First Bitcoin ATM Installed in Ghent, Belgium

October 1, 2014 08:42 UTC

Welkom bij deze Bitcoin Automaat

In case you are wondering the words above are written in Flemish, a language closely related to Dutch and spoken in Belgium. They are important to the Bitcoin community because they are the first words that you will see as you do your transaction at Belgium’s first Bitcoin ATM, in the city of Ghent. Oh, and, by the way, the words mean “welcome to this Bitcoin ATM!”

Ghent is a port city located in the East Flanders province of Belgium, with a population of about 250,000 inhabitants. It is the second largest city in the country by population and has been continuously inhabited since the Middle Ages. The city at one time was the second largest city in Europe after Paris, and is noted for the Treaty of Ghent signed in 1815 that ended the War of 1812 between the US and Great Britain.

See the video here.

The Day Of Empty Bitcoin Wallets

“De dag van de lege portemonnees”

That is Flemish for “the day of empty wallets”. It refers to the last day of the Gentse Festen, a music and theatre festival that is held in the city of Ghent, and that attracts millions of visitors each year. The festival always starts on the Saturday before July 21, Belgium’s national holiday, and lasts for the next ten days. It always ends on a Monday that is called the day of empty wallets because everyone has spent their money at the festival.

However with Ghent’s new Bitcoin ATM, it no longer has to be a day of empty wallets. It may be possible to stash away something to help you get through your day of the empty wallets! Head out to Gameswap HQ on Schouwburgstraat and try out the new machine, where you’ll see the welcoming greeting shown at the outset of this article.

“Buy Bitcoins!

“Koop Bitcoins!”

That is the next thing you’ll see after the welcoming greeting. It means “buy Bitcoins!”. At the Gameswap HQ, you might meet Tom Mestdagh, who works there as a shop assistant. He says that he accepts Bitcoin payments because he thinks that it is “a fair system.” He likes the fact that Bitcoin is supported by an entire network of people as opposed to just one central bank supervising payments.

The machine at Gameswap HQ works by asking for a Bitcoin address that has been encrypted into a QR-code. If you are using the ATM, all you have to do is to display the QR-code on your smartphone and scan it, to which the money will be put in the ATM. The ATM will convert the money into Bitcoin and placed on your mobile phone. Of course, you should do all of this way ahead of the Gentse Festen!

Bitcoin startup Orillia is the company that has developed the ATM. Fillip Roose, who is an associate at the company, says that they are using the physical ATM to give the public a much more tangible view of Bitcoin. By going to the store, they can buy bitcoins on an actual device, rather than trying to wrap their heads around the ethereal feel that Bitcoin sometimes possesses.

It is hoped that Bitcoin ATMs will become more commonplace in Ghent and other cities in Belgium with time, until then we can only hope that you concluded your session this time with a satisfactory Transactie Voltooid! (Sorry, you’ll have to look that up!)

Image: “Riverside at Ghent at noon” by Gregd1957 – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Images by Orillia and Shutterstock.

Last modified: October 1, 2014 09:09 UTC


John Weru is a Kenya-born writer who has been writing since his teenage years. He believes that digital currencies hold the key to unlocking the potential of e-commerce and m-commerce globally, and powering Africa's participation in international trade.

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