News - December 10, 2013

Blog: A Tale of Social Cohesion

I have a high trust in civil society. Higher than recommendable, as my mother remarks. So when I lost my wallet two weeks ago I lost my wallet, this was an awful experience initially. But eventually it reinforced my trust in the social order of my host country.

On my way from Ede train station to Wageningen my wallet somehow fell out of my pocket. I traced back my steps, hoping to find it on the 'fietspad'. Of course, I did not. Who had found my wallet, when and where? I got back to Ede train station and I went to the ticket office. Nothing there. The man behind the glass suggested I ask at the Ede police station. ‘Good luck with that, though’, he concluded.

His pessimistic remark made my stomach shrink. I realized that I might have had excessively positive assumptions about social trust and cooperation in the Netherlands. ‘We are not in Fairyland. Even here, chances of finding back your wallet are perceived as low,’ I thought. This accident, which started to seem irreparable, made me feel gloomy and dizzy. I jumped on the bike, recounting the irreplaceable documents in my wallet; the lost cash and OV-card credit, and the troubles I would have go through to have everything replaced and sent to me from Italy.

When I reached the police station, I found out that I wasn’t in the right place. An officer informed me that lost wallets in Ede should be brought to the Lost&Found office at the 'Gemeente'. I had forgotten that most municipalities in the Netherlands hold a Lost&Found desk/service, to leave the police free to deal with actual misdemeanours.

I first dropped by ING to block my card, then went to the 'Gemeente'. My intention was just to submit my data, in case someone ever returned the wallet. Behind the Lost&Found desk were two ladies… And my wallet, with all documents and cash untouched! A woman from Wageningen found it on the cycling path. She took the trouble to immediately cycle back to the municipality—about 20 minutes from the spot where she had found it. She had left her contact information, so I could call her to express my gratitude.

Just like a tale, my story has many lessons. Don’t dispel them.