Reflections on international living and travel



Becoming Belgian: before and after 

Becoming Belgian

Erps-Kwerps 2009 - recounted 2022

When I reflect back upon the dreams and aspirations of my youth, there is one thing I never ever dreamt of becoming: a Belgian. Yet, I have become one. More than that, I am proud to be a Belgian. Yet, truth be told, my reasons for acquiring Belgian nationality were orignally pragmatic. Coming from a non-EU country, I had to have a professional card (like a work permit, but for freelancers and entrepreneurs) in order to live and work in the country. This had to be renewed from time to time, which was an expensive, bureaucratic and boring procedure. To make matters worse, we (I can say 'we' now) Belgians have been overly influenced by the French when it comes to bureaucracy, which is not a good thing.

However, with a Belgian passport, not only could I work and live freely in my adopted country, but I could also live and work in any other EU country as freely as a local.


Because I had lived and worked in Belgium for more than seven years, it was less expensive and easier to apply for nationality than it was to renew my professional card. I simply bicycled to Town Hall together with my passport, birth certificate and certified translation of the latter. I took a number and waited patiently as locals were served.

When it was my turn, I handed over the documentation and said, "Ik wil een Belg worden, alstublieft." That's Dutch (I live in the Flemish region of Belgian where the official language is Dutch, although the Dutch and Flemish prefer to call it Flemish, which is kind of like Texans calling their version of English "Texan") for: "I want to become a Belgian, please." The clerk checked my documentation and gave me a follow up appointment for a few days later.

On the appointed day, I sat down with the Mayor who asked me, formally and citing various relevant bits of legislation, if I wanted to become a Belgian. I said, "I do" and then signed what seemed like 200 documents, but was probably only ten or twenty. We shook hands and then I bicycled home.

And Viola, I Became a Belgian

A few weeks later, I received a letter in the post inviting me to come to Town Hall and fetch my new ID card. Once again, I hopped on my bike and cycled to Town Hall. I gave the administrator my old ID card, which indicated I was a foreigner, and she gave me a new one that indicated I was a Belgian.

And that was it. No celebration. No champagne. Not even a simple "congratulations you're a Belgian now!" Some countries, such as the Netherlands and the UK, hold a reception for the newly nationalised to celebrate their new nationalities. Not the Belgians. At least not for me in 2009. The clerk just dug my ID card out of the file and handed it to me as if it were a trivial administrative document, not a symbol of my newly acquired nationality. I thanked her and bicycled home. As a Belgian.

And it felt good to be a Belgian.

End note

Naturalisation laws in Belgian have changed considerably since I became a Belgian and this is probably a good thing. It keeps out the riffraff like me! When I asked to be a Belgian, the only requirements were that I had been living and working legally in Belgium for at least seven (I believe it was seven, it might have been nine) years and had no police record of misbehaviour. Fortunately, I make it a policy to misbehave away from the police. Today you need prove that you can speak at least one of our national languages and that you are socially and economically integrated into the culture before we'll let you become one of us.




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