Invader Stu: Train ticket criminal

05 November 2012, by

I am a criminal. I have broken the rules of our society and paid the price. People will judge me for the rest of my life. As I walk down the street I already feel their disapproving eyes on me and I hear their hushed whispers to each other.

"Look… there goes the guy who forgot to buy a new train ticket."

My crime is forgetfulness. Anyone who travels on the train with a monthly pass knows it is all too easy to forget to renew it during the early morning, half asleep walk to the train station.

I only realised my mistake when I heard the familiar call, "Kaartjes, alsjeblieft," from the train conductor who had entered the carriage to check everyone’s tickets.

I am an honest person. I didn’t try to pass my ticket off as being in date. When she approached me I apologetically explained my mistake and felt rather stupid.

From the look on her face that followed I instantly knew I was in trouble. She was looking at me like she had just caught a hardened criminal stealing charity money from a children’s hospital. Apparently I had also taken their teddy bears just to be extra mean and make them cry.

"You don’t have to tell me if you do not wish to, but why did you not buy a ticket?", she asked me with a stern face. It didn’t have the same ring as "You have the right to remain silent", but she said it as if trying to achieve the same level of seriousness and authority. Obviously no one messed with the train service when she was on patrol.

Over the course of the "telling off" she asked me the same question several times. It was as if she was looking for a hole in my story, waiting for me to make one slip that would bring my whole web of lies (as she saw it) crashing to the ground.

"I didn’t realise it had run out at the start of the week." I told her truthfully. "I forgot to..."

"The start of the week?" She interrupted through clenched teeth. "You’ve been travelling without a ticket for more than one day?" She made a move that suggested she would have reached for a can of mace if she had one.

train criminal

From her tone of voice, I was half expecting to end up face down on the floor as she forcefully handcuffed my hands behind my back.

Suddenly the train carriage began to feel like a police interrogation room. I thought about asking for a lawyer or turning snitch and giving up the names of other people without tickets. There was no way I was becoming someone’s b!#ch in the slammer!

Luckily I only had to pay a fine and I could put the plans for my prison break on hold.

I can live with the fact that I had to pay a fine for forgetting my ticket (even though I would have rather kept my money obviously); it might help me to remember next time. However, I did not like the smug way the train conductor acted throughout the incident. I was obviously a liar and a thief in her eyes. I got the impression she had failed the police force entrance exam and was taking it out on me.

The moral of the story: Never equip train conductors with firearms. If they have had a bad day, innocent people will surely die.

Ever had similar incidents while travelling in the Netherlands? Feel free to share your story below!

Invader Stu is an accident prone Englishman who has been suffering from Dutch culture shock for the last ten years. Enjoy his stories, more of which can be found on Invading Holland.

Stay Informed
Latest Dutch News
New Articles on IamExpat
Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter

Related Links
Comments arranged by date (Total 4 comments)  
November 05 2012, 01:21PM

Sorry to hear. Two things thou. First, I know (happened to an expat i trust, not a second hand story) that when this things happen you can call, explain your case and get the fine refunded. Fellow expat was in the same situation, called, explained she had been a paying user for years and that it would be simply ridiculous for them to think she was trying to get a free ride. She got the money reimbursed.
Second, i know you are a story teller, and a great one if i may add, but coming from a country where everyone tries to get away with this and seeing how a lot of people try to get away with this in the Netherlands, too, I can empathize with the woman who questioned you. It is unrealistic to expect her to mold her attitude to every single person she inspects, and when you use a one size fits all approach, sometimes saints pay for sinners. Enforcement sometimes works that way. I blame the people who try to cheat, not the ones to prevent them from doing so.
Entertaining story nonetheless.

November 11 2012, 11:49AM

Totally sympathise with you Stu! No need to treat people as criminals! Not totally unrelated though not in NL: I was once on a bus in London, had a zone 2 travel card (i.e. was one of those people who paid for my fare on a monthly basis) but accidentally ended up in zone 1. I used the same approach as you when the ticket inspector came, was apologetic, didn't play dumb, acknowledged that I was wrong and before I knew I'd been hauled off the bus and was being prosecuted. Took 9 months of my life, had to make 2 court appearances! Basically the ticket inspector didn't like the fact that I wasn't afraid of her, she didn't like my relaxed honest style and I should have been more scared of her and should have shaking in my boots rather than honest and relaxed about it. In the end luckily I WON against London Transport but my crime for which I would have had a criminal record (which would have cost me my job as I worked with children and families) was that I was missing 50 p (so 70 cent or something) on my travel card. All the other people in court that day did get criminal records for the same 'crimes'. I was clever enough to actually plead 'guilty' (to a mistake), got lots of support, got a good lawyer and common sense prevailed. Not for the other poor people that day who all pleaded 'not guilty'. But whatever, that's the UK for you and whenever I"m there, riding the tube and see those posters about 'if you fail to pay your fare you can face a fine or prosecution' I'm like 'yeah, and you better believe it'. To this day I have a heart attack if I get on a train without a ticket, which sometimes happens when the ticket machine is broken. Anyways, crap eh!

November 11 2012, 01:24PM

What happened to you was "vreselijk"! For more on things like that in the Nederlands, I hope you'll visit, comment + follow my new blog, UnClogged in A'dam: An American Expat Plumbs Holland (

December 09 2012, 12:21PM

Ticket inspectors range from the very polite & courteous (the vast majority), to the downright rude & aggressive. I've only had one bad experience, though the years, (30+ years) travelling on trains.
My case, my ‘kortings’ card had expired – I didn’t know. It has a ‘valid’ date on the card, & an expiry date which isn’t on the card. You are expected to know when a card expires…………..I had a ticket, but the ‘kortings’ card was no longer valid. According to the inspector, I was ‘trying’ to defraud the NS, I told him not to be so ‘dramatic’ as it was a genuine mistake, & anyway, I was travelling with someone who also had a ‘kortings’ card, allowing other passengers to travel with him with a reduction ticket. He was impolitely told that if he didn’t keep out of it, the police would be called & he would be taken off the train at the next stop. I was told I would get a fine.
I put in a complaint, & only after much too-in & flowing, the fine was dropped. I also put in a formal complaint about the ticket inspector that wasn’t accepted.

About the Author
Stuart B

An accident prone Englishman living in Holland since 2001. Still not great with the language but fin...

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Click here to learn more