Technically I have been lying to you all for a very long time. Theoretically I have taken your trust and miss used it. I claim that I have been living in The Netherlands since 2001 but that is not true. To make matters worse it is a lie I didn’t even know I was telling. It is a lie I believed to be true. I have memories of leaving England in 2001 and arriving in a country where everyone was definitely speaking Dutch and doing Dutch things. I have evidence that would seem to support the theory that I have lived in the country since that time. I have a tax number, medical insurance membership, a full time job, a Dutch wife, two children and an Albert Heijn bonus card. However, according to the Dutch government I have not been living in The Netherlands since 2001. I’ve been living in the Netherlands since 2009. Where did eight years of my life disappear to? Are my memories of that time false? Are they part of some elaborate self induced delusion? It turns out the answer to all these questions is no. It’s all down to a small mistake. Not only is this blunder my own fault but it has also had some very real recent repercussions.
Some of you might remember the story of how this mix up originally happened. When I first arrived in the country (which definitely happened in 2001) I was unaware that I was supposed to visit the local city hall and get myself registered. No one ever told me and it never came up. It was only when I moved in with my girlfriend (now my wife) in 2009 that I discovered it was a thing I was supposed to do. I visited city hall and explained the situation. They were baffled but not too worried by the fact that I had technically been living in the country illegally for eight years. They added me to the system and everything was fine… Until Brexit.
When Britain decided to leave the EU I decided it was probably a good idea to get Dutch nationality. I knew that if I did it before things were finalized I would be able to have both nationalities, Dutch and British. Getting Dutch nationality was a simple matter of filling out a form. This is because I am married to a Dutch citizen and have been living in the country for more than fifteen years… Only I have not. Not according to the computer system at city hall. I’d only been living in the country for eight years. All the evidence I presented them with (tax number, medical insurance number, letter from my employer, Albert Heijn bonus card) was dismissed because only the data in the computer system was valid. In a classic case of, “computer says no,” I have been denied Dutch nationality.
At least, I have been denied it the easy way. There is still another option open to me. One that will be more difficult, that will take more time and (most likely) that will lead to a lot more funny stories of language mix ups and mistakes. I am going to take the inburgering exam.
It’s that or wait till 2024.