Elections 2024: Expat perspectives on Belgian politics: Alexander Gumm

Living in Brussels and working in Mechelen has given Alexander Gumm, 34, an insight into Belgium’s multifaceted culture. As a German, picking up Dutch has come more easily than French, but he hopes to master that as well, completing the trinity of Belgium’s languages. 

He finds it funny when Belgian railway conductors make announcements in French and Dutch, then switch exclusively to one or the other depending on the direction of the train. Living in Brussels, he sees first-hand the divide between the two regions and is curious to see how the country’s elections will play out this year.

Through his role as a youth coach for KV Mechelen, Gumm has not only been able to meet Belgians and practise his Dutch but has had the opportunity to explore the country and discover similarities with where he grew up. “Society here is built similarly to Germany,” he says.

Getting expats involved

When it comes to Belgian politics, Gumm would like to see a course for expats on the workings of the government and the different parties. “It can be discouraging to get involved with all the politics and parties from the two different regions,” he says. His method when voting is to look at what politicians have done and not what they are merely pledging to do.

On the topic of immigration, he wants the current political rhetoric to be reframed. “Politicians focus on this so much, but immigration is necessary and enriches every country and society,” he says.

“I am an immigrant in Belgium, but I am super privileged since I come from another European country. I cannot imagine what immigrants who come from outside Europe face. Because I was lucky enough to be born in Germany, I have more rights; it does not make sense that someone born outside of Europe should have to encounter other rules.” 

Gumm says that the way people and politicians talk about immigration gives him a good idea of where they will stand on other issues. He is also interested in how the different parties want to run society and the more immediate matters they focus on: “Infrastructure, education, social security, minority rights, these are the things that influence bigger topics.”

"Then there is Belgium, which cannot work with itself"

In the EU elections, he plans to vote in Germany, citing his short time in Belgium as the reason. “I have a deeper knowledge and understanding of the politics back home,” he says. For the municipal elections in Brussels, he is already looking at the candidates and plans to research their platforms. He firmly believes in the importance of participating in elections, no matter which level. “It is a privilege to vote, and people should do it,” he says.

Gumm’s advice for Belgium is to bridge the gaps between the regions. “In the end, you work together as a country,” he says. “If you are part of the EU, you have 27 countries working together, and then there is Belgium, which cannot work with itself. The irony is that even if they do become independent of each other, they would still have to work together eventually in the EU!”




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