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A Clue! or A Day in the Life of a Belgian Commune

By - June 18, 2008 (Updated: December 1, 2014)


After three years of dealing with Belgian bureaucracy, the uninitiated might think that things would get a little easier. They would be wrong.

I made an important discovery during today’s commune visit – workers are only permitted to give you one vital piece of information per visit. You must then continue to visit the commune, collecting your pieces of information, until you have everything that is required to obtain the document you seek. Andrew likened it to a scavenger hunt, where you collect clues to find a prize.

I remember one of the gas stations back home (I think it was Irving but I could be wrong) had a game every summer where you would get a map and with every gas purchase a city token to place on the map. When you collected all of the cities, you won a prize. This is exactly what a Belgian commune visit is like.

We’ve been to the St. Josse commune 3 times now (well 4 if you count yesterday when we went and they told us to come back today because there were already 50 people waiting). I must say that the clerk (as we managed to get the same one each time) was very friendly and helpful. He seemed to agree that it was ridiculous that our old commune couldn’t just send them our file, instead requiring all new copies of our documents. However, our ID cards have finally been dealt with. Our parking permit is another matter altogether.

On our first visit, we were told that we couldn’t get the permit until we were registered with the commune – clue number 1. One our second visit we were told that we had to have the vehicle registration papers with us – clue number 2. Today, we were told that because our car is a leased vehicle, we need an attestation from the company that Andrew is the primary driver. IF (and that’s a big if) we have all of the puzzle pieces next time and get the permit, we will have to return in July when we get our new car and do it all over again. Oh Belgium…

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