Living in Belgium is like riding a bicycle. And bicycle has square wheels because nothing can be easy in Belgium, and nothing makes sense.
First moment I started suspecting that Belgium can be complicated and bureaucratic country, was when I had to make visa for my staying in Belgium. Because I’ve never needed visa until this moment, and I do not know capital that good, I called Belgian embassy in Belgrade to help me with informations about visa. Woman who answered my call, was kinda unpleasant. She picked up the phone and said something on french. I was standing there, confused and I sad “Hello” on Serbian, because we are in Serbia(?) Then she answered to me in Serbian and I asked her if she can give me information about visa.
“Sir, you have everything on the website!” – she said furiously and hang up.
Okay, I was confused even more, but I had to be aware of situation because I didn’t have enough time to collect everything needed for visa. So, I went to the website she told me to go, and surprisingly, everything was on french. As you maybe know, I don’t speak french, so I tried to call embassy again, with explanation that I don’t speak french.
“Hello, you told me tot go to website, but it is on french and I really need help, so can you tell me what papers do I need for visa?”
“Sir, please don’t waste my time, you have everything on the website. Only thing I can do is to make an appointment.”
So, I made an appointment and eventually (after lot of stress) got my visa. I was thinking to myself: “Worst part is over, now I can be relaxed”. Well, I was so naive.
I arrived in Kortrijk in September 2018. I was relaxed, thinking about all cool stuff I’m going to do in Belgium, once when I’m done with all the paperwork. So, there was only one thing left to do, and that was to go to “Stadhuis” of Kortrijk and bring your documents so government can see you are legally living there. “One little appointment and it’s done” – I was thinking. But it wasn’t. First, I had to wait for my turn to give all the paperwork to the woman who is working there. After 20 minutes of standing there like statue, she told me everything is good and now I need to schedule another appointment. In that moment I started suspecting that things are not easy as they seem to be. Okay, let’s make another appointment, in about a month. “That’s okay” – I thought.
So she gave me insructions what I need to bring for my second appointment. Okay, no problem. But it all could be done first time. So I went for a second appointment, and brought everything they asked me to bring. Okay now it’s done finally. NOPE! Woman explained that in about 2 weeks I will receive a letter from government with some kind of codes, and to bring that letter to Stadhuis again. A little bit nervous because I don’t like bureaucracy and complicating things without reason, but what now, I have to be patient.
In two weeks, I have received a letter from government and went to my final appointment. Now there was a man working. I got there at agreed time and waited. And waited and waited. So, when they called every number expect mine, I approached a man working there and asked him when will be mine turn. He looked at my number and said:
“Well we already called for that number but nobody answered”
“Oh really, then excuse me, maybe I didn’t hear it” (I was looking at the thing with numbers waiting for mine and there is no way I would miss it)
Okay, I gave him letter from government, he typed something in computer, told me to type number somewhere and in the end, he gave me – residence permit. After 3 months living in Belgium, I finally got residence permit, and I felt like regular Belgian with that plastic card. But, my happiness was short term. That man told me I need the one appointment more. “One more appointment” – that thought was beating in my head. You know that moment in movies when somebody tells to the main actor some cliché sentence like “Your wife didn’t make it”, thats how I felt in that moment. Basically I had to make another appointment to do deregistration.
I got my residence permit card in middle of December, and I have to give it back in January. They could just let me live for one month more without all that complications.
But you have to get used to it – it’s life, and life is complicated. But life becomes complicated² in Belgium. Especially when you do 4 appointments, for only one simple thing. But there is beauty in that absurdity. While you are waiting in the row in Stadhuid, or when you are doing unnecessary job government should do, you have to contemplate, and think about life and purpose. That’s why you should be thankful, because they are literally forcing you on introspection and contemplation, so you see everything makes sense and doesn’t make sense at the same time and that if you have to wait for 20 minutes or to come back 4 times for one thing, thats not a big thing.
In conclusion – by being absurd, find beauty in absurdness. Thank you Belgium.