Archive for September, 2013

A Remarkable Land Indeed

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

As I get settled back into a more normal routine, meaning that I should be able to provide more frequent actual blogpost contributions on this forum, there are first a number of strange things popping up in my own environs that I would like to bring to your attention.

To start off, the following image has lately been omnipresent in billboards placed on the station-platforms of the light rail line I use to get into the center of Amsterdam:


The Dutch text reads “A good parting/leave-taking helps you further.” There’s the face, the text, and also the company name (Yarden) below, but then that’s all you’ve got. What on earth could this be about?

If you’re Dutch (or have lived here long enough to be acquainted with the sort of advertising brochures you routinely receive in your mailbox) it’s pretty obvious. Let me give you a hint: There’s a normal-light half on the right, and then a darkened half to the left, correct? If Yarden wanted to be fully consistent with their advertising message, they would make of that darkened half a half-skull.

But they don’t, because that would shock too much, hurt sales. That’s right, Yarden sells uitvaartverzekering, or funeral insurance whereby one pays regular premiums while still living and earning in order to pay for a proper plot, coffin and funeral ceremony for when the time comes to leave this earthly existence.

The fact that advertisement for such a product – oblique though it may be – can be so publicly displayed in the Amsterdam metro system highlights the strange Dutch attitude towards death – oddly depersonalized, even amounting to a sort of lifestyle event (like a bar mitzvah, say). You can see this in the language as well: uitvaart in literal terms has the bloodless meaning of “exit.” Indeed, the German cognate, Ausfahrt, together with thick arrows pointing outwards, is what you will repeatedly see while driving along the Autobahn. (On Dutch highways it’s rather afrit.)

Or take a look at Yarden’s homepage. There’s our half-and-half smiling (but, sadly, all-too-mortal) lady up top. But look towards the bottom-left: Uitvaartideeën – “Exit ideas,” i.e. ideas about how to arrange your funeral so that . . . I don’t know, I guess so that it uniquely fits your dearly departed personality. Underneath that, if you’re still at a loss, are further links for “Inspiring exits” and “Themes for your exit.” Then one column over to the right the bottom link offers “Readings about death.” Creepy! (more…)

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