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What I Love/Miss (IV)

Here’s something I love about The Netherlands: the Dutch are very generous when it comes to helping others in need. [Now before anyone thinks that I am implying that other nationalities aren’t generous, that’s not the case. What I’m talking about here is how they go about raising money for various causes.] As with many cultures, when major crises, either natural or man-made, strike other parts of the world, they are quick to donate money to help out. Nothing unusual about that. What I like is the mindset behind their giving. There is no pressure for large donations or flashy wads of cash. The Dutch seem to feel it is their civic duty to donate, and that everyone will do so. They know that there will be important causes needing contributions today, and others tomorrow, next week and so on. They know that it’s difficult to weigh whether one cause is more deserving than another, so they don’t bother. Everyone throws in their single euro, and the next thing you know, this country of 16 million people has generated almost that many euros for whatever cause money is being collected.

People who go door-to-door collecting for charities have national identification credentials so you know they are legitimate. There’s no hard sell, just a simple request. You can say no if you so choose. They usually come carrying a large plastic jug that has a special top that allows coins to be inserted, but the top cannot be removed until the entire jug is filled. Think about that: the assumption is that you will give a euro or perhaps one or two fifty cent pieces. No more, no less. I’ve learned to keep a small stash of euros in a drawer by the front door to help facilitate these transactions. They take all of 30 seconds, and boom – done. You’ve helped someone in need, no one is hassled or made to feel cheap for not making a big donation.

At the grocery store you pay a small deposit when buying soda or drinks in large plastic bottles. When finished, you bring the rinsed-out bottle back to the store, pop it into a recycling machine and you get a receipt for the quarter. What do 99% of people do with the receipt? Rather than turn it in as credit toward their grocery bill, they simply put it into the collection box for the monthly service project. Last month it was for the city animal shelter; this month it was a new playground in a nearby neighborhood. No one seems to think of it as money ‘owed’ to them, but rather as the cost of purchasing the soda. Of course they’d give it to the charity-of-the-month – natuurlijk. This is not unlike the custom in some regions of the US where certain grocery store chains allow you to sign up to have a percentage of your grocery receipts donated to a local school for help buying computers and other IT equipment.

What I Miss: I’m not going to try to sugar coat this, but will just come out and say it. The quality, selection and price of shoes leaves much to be desired here. It’s gotten to the point that I make a concerted effort to check out footwear whenever I’m traveling. (I scored a great pair of flats while in Belgium earlier this summer.) I’m just saying.

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