Since arriving in the Netherlands, I have enjoyed a general feeling of safety, trust and a sense that people care about their fellow citizens and their belongings. As a result, I often left my bike unlocked when I parked it at the university. I couldn’t imagine the lengths Dutch people go to in caring about others until the day I found my bike not stolen but locked!
Illustration Henk van Ruitenbeek
I had spent a long day working on my ACT project and was eager to get home. When I reached the bike shed, I found my bike locked but my key was nowhere to be found. Not in my jacket pocket, where I usually leave it, nor in my backpack, trousers, the room where I had worked or on the path to the building. How could my key just have disappeared?
At the height of my confusion and panic, I caught sight of a note in one of my bike bags: ‘Sleutels kwijt? Tel: …’ (‘Lost your key? Phone number: ...’). Now I was even more puzzled. Someone had found my key? How could that person know that it belongs to my bike, given the masses of bikes parked here? I hastily called to find out.
At the other end of the line a friendly Dutchman explained that he had parked his bike next to mine and seen that it was not locked and the key was still in it. Concerned about the security of my bike, he decided to lock it for me and keep the key until my return! Since then, I never forget to lock my bike anymore. Less out of fear that it might get stolen than to prevent the honest citizens of Wageningen worrying about it and taking action.
Rennie Eppenstein, Master’s student of Organic Agriculture, from Germany
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