Red Tape Blues

By alison - July 22, 2005 (Updated: November 30, 2014)

Some days it feels like we are mummified in red tape; really sticky tape of the Duct Tape variety. I remember commenting in Amsterdam that, “when we get settled in Belgium, things will be more normal.” Now, we’ve been here almost a month and it doesn’t feel much more settled than our first day. We at least have our internet connection sorted out and being able to communicate with folks back home has been wonderful, but sometimes it feels like we will never be settled.

My Dad joked the other day that by the time we get everything sorted out, it will be time to move back home. The thought of going through this process again in reverse makes me want to hide under a table… of course we don’t yet have a table. This little fact horrified one of my friends the other day. In all honesty it would be nice to have a table, but we’ve been getting by without it.

One thing I’ve definitely gained from this experience is that ‘Stuff’ is much less important than we make it out to be. I used to be quite a hoarder, and having to purge all but the necessities to move here was difficult but very liberating. Even with the small amount of stuff we brought, there are things that I look at and think, “Why the hell did I cart that all the way over here?” Don’t get me wrong… I can’t wait to have more furniture and decorate our house. But I know now that these things aren’t vital to my existence.

The latest red tape saga has been trying to get our Saint Bernard here. As with our own documents and the documents for the cats, no one can give us a clear answer as to what papers he needs. Chances are we will get everything we are told to, and most of it won’t be needed anyway. This is what happened with the cats. But, if we are missing something, you can be sure that we will be caught.

After listening to me rant about our internet saga, an Expat friend who’s been living here for a while now joked, “Didn’t you know you were moving to a third world country.” While Belgium is definitely not third world, sometimes you wonder if just bribing an official would be easier than jumping through all of these hoops. But jump we shall, and maybe in a few months we can look back at all of this and laugh… while sitting at our table.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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