Belgian: To be or not to be, that is the question
On 23rd June 2016, all eyes were on the rather large island otherwise known as the United Kingdom. That day is now remembered as one of the darkest days of the year. At least that is how I remember it. We all blinked and suddenly, they had left, a lot like when you blink and suddenly your glass of wine is empty. The only good thing is that you can get a free refill if you live in America but UK has a no refill policy.
Ever since that rather grim day, I figured that my only option was to obtain Belgian nationality so I can stay part of the slightly dysfunctional family that is the EU.
Besides, I think I’d fit in quite well with the Europeans. My British friends already refer to me as the European anyway (Maybe that’s because I enjoy casual drinking).
Also if I were to lose my right to free movement, I would start my own political party and call it “GIB” i.e. Give it back.
I soon realised applying for the citizenship of the country, which has a national monument that consists of sticks and hanging balls, is not as easy as it may seem. In other words, never judge a country by its landmarks.
In fact, it has proved to be a rather large pain in the derrière to tell the truth.
Here are three reasons why:
Number 1. It became obvious fairly rapidly that the Belgians simply do not comprehend why anyone would want to study abroad.
You heard me, even though the current prime minister graduated from the University of Amsterdam, my Belgian nationality may be at risk because I am studying in the same city right now as he did. On top of that, I bet he came back with a Dutch accent. Thanks to Belgian education, I am stuck with an awkward French/Flemish one that the Dutch refer to as “cute”. Godverdomme.
Maybe I will mention that the next time I go down to my local commune and get told another excuse, sorry, I mean “reason” why I may not be allowed to be Belgian. Not that Belgian would be my first choice anyway…I would rather be Swedish or Dutch but I probably shouldn’t say that to their faces.
I was also told that I should just hope the person looking at my file is in a good mood that day. So in other words, let’s hope he or she has had their morning coffee and is not going through a divorce but since Belgium has the highest rate in the whole of Europe I figured chances are stacked against me.
Number 2. They value the irrelevant facts more than the important ones
My local commune is the perfect example. So I walk up to the “foreigners” counter and after 3 minutes of pretending to be busy, the lady comes up and looks at me with a smug face especially when she realises I am British. She knows, Brexit or not, she won’t have to apply for a visa next time she wants to cross a border. We could almost compare Brexit to an invisible wall. At least it’ll stay invisible on this side of the pond.
After showing her all my documents, she tells me that my original birth certificate has to be issued less than 6 months ago. Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realise it was the issue date that mattered more than my actual date of Birth. That’s the same as saying Belgians would know the French national anthem better than their own. Oh wait, a former prime minster did.
Shout out to Yves Leterme.
Number 3. The rules. There are none.
Apparently all communes apply the same rules but after consulting my friends going through the same ordeal, some already in possession of Belgian nationality and some others, like me, still in a sort of tantalizing limbo. I realised the whole thing is more like a lottery than a game with actual regulations. The numbers you draw referring to the commune you come from and for some reason the Flemish communes seem to have more luck.
Since we’re not following said rules, I’ll throw in number 4. Did you join the scouts?
That is a very good question and one I got asked during my application. Well if I am honest it wasn’t really my thing but if wearing a scarf around your neck, even in the summer, and getting your clothes dirty supposedly helps towards obtaining the citizenship then I wish I could still sign up.
The trickiest part in all of this is trying to imagine life as a Eurokid outside the EU. I may be applying for Belgian nationality but I see it more as a way of keeping a European pass than anything else. I grew up in such a multicultural environment where it takes longer explaining where you are from than where you are going. I always cut it short and simply say I am a citizen of Europe/EU because that is exactly what I am.
All said and done, this could prove pointless if the EU/ my home falls apart but where is the fun in watching in from the outside. Just like a drinking game, I’d much rather be a part of it.
So my quest to become Belgian continues…