So, as you all know from reading my blog about my time spent living in the Netherlands… they are a bit weird. They’re alien-like tall and thin (for the most part), they have funny attitudes about being tolerant, but extremely rude at the same time, they drink milk for lunch, their language sounds like Klingon, the list goes on.
One of their weird European habits has to do with registering and de-registering where you live with the city’s Town Hall. I think this arcane practice dates back to the time of walled cities, when moving from one town to another was a risky and dangerous process for both the person moving and the town receiving them. When you move to a new town, you have to take a copy of your rental contract or your mortgage to the town hall, along with numerous pieces of identification, and register yourself as a resident in the town.
Now, there’s all sorts of benefits (to the city bureaucracy) of having every single family/household registered (for example, it makes it easy to collect taxes and turn off your water and charge your for shit that you don’t know what it is because you can’t read freaking Dutch)… but for the most part, this is a ridiculous practice that should have been phased out in the 1800’s.
The problem for me was, I REGISTERED just fine, but when I left I was, oh shall we say, slightly absent-minded about all the shit I needed to turn off, cancel, unsubscribe, and, yes, you guessed it… de-register.
So, after being back in the US for eight months and STILL getting charged 90 Euros ($7,000 USD) a month from my old insurance company I got fed up. I called the bank. I spoke to a customer service rep (which is a term you use loosely in Europe) and demanded that they stop letting this insurance company take money out of my account since I haven’t been a resident in 8 months.
“Oh,” she says, “Then you didn’t want the car, apartment, and other insurances that we charged you 450 Euros for a month ago either then?”
I DON’T FREAKING LIVE THERE. WHY WOULD I WANT APARTMENT INSURANCE!?
“That’s right. I don’t.” I say. My face turning crimson and contorting as I master my anger.
“Oh, well, we can’t stop your insurance because you’re not de-registered from the Hague.”
And cue exploding head.
More phone calls. More customer service (loosely used) reps. Letters written and mailed (yes, MAILED, as in actual pieces of paper that are transported from one location to another, as in what they did in the Stone Ages). More waiting. Actually, I have to be fair, not too much waiting. Two weeks later I was emailed (my god!) a PDF copy of my de-registration letter from the Town Hall.
I forwarded that on to ABN AMRO (my bank) and have been waiting for my money back, but the one thing that counts is that those fuckers from Groene Land Achmea (the health insurance company) won’t be getting any more money from this American.
Still, it was a sad day. I have now officially severed all ties with my former life. I am poorer as a result, and I don’t just mean financially.
Actually, that’s not true. I have something that looks suspiciously like a letter from the Tax Department sitting unopened on my sofa which will probably make my head explode again (after I get it translated).
But we’ll save that for another time.