And I thought the bureaucrats in Taiwan were bad!
[url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,7792,1000990,00.html]Hell is Belgian bureaucrats[/url]
In Brussels, you can end up in court for taking your rubbish out a day early. Andrew Osborn reports
Friday July 18, 2003
It may be small in size, but Belgium is frighteningly big on bureaucracy.
The days when Congo's vast territory was administered from Brussels have long since passed into the mists of time, but nobody seems to have told the country's small army of "fonctionnaires".
Armed with a battery of Dickensian stamps, a rulebook as obtuse as it is thick and the mindset of Cruella De Vil, they do their best to make the life of the ordinary citizen a special Belgian form of hell.
Switzerland is often accused of having more rules than cows but Belgium is not far behind, and for its bureaucrats no detail is too small. The mentality of officialdom here is not for the faint-hearted.
And while they appear merciless in prosecuting minor legal transgressions, when it comes to the really big things - like bringing convicted child paedophile Marc Dutroux to court seven years after he was first arrested on charges of child killing and kidnapping - well, you may as well whistle in the cold north wind.
Nor do they seem to give a fig about drink driving.
Hoegaarden-bloated Belgians pour out of the capital's bars in the small hours almost every night of the week, only to jump behind the wheel and zigzag home - indeed, it is almost considered rude not to. On the rare occasions when they are stopped most are let off or escape with a small fine.
No, the Belgian system pours its energy into combating other perceived sins.
Everyone has their own story to tell, usually with their brow furrowed, their head shaking in disbelief, and their mouth spewing a stream of unprintable expletives.
I was reminded of this when I sold my car recently. Sticking a neat "for sale" sign in the back window of my car as I have seen many Belgians do, I thought I would be ok.
I was wrong. A phone call from the local policeman swiftly followed with a stern warning to remove the offending sign or face the consequences. It is illegal to sell goods on the public highway, I was told, and a nameless neighbour, bless them, had had the good sense to report my misdemeanour to the authorities.
Then there is the issue of rubbish.
Put it out on the wrong day or in the wrong type of bag and you are likely to bring down the entire weight of the Belgian establishment on you. A friend recently received a letter saying she had been fined 80 euros (