Just as in Brussels, Brazilian bureaucracy excels at making the easy difficult through the means of the unnecessary.
Bureaucracy is the art to transform the easy in the difficult through the means of the unnecessary. Quote: “Hello. How can we disturb you today?”
Above all, the respective administrative systems share their delight for long waiting queues, the incapability or refusal to speak other languages and, of course, for endless lists of documents all of which have to be properly legalized, authorized, stamped, signed and translated.
Oh, and not to forget, a good dose of arbitrary decision-making due to the unwillingness (Belgium) or the inability (Brazil) of the administrator to actually do his or her job.
In hindsight though, living in Brussels was in that sense an excellent preparation for Brazil. If the bureaucrazy in the first doesn’t drive you crazy, there’s a fair chance of surviving its pendant in the latter. Especially if you take into consideration that the weather has improved tremendously.
Actually, not laundry and not even dirty – just the yellow bag full of paper I put out on Tuesday night, got me into trouble. Le service de la police administrative of Ixelles accuses me that I left the paper bag outside for rubbish collection on a Wednesday. As the rubbish bags are really an ugly side in the city, it is forbidden to put them outside the house outside the official collection hours.
If ever you have been to Grand Place on one of the collection days, you know that it doesn’t help an awful lot. Piles and piles of white, blue and yellow bags give Brussels a dirty, creepy, poor look. But noooo, the problem is not the bag, it’s when you put it outside. Sure thing.
Anyway, I did put the bag out on Tuesday night – during the right hours – but the rubbish wasn’t collected as it should have been on Wednesday morning. Do I still have to pay the 80 euro fine? Or am I supposed to come back from work and check? That would not surprise me at all in this city and that’s something we’ll find out soon. The email contestant les faits is sent; let’s see what answer I get.
I admit: it was my fault. How could I assume that being at the Russian consulate at 9 in the morning and having all papers would be enough?? Somehow, my memory must have been influenced by my experience at the German embassy: walk in with all papers, walk out 30 minutes later, done.
Not so here. First, one has to find the Consulate, then, they have you waiting outside – temperature this morning: 8°, but hey, it wasn’t even raining – letting 1 person at once inside. Only that it takes roughly 10 minutes per person. With 20 people in the queue, some were there as early as 8:00, and closing time at 12:30, hope was going down as well as body temperature.
After one hour, I saw this well hidden ad from an accredited agency doing the same job in a shopping centre nearby. And yes, they did have a well heated waiting room and even chairs. What the ad had not mentioned was that they almost doubled the price for a simple tourist visa. But after one hour in this &*ù$_ç( cold, it was worth it.
Now, I feel really reassured travelling to a country where I don’t speak the language, where the notion of service seems even less developed than in Belgium and where paying more suddenly makes life much easier. I should probably take some additional cash with me…
After I silently agreed with the local administration, that I never left the area I live in, the nice lady at la maison communale today sent me back to the foreigner service to get my residency card. I waited one hour while studying the different ways people deal with frustration*.
When it was finally my turn, I was told that I had to make a demand for a new residency card as I lost the old one. I didn’t – I had to hand it in the commune Forest where I never lived according to Ixelles. To make the demand for the new one I needed the one document I did not have with me – my job contract.
Next try: Monday morning.
* Apathy, murderous feelings and desperation were written clearly on the faces of those standing in line behind a guy who after 30 minutes still wouldn’t understand that the passports for his kids were not ready. The fact that the admin kept on repeating “not ready” in French which the guy clearly didn’t understand, wasn’t helpful either. When I left, voices started raising.
After waiting patiently for 2 months, I finally went to register in my new commune – foreigner service. After waiting another 20 minutes, I was told by a look on my papers and on the computer that I was in the wrong service. As I never left Ixelles, I had to go to la maison communale. Pardon me?
Following the registre national, I never lived in Forest; I’m registered in Ixelles since September 2007. That I have papers from Forest saying the contrary, doesn’t matter. It is not in the registre national, so it can’t be true.
To be honest, I kept my protest to a minimum. If it is fine for the administration, it is fine for me – I don’t think it makes any difference. And the papers? Well, they must have come from some paralell universe in which I lived in Forest for five months but in this one – dominated by the undoubtable logic of la commune d’Ixelles – I didn’t.
Des fois, il ne faut pas chercher à tout comprendre.
Ixelles is one of Brussels’ communes and, in my humble opinion, the best to live in except for the administration.
My last commune (Forest), I went with 4 photos during the opening hours, registered after 1 1/2 hours of waiting and was done.
In Ixelles, I went to the registration office first week of March. Last weekend, a policier de quartier passed by my place to confirm that I live where I said I do. Now, I have an appointment to register for the first week of… May! Just a tiny two months after my first démarches.
Now, I have to call them again and find out if this is too late for the European elections. Why, for manneken pis’ sake, does it take two months to get me an appointment?
FYI – Last time I registered in Ixelles it took me three months to get a residents card being 5 months valid. Very balanced input-outcome ratio. And yes, I have to register. Otherwise, I get a fine which I bet would not take 2 months to arrive.
I knew that Belgium is one of the easier countries if you are looking to become a European citizen. That a German national could become a Belgian without consent was new to me.
When I wanted to register in my new commune last week, the woman on the counter had a long and suspicious look on the registration document from my former commune and exclaimed then: Mais vous êtes belge!
Not that I’m totally opposed to such a change of nationality but first, the Belgian one wouldn’t be my first choice and second, I would like to be asked. Obviously, I never had a close look on my registration before, needed only pro forma, but before she could send me away to another department, I managed to convince her that I’m German. I got an appointment for the proper registration and I’m curious to see how the clerk there will manage with my double nationality.