Screaming into the wind – Dutch citizens vent their Covid frustrations

Businesses find means of staying afloat by offering novel ways to release pent-up anger

As the pandemic enters its third year, innovative Dutch businesses are finding new ways of staying afloat by helping customers vent their pent-up anger and frustration – in one case by smashing old cars and in another by screaming into the North Sea wind.

Coronavirus cases in the Netherlands jumped to a record daily high of 24,500 on Wednesday, confirming the Omicron variant as the dominant strain in the country, according to the public health institute. That represented a 60 per cent increase in a week, despite a strict lockdown.

As part of that lockdown, all non-essential shops and businesses are closed, which means a lot of people are at a loose end, wondering what the future will bring, and feeling they need to do something therapeutic to help them cope with all that existential uncertainty.

That's why brothers Steven and Brian Krijger are swinging sledgehammers and pulverising a little Peugeot 106 which was, in any case, about to be crushed and recycled at a breakers' yard at Vijfhuizen near Amsterdam.


Now though the yard has been rebranded as “Car Smash” – and the first thing customers do is to spray-paint the car of their choice with the words that best represent the feelings they aim to get out of their systems. In this case it’s a pretty visceral “F*** Covid” in bright red.

“The minute they start smashing the car we tell them to close their eyes, plant their feet firmly on the ground, and feel the power,” says the yard’s owner-turned-pop-psychologist, Merlijn Boshuizen.

“Covid has caused a lot of bad stuff – and we tell them to hammer that bad stuff out of their lives.”

Down the coast near The Hague, meanwhile, vocal coach Julie Scott, is running "Screech at The Beach", where – as the name suggests – the idea is reminiscent of the primal screaming associated with the Atlantis commune in Burtonport, Co Donegal, in the 1970s.

“It’s a wonderful sense of the freedom we just don’t have at the moment,” says Scott. “You don’t have to think about other things. You just scream into the wind and let yourself go. Like your frustration, your voice goes out over the sea and doesn’t come back.”

Despite the wave of new coronavirus cases – and its psychological impact – the Dutch government has decided to reopen primary and secondary schools from Monday, and will decide on other elements of the lockdown next Friday.

While 85 per cent of the adult population has been vaccinated, the booster campaign has been slow getting off the ground and is not using GPs or pharmacies. As a result, only 32 per cent of adults had had a booster as of Wednesday, according to government data.

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court