Fainting in Coyles An occasional letter from the
Heart of Euroville
Thursday, July 01, 2004
Belgium, Bureaucracy and getting things done
I have lived here in Brussels for a tad over 5 years, and I am still left perplexed by its workings.
Fortunately I have very little to do with the state, but each and every time I do have something to do with it I end up with me standing around in the town hall for a couple of hours.
So much so normal. Odder however is the way that each and every time when I finally wade to the front of the cue and some chain smoking functionary looks at me through the plexiglass slats, well, they tell me that they cannot help. Then with a conspiratorial grin they say, as one such chap did today,
“Look you do not know who I am, and you have never seen me”. This was said as he typed rapidly at his keyboard and broke the rules.
This happened over me trying to get an ID card (paper – no biometrics and thoroughly washing machine unfriendly)..
When I tried to get my daughter’s birth registered, yup, they had to break the rules. When I tried to get rid of my last, semi-diplomatic ID same story,
“What I advise you is to lie”.
When I tried to get a VAT number same story – and I am still to receive it over a year after applying, with countless prods and jiggles in between.
Now what I would like to know is, is this because there are just too many laws and thus the only way through is to cheat. Or is it because few in Belgium really care about it enough to abide by the laws they have?