Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Bureaucracy and Box Ticking

We British don't understand bureaucracy - with the notable exception of civil servants. And I live in Belgium. Welcome to Hell...

Today I went to get a parking permit for work. Pretty simple, I thought to myself, just bring the documentation and driver's licence and le voila!

As if. I go there and fill in the form, but after standing in a very long queue (while of course the numerous staff at the other - unoccupied counters - sat and watched us wait without lifting a finger: de rigeur in these parts) I discover that as I haven't photocopied said documents I will have to go and do that before the matter is taken any further.

I proceed to the photocopying room to discover that one is en panne and the other has a paper jam, so give up and break for coffee. Eventually I locate another machine in a different part of the building, and have the precious sheafs in my hand at the counter - once again - when I am informed that these are in fact the wrong documents. What they require is a certificat d'immatriculation.

Well, I try and explain that as far as the UK Government is concerned these are the ONLY relevant documents for my car. Whatever this certificat may be it doesn't exist in my possession. But, protests the hapless administrator, the documents you've brought are not the ones our form requires! What to do?

Here is where an element of hope seeps into the seemingly impossible bureaucratic Catch-22 I've got myself into. The guy suddenly gives up. Seeing I'm in for the long-haul (and clearly not in the least bit fussed by the regulations himself) he looks around furtively, sees no one is watching and says - OK, just give me what you've got.

So I am now the proud possessor or one parking vignette. Total time elapsed in its procurement - 2.5 hours. Not bad for Belgium. This thread is to be continued I fear. I'm on such fertile territory!


Anonymous said...

"We British don't understand bureaucracy - with the notable exception of civil servants"

Well, quite.

An amusing card on my colleagues desk reads something like this:

"What does everyone have against bureaucrats...it's not as if they do anything"

or something like that

ho ho ho


Amy said...

Absolute classic. Tyyyyyypical. I think this thread may be NEVER ending, never mind be added to. What about the stamp story? Guy in Belgium wants to buy some stamps and goes to buy them online as he thinks "wow, this will be easier, they can just post them to my house and I'll have loads of stamps to use any time!". NO. He gets a letter through the post informing him that his 10 book of stamps is ready for him to collect at the post office.