How to get rich quickly

Don’t invest in electronic currency, gold, shares or any other securities. Spurn pension funds. Shun the property market, either residential or commercial.

Get a room!

Instead, buy a caravan dealership in Holland and watch the money roll in, pile upon pile. As long as you can keep the supply end up, you’ll never run short of demand. For the caravan has replaced the tulip and the windmill as the national symbol of Holland. At least so it seems.

If you don’t believe me, come to our neck of the Burgundian woods. For every holiday season, swarms of Dutch caravans descend on France. One gets the impression that Dutchmen wouldn’t be caught dead in anything other than that hut on wheels. If they ever compromise on that devotion, it’s only to hitch a trailer to their car or at least put a huge box on its roof.

Once, driving from Paris to Calais, we tried to count the Dutch caravans we overtook. We stopped counting at a hundred, with as many miles still to go. So not only are most Dutch vehicles on French roads caravans, but most caravans on French roads are Dutch.

It’s not as if the locals welcomed them with open arms. These are seldom proffered to tight-fisted visitors, for obvious reasons. And parsimony explains the Dutch love affair with those unwieldy vehicles. They obviate the need to stay at a hotel, eat at a restaurant or buy any essential supplies.

Massed tourists are seldom liked anywhere, but they are tolerated for the money they pump into the local economy. Yet the Dutch refuse to pay for love. Our local shop owners call them “mooi-moois” – mooi is the Dutch for ‘lovely’, which is what caravan owners say when ogling the goods on offer without ever buying anything.

They pack their caravans with everything they need for a holiday, including, amazingly, mineral water. How much do they save, considering that a 1.5 litre bottle of French mineral water costs about 35p?

So yes, parsimony is the likeliest explanation for the profusion of Dutch caravans. But the Dutch aren’t the only people known for frugality. Neither the Germans nor the French are famous for being promiscuous spendthrifts, and yet the 17 million Dutchmen seem to operate more caravans than all other Europeans combined.

It’s not as if Holland were poverty-stricken. In fact, it’s one of Europe’s wealthiest nations, enjoying a higher GDP per capita than Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and all other European countries this side of Norway, Denmark and a couple of pocket-sized principalities.

History doesn’t provide an obvious explanation. In fact, Britain and Holland have much in common in that respect. Both were mercantile, sea-faring nations. Both used to be colonial empires. Both lost their colonies at the same time. It’s true that Spain was more successful conquering Holland than England, but then one could argue that Holland got her own back by then conquering England.

The ousting of James II in 1688 and the subsequent arrival of the Dutch stadtholder William and his Stuart wife Mary as English monarchs is called the Glorious Revolution. But in fact it was nothing short of a rather inglorious Dutch occupation of England.

The English took their revenge by coming up with all sorts of pejorative idioms featuring the Dutch, including some focusing on their tightfistedness (“going Dutch”, “Dutch treat”) and drunkenness (“Dutch courage”, “Dutch bargain”). But you know what they say about sticks and stones.

Considering that William III was a devout Calvinist, it’s tempting to explain Dutch parsimony by the tenets of that confession. Indeed, only Calvinism treats wealth as God’s reward for piety and virtue.

However, though the spirit of Holland might have been Calvinist in the past, today’s Dutch cities show few signs of characteristic abstinence and austerity. Amsterdam, for example, has a good shot at being twinned with Sodom and Gomorrah and having a sign to that effect proudly posted at every entry to the city.

And in any case, Catholics, at about 20 per cent of the population, outnumber Calvinists (15 per cent) in today’s Holland. Hence one can’t say Calvinism continues to exert a mitigating influence on Dutch spending patterns.

So why do the Dutch insist on turning themselves into the laughingstocks of Europe by travelling in droves with their houses strapped to their backs? I have neither enough space nor, truth to tell, enough knowledge to explain this.

I can, however, venture a guess, solely based on personal observation. Holland strikes me as a thoroughly bourgeois country, showing few signs of being, or ever having been, a monarchy.

Spain, Britain and even the quasi-republican France, Austria and Italy exude aristocratic fluids from every crack in their buildings’ masonry. On the other hand, Holland shows few signs of ever having been a true monarchy. Everything about her gorgeous urban architecture screams middle class, and the scream resounds in the hearts of the Dutch.

With aristocracy relegated to a purely antiquarian status, money becomes the most reliable social hoist. And for money to be accumulated, incomings must exceed outgoings. Keeping the debits down is thus half the solution to life’s challenges, and it’s the half wholly under one’s control.

Hence those fleets of Dutch caravans inundating France. Each one is conned by a middleclass driver proud of his bourgeois rectitude, smugly certain that middleclass isn’t just the best thing to be, but the only one.

If there exists a better explanation, I’d like to hear it. Such an odd social phenomenon cries out for one.

8 thoughts on “How to get rich quickly”

  1. Prior to the current pandemic, summer always brought many a Dutch campervan to the Lake District, presumably curiosity about our mountains brought them here. I used to enjoy winding them up by asking if they were from Germany.

    1. Not so much in England though. Many aristocrats had jobs and most didn’t look down on the lower classes. Class snobbery, in England, has always been mainly a property of the middle class. Many middleclass public schools, for example, wouldn’t admit children from ‘trade’.

  2. In 1962, whilst serving in the army as a sapper, I travelled to Utrecht with a driver, to deliver a classified packet. Having completed the task about 9 pm, we popped into a local pub. Immediately, all the Dutch people in the bar, switched to speaking perfect English, and a row of drinks appeared in front of us for the remainder of the evening. That generation of the Dutch remained deeply grateful to our fathers for their liberation, and we were the beneficiaries of their gratitude. I have been very fond of them ever since.

  3. Funny thing, I’d never been interested in buying a caravan, yet with our overseas trips prohibited indefinitely, have been looking for one! This is down under, which is probably more caravan friendly and less crowded though. Still, unprecedented times we live in.

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