Driving down the American highway, listening to the radio, you’re presented with regular commercial breaks. In the Netherlands, the advertisements usually range from peanut butter to laundry detergent, but here there’s a real top 3: new cars, lawyers and insurance companies.
One of the largest insurance companies in the USA is Geico. Very convenient for me, finally a way to get people to spell my name correctly: Geico with an F. Most of the radio commercials are about car insurance. Which is definitely not cheap over here. That makes sense, when you realise that the second most popular product advertised on the radio is legal services – lawyers are keen to assist after a car accident, to get the highest possible claim from the other party or the insurance company.
The amounts paid out in the Netherlands are peanuts compared to the money that lawyers manage to squeeze out over here. And, not surprisingly, they’ll also charge a nice fee for themselves. They’ve got to make a living, after all.
Once your claim has been paid out, you can go straight on to the car dealer to pick a new car. Having said that, there’s actually hardly anyone in the USA who buys a car with their own money. Everyone seems to take out a loan for a car. ‘Approved, approved, approved’ is the magic word over here. All car dealers are keen to let everyone know they can arrange financing. Hence the ‘approved’ – referring to the fact that all loan applications will be approved.
Even though cars are much cheaper here, compared to the Netherlands, nobody seems to save up for one. Cars are ‘borrowed from the bank’. The thought that a used car might have to do, if you don’t have the money for a new one, doesn’t seem to occur to people. Only a brand new pickup truck is good enough.
You can get a loan for almost everything here. A new terrace, a fridge, or even your BBQ at the local hardware store, can be bought with some sort of financing plan. It might seem strange to us in the Netherlands, but it’s completely normal here.
It gives me food for thought while I’m driving from farm to farm, anyway. In addition to our main company in New Jersey, we’ve got three farms where we produce annual and perennial garden plants, as well as Belgian bulbs in autumn. My imaginary Route 66 is long enough to think hard and long about what the world has come to. I’m glad to say that the challenge hasn’t become less interesting, though.
Senior consultant at Garden State Growers, New Jersey, USA