder can one opt out of the private insurance and just rely on the governmental one? I mean they are already taking money from the salary right?

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    1. No you cannot opt out, the government rule is that you must take it out unless you are a conscientious objector (i.e member of a religion that forbids you to have health insurance). It is ridiculous.

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  11. no customer service? I would insult everyone in the store and then walk out. no competition between insurance companies? rounding up my bill? Very wierd!
    I like the non-hair related post
    curiouskinks.blogspot.com

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  12. In Turkey the cents thing prevails as well, I got a weary look when I asked for my change from a clerk, though customer service ranges from very courteous to frighteningly claustrophobic. In France customer service is a myth IME.

    I loved the Netherlands, though I found customer service 'laid back' at times, like they're sighing at the idea you need something, have questions, want to spend money.... Health care sounds like a lot of research to find any difference between plans and though a double tax can have its social perks, The Netherlands is an already expensive country so the double tax can hurt. Glad you're enjoying it!

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  13. Well we just passed our health care bill in the US and it looks like we will have something similar to the Netherlands when more of it is put in effect. However, health care in the US is only good if you have money or a job. The minute you want to leave your job and pay independently it can easily cost over 1000 dollars and you still have deductibles and premiums and previously insurance companies could deny you if they didn't feel like paying for your expensive condition. If you get reasonable coverage for this 100 euros plus tax, while its not quite NHS, your still a lot better than many of us. Personally, Id rather people undervalue money than overvalue it any day. ^_^

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  14. The shops in Eindhoven are ripping you off. They should round downward as well as upward. Don't give them extra money and don't be afraid to complain - that's a BIG part of being Dutch. The Dutch are notoriously thrifty so there is no way that the majority of the population is going to accept getting ripped off every time they go to buy a bag of chips. When complaining, it really helps if you wag your index finger while doing it. And DON'T apologize for complaining in English, they all speak it! They're taking advantage of you because they can spot that you're nice. If the store clerk will not give you your 5 cents, then ask for a manager and tell them that this is stealing. The trick is to escalate, escalate, escalate. Once you get used to doing this, life gets easy. Trust me. ;-)

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  15. Afrinaturality13 July 2012 at 21:17

    Aha! JC you miss the UK a bit? Speak! However, I'm sure you're not missing the weather. It's really is raining cats and dogs over here at the mo!

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    1. lol just enjoyed a week of rainy summer back in UK. It felt wonderful :)

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  16. JC!
    Loved this entry! I am of Surinamese decent , was born here in the Netherlands and......still do not feel Dutch after 35 years! I call myself a Surinamese woman.
    You gave all the reasons for why I do this in this entry (can not wait for the next about this country).
    I have a lot of discussions with friends, family and colleagues. It is like swimming against the stream, tiring.
    Thank you fo your blog, been a lurker for years, am a scientist myself.
    Keep it up!

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    1. wow after 35 years and being born in Netherlands! I do not feel like I could ever feel that Netherlands is my home but I thought that was because I was not born here.........interesting that you have this perspective from someone who has always been here.

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  17. The double tax to me seems like paying state and federal tax in the US.... but since the Netherlands is a country, they are both the state and the federal in this ituation. I live in Virginia and there is a tax on EVERYTHING!!!! Federal and state on wages, sales tax on all goods, grocery tax along with sales tax, restaurant tax when you eat out, property tax on your house, vehicles, boats etc., and some cities in VA have their own tax (for example City of Manassas). So honestly, I'm accustomed to, not comfortable wit,) the taxes. To me, moving their might be a relief to living some place and being subjected to being taxed atleast five times in one day. But not many people even know this happens. This is the reason why I'm trying to transfer my job to another state ASAP! LOL!!!!!

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  18. Wow that was fascinating and enlightening; I guess the greass is not always greener! Here I am in the UK moaning about the taxes and the higher cost of living not realising I have it easy; also I used to think customer service here in UK was poor but it's wayyy better than what you describe. Anyway, I don't mean to rub it in; I'm sure there is plenty in the Netherlands to enjoy and love:)

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  19. Very nice written! But I do have to say that a lottt of Dutch people Do hate that these things are happening. They DO care, but they kind have the mentality that there is not much you can do about it :(

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