Dutch Consumerism 101
If there is one thing that I really love about living in the Netherlands, it would have to be online banking and direct debiting, says blogger Dutched Pinay.
Coming from an IT background with payments experience, I am just floored at how convenient, cheap, safe, efficient, and wired up integrated the payment and online banking system is in this tiny country.
Back home, I used to live on several types of payments, i.e., cash, checks, debit and credit cards. I had to use all of these payment varieties manually in order to fulfil my monthly obligations.
Among the payment schemes mentioned above, the check system definitely put my patience and financial acumen to the test. For one, I disliked the task of issuing checks. Two, I am numbers challenged. When it’s time to do the balancing-my-checking-account duty, I have to depend on an excel spreadsheet for my mathematical calculations.
My behaviour, in itself, is a contradiction as one of my previous jobs in Manila was selling payment check solutions to the top banking commercial institutions. I felt like an Eskimo trying to sell refrigerators.
Ah, the paradoxes in life can sometimes be baffling.
And I still remember the time when ‘the Dutchman’ first saw my checkbook; he broke out in a huge mocking grin. And with the chutzpah meter running up high to his ears, he declared that the check system is primitive, inefficient, fraud-sensitive and, to his Dutch sensibilities, expensive.
Alright, I am not contesting the issue; in fact, I agree a hundred percent... but, I only realized the gravity of his mockery when I experienced firsthand the seamless integration of online banking and payment systems here in the Netherlands.
It has really freed me from all the past bureaucratic check nightmares! Still, I had to get used to the debit card mentality in this country.
Debiting has always been my one big wish back in Manila. I have this notion that checks are becoming extinct. With a single push of a button in my computer, all my utility bills are automatically debited from my account, and most establishments are accepting payment through direct debiting.
Being in the IT vendor side with all the integration theories and models swimming in my head — versus being a consumer and seeing the messed-up reality — was a major frustration rather than an opportunity in the Philippines. Due to the country’s current islands of banking and payment infrastructures, the likelihood of finding an establishment that allowed direct debiting to my account is 1 out of 100. No, make that 1 out of 1,000.
In the Netherlands though, this simple consumer wish is realized.
Furthermore, I have always tried to live below my means and have proactively shied away from the mob of credit card worshippers.
It was a sacred code I lived by each day; seeing people drowning in debt, their lives hijacked by banks and credit card companies was a sure-fire motivation indeed. However, being put into the same polder with the generic Dutch population has not only opened up my eyes to many unimaginable parsimonious ways of living, but I realized that my economizing standards are too low, in fact nothing compared to the Dutch!
It was a profound awakening; something I shall never forget.
As a consumer, the consequence of this is: I have developed an analysis-paralysis condition when buying. I seem to get stuck with the want versus need versus can I do without it stages of buying analysis.
In fact, I only used my credit card twice last year. This year, I have used it only once, which was not even planned.
I used my credit card to pay the doctor who treated my bruised fingers which got squashed by the trunk of the car during winter sport in Austria. A painful experience I must say; I would have thought that visiting the doctor during winter sport season would be as a result of smashing into a pine tree or a lift pole, and not because of a petty accident with the trunk of a car.
And last year around fall, I felt the urge to use my credit card because, (a) Its been awhile since February when I used it to pay for my hotel room in Madrid (b) It was a new replacement card with the anti-fraud chip; I was curious to use it (c) I just missed paying with the credit card.
After re-reading the last three reasons above, I must say that I have indeed been very shallow.
Sometimes I secretly wonder if the Dutch have actually influenced me the right way.
28 April 2006
Reprinted with permission from Dutched Pinay's full blog.
Comment here on the article, or if you have a suggestion to improve this article, please click here.