Inburgering with DutchNews.nl: facing death

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The summer break may be over, or almost over for some, but you still have time to familiarize yourself with Dutch culture with the inburgering DutchNews.nl course.

Lesson 24: Highlights About Death

Enough cheerfulness and pleasure. Let it never be said that we avoid difficult subjects. So here is some useful information about dying in the Netherlands.

Insured in the event of death
About 60% of Dutch households have funeral insurance – Dutch love insurance after all and it is a policy that is obligated to pay at some point. But no matter how much you pay up front for your funeral, there are always stories in the newspapers of grieving relatives being robbed by funeral directors for extra cars, coffee, and cakes.

Death group
Every year in the Netherlands, a handful of people die alone, without friends or family. In 2002, a poet known as F. Starik came up with the idea for the Hen of the Doods – a group of poets who write and read a poem for people who have no mourners at their funerals. Details of each burial, as well as the poem, can be found on the De Eenzame Uitvaart (solitary burial) website. Don’t read unless you want to cry. Starik himself died in 2018.

The cost of death
A funeral – service and cremation or burial – will cost you up to € 7,000 depending on the extras. The dreaded coffee and cake for 50, for example, will add around $ 250 to the bill. But there is a new trend in the Netherlands towards economical funerals without ceremony at all – a bargain at € 1,200, which may or may not include a corrugated casket. By the way, if you have porters it might be students. It’s a popular student job.

Elimination of the body
The government is on the verge of approving “water cremation” as a new means of disposing of corpses in addition to burial and cremation. Also known as water resomation or cremation, the process is a safe and sustainable alternative to burial or cremation by fire, according to the National Board of Health.

The crematorium
Research conducted by the Crematorium Association in 2010 showed that Dutch crematoria collect on average only 50 grams of gold and other precious metals per body, but they can collect up to 150 grams. The money raised from the sale of gold, jewelry and other recyclables is, they say, donated to charities.

The ashes
Once you have been cremated, the funeral home will keep your ashes for a full month. That’s in case they are needed for a criminal investigation – that’s the official line anyway. After that, you can get them back. But scatter them where you want? Oh no. This is the Netherlands, so there are strict rules about it. You have to seek permission from the landowner and this, if it is a local authority, can also be quite expensive – up to € 1,000.

Cemeteries
However, being buried in the Netherlands will cost you much more. Lack of space means cemeteries are scarce – so most people tend to ‘rent’ a grave for 10 or 20 years. After that, unless your family spits to keep you in place, your remains will be cleaned up and placed in a mass grave.

The country’s most expensive municipal cemetery is Esserveld Cemetery in Groningen, where a 30-year lease on a grave cost € 8,000 in 2020, according to a study by insurance group Monuta. The cheapest municipal cemetery is in Losser, Overijssel, where a 20-year lease on a grave will cost € 748.

There has been a resurgence of interest in other green burials, such as the mushroom coffin developed by Dutch students.

Funeral music
According to funeral insurer Dela, the most popular song at Dutch funerals is Time to Say Goodbye by Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman, followed by Marco Borsato. Afscheid Nemen Bestaat Niet (there is no goodbye) and Mag ik dan bij jou by Claudia de Breij

After death
Don’t worry if you haven’t made a will. This being the Netherlands, there are very strict laws to cover wills and estates. That’s why there is a special breed of expensive lawyers, called notaries, to take care of everything. For example, you cannot disinherit a child, no matter how much you want, because they are legally entitled to a percentage of your property and your money. You can, however, refuse to accept an inheritance, especially if you believe it may be debt (like unpaid funerals).

Death in a proverb
And if you add up the cost of death in the Netherlands, remember this very useful Dutch saying: De een zijn dood is de ander zijn brood – the death of one man is another’s money. Pretty much it really sums it up. After all, in een doodshemd zitten geen zakken, (there are no pockets in a shroud – you cannot take it with you).

If you want to know more, Amsterdam even has a funeral museum.

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