Invader Stu: Administrative error

03 September 2012, by

Since my arrive in Holland back in 2001 I have made a lot of friends. I have got to know the Dutch people. I have (very slowly) started to learn their language. I have even taken part in their customs and learned their culture. However, unbeknownst to my Dutch hosts, this has all been a lie.

It turns out that in the first eight years of my life in Holland I had not actually been registered as living in the country. In fact, despite having a permanent job with a contract, a tax number, medical insurance, and even a membership card for my local DVD rental store, the Dutch government was unaware of my existence.

This shocking revelation happened during a visit to city hall while the residency official sitting on the other side of the desk from me gave me a very baffled "Are you serious?!" look as I tried to explain to him that I had been living in Holland for quite a few years.

As the residency official did some more confused typing on his keyboard, I considered showing him my DVD rental store membership card as proof of my claims. After all it was and is a very respectable DVD rental store and probably more efficient than the Dutch government, since not only did they know my name, address and date of birth, but also my taste in movies.

The only downfall to this idea was that they might not make a good character witness since I have a bad habit of returning DVDs very late. I thought about it for a moment and decided to leave the membership card in my pocket. After all, there is no dignity in being deported by Video Land.

The reason for all this was a simple administrative error. By this I mean that I was supposed to visit city hall and register myself when I first moved to the country, but since no one ever told me I never knew. I only found this out during the process of moving in with my Dutch girlfriend (now my wife). However, it’s not as if I was trying to hide my existence. I was leaving behind some pretty big clues that might tip them off that they had an extra tea-drinking Englishman in the country.

After some more confused looks between me and the non- existing data on his computer screen, the residency official must have decided that I did exist after all, because he simply shrugged his shoulders, said "OK then" in a very Dutch manner, and handed me a different form to fill out.

This seemed rather anti-climatic for someone who had been living outside the system for eight years but had only known it for eight minutes. I thought there would be some repercussions. Had I been illegal for almost a decade?

registration netherlands

Did it mean that everyone I had ever shared living accommodation with in the past hadn’t simply been lowering the cost of living by cohabitating in a place of residency with another law abiding citizen as they might have thought, but were in fact harboring a fugitive? Someone who knows no laws? A criminal?

And what about in Britain? Had the British government worked out that I had left the homeland? Were they looking for me? Could I have caused the credit crisis? Had they budgeted for the tax income from one extra person who was no longer there and was now paying taxes in Holland instead? And more importantly, did I have any late DVDs to return in Britain?

I thought about it some more and then made sure I filled in the form in my best handwriting to avoid any risk that the residency official might change his mind that everything was "OK."

A few days later after I received the "all clear," my girlfriend's sister sent me this post card to congratulate me on moving to Holland after eight years of living in Holland:

postcard holland

Invader Stu is an accident prone Englishman who has been suffering from Dutch culture shock for the last ten years. Enjoy his stories, more of which can be found on Invading Holland.

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Comments arranged by date (Total 10 comments)  
September 03 2012, 09:42AM

Only here!!! Might have repercussions for your old age pension in later years though. I would DEF. check out how you stand on that!

September 06 2012, 02:13PM

I checked it out. I don't get that much old age pension from the UK any more anyway because I've been living over here and not paying national insurance by having a job there. I've got a pension set up over here now anyway.

September 03 2012, 10:30AM

Too funny. Somewhere else perhaps, but in bureaucratic Nederland? Such a dodgy sort you are!

September 06 2012, 02:14PM

Who me? :p

September 03 2012, 10:54AM

A British friend once told me that it is not required (for Brits). The only drawback (according to him), is that it would mean that the person could not apply for Grants.

September 06 2012, 02:15PM

Good thing I'm not a student any more

September 03 2012, 01:21PM

Very curious that you were able to evade their notice for so long, Stu. By registering, however, there's a good chance you'll have to deal with (the always dreaded in expat-circles) "inburgering" ordeal. Or such is my understanding. Because you've got a work contract, that may not apply to your situation. If it does come up, I hope they give you an appropriate amount of time to prepare instead of coming at you with the argument, "Well, you've been here for eight years. SURELY you speak fluent Dutch and know the ins-and-outs of various arcane corners of Dutch bureaucracy."

That fact that it's impossibly easy to live/work in this country without knowing how to speak Dutch is a subject that I probably shouldn't mention here. :)

September 06 2012, 02:16PM

Luckily I don't have to do the inburgering because Britain is part of the European union.

September 09 2012, 08:52AM

Yet another gem from Stu. Brilliant stuff as always.
I am really curious as to how no red flags showed up with your employer or the tax authorities. Nevertheless, a very entertaining read.

The only thing stopping you from getting full marks was the "but since no one ever told me I never knew.". You're smarter than that, way smarter.

September 09 2012, 09:08AM

"You're smarter than that, way smarter."

Can you be sure :p

About the Author
Stuart B

An accident prone Englishman living in Holland since 2001. Still not great with the language but fin...



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