Once a Cow, Twice a Cow

It seems Brits like to think all Dutch are milk drinkers and that the whole country is stuffed with cows. Well guess what, it’s true! Nothing like a just-ham sandwich with a mug of milk and no matter where you look there are Holstein-Friesian dairy cows!

In fact, our love for milk goes so far that we like to refer to cows in various figures of speech. Exempla gratia: the holy cow, “heilige koe” in Dutch. By this we refer to our cars, our set of wheels, our modus of transportation, that provides us with a maximum of freedom on the mostly clogged-up roads we have. It is of such importance to us that we would refuse to give it up, no matter what, and that we like to spend a good deal of our money on it. In other words, possessing a car is as holy to us as the pope – though maybe that isn’t so good a comparison anymore these days. (Actually and obviously, the origin of the phrase “holy cow” comes from another religion, Hinduism, but let’s pretend it’s because we like our dairy so much, OK?)

In fact, the holiness of our holy cows may not be so different from the situation in many other nations worldwide. But since we Dutchies like cows and milk so much, the government came up with another way of looking at our automobiles: as milking cows! As a user of the road you’re subject to all kinds of taxes and charges, this will not be any different in other countries, but in the Netherlands we pay through our noses. We’ve got the highest tax pressure on fuel in the world (two thirds of the pump price goes to the state) and as a consequence of that, our unleaded Euro95 price is now already at a whopping £6.99 per (imperial) gallon, using today’s exchange rate. Diesel, traditionally the cheaper fuel in the Netherlands, goes for £5.73 per gallon.

It’s no surprise then that the best selling car so far this year is the Volkswagen Polo. It’s not because of any of the normal gasoline or diesel version of that model though, it’s because of the die-hard Bluemotion edition. Has a coffee grinder for an engine and moves like molasses in winter, but it keeps our holy cow affordable! Because there’s one other rough generalization about Dutch that will hold with most of us: we’re cheapskates.

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