"the way of life" in Belgium
Posted in Belgium forum
As part of a research project I'm currently working on, can anyone here describe to me in their own words "the way of living" in Belgium?
Daily routines; stereotypes; beliefs; social etiquette and anything else you'd like to comment on?
The more varied the opinions the better, so get arguing!!! (kidding of course :P)
posted by in Belgium forum
Belgium is very inconvenient for anyone that works. Most sectors have based their working hours, more or less, around the 9-5 theory. A large number of store close at 6pm, grocery stores close at 8 pm and cafe's will close much later into the evenings. However, many banks, communes and other establishments will close their doors at 5pm, sometimes earlier. Therefore, not enabling the working person to actually get anything done, seeing how most people get off work around 5 and still have a long commute back home! If you are to get anything done, most of the time you have to take half a vacation day to do so. However, if you are married or have a partner that stays at home...most of the time, this person can do these tasks for you.
Oh, I almost forgot, this country is a dead zone for things to do on Sundays! The Belgian’s that I know, student or not, go back home to visit their parents.
As for Brussels, there is a sort of language war going on between the French speakers and the Dutch speakers. If you are caught by either side speaking the "wrong language" they will go out of their way to make life for difficult. If anyone must speak to someone from "the other team" then they usually prefer to speak English. However, I have seen Dutch speakers talking in French, but not the other way around.
As for food, they are really big on potatoes. Whether it comes in the form of fries, mashed potatoes or cooked whole, I don't think a Belgian would be able to survive a few days with eating one! ^_^
They do have a rather strange concept of 'cold' & 'warm' eating habits. For example, they prefer to have only 1 warm meal a day. Warm, as in cooked meals are pastas, meat & veggies, oven dishes, etc… A cold meal being salads, sandwiches, lunch boxes, etc...
I hope that helps a bit. ^_^
posted by in Belgium forum
Hard to answer for such a young country, still really undetermined in term of identity.
We have this linguistic conflict which can sounds silly but which is real:
-South Belgians speak french and schools don't teach them a lot of dutch there.
-North Belgians speak dutch and most of the time also french and english.
Reasons for that?
French stays a language spoken by a lot of people compare to dutch, plus, most of the Belgians dutch speakers speaks also french.
Something else about this conflict is more deeply installed:
Historically, Belgium is born from the liberation of The Netherlands domination. Then the riches and powerful peoples in Belgium where all speaking french, and the economy was stronger in the south (charcoal mines, ect..) So, naturally, inequality leads to anger. Then, during the 60's there was few conflict about what language to speak where in the country, what language to use in the administrations and so on..The University of Leuven become only dutch speaking and we created another new university with french language only. In the mean time the north economy become more important while the south one is failing down.
So, today we have the north (dutch speakers) which have been fighting to get some rights about their language. And the south with french speakers who don't really understand that there is/was a conflict, for them, most of the time, they are Belgians and that's it. The actual conflict are mainly about Brussels and his surroundings: Brussels is mainly french speaking but located in the north part, up to the linguistic border...sounds silly isn't it?
Ok, that's it for the history, I hope this may help you to understand the identity dynamic in belgium.
Now, about the "cliché" Belgian lifestyle:
We live in a country that counts up to 2OO day of rain per year, this determines a lot of our habits I think..:
-We like indoors, we hang out (coffee, beers, games, chat..)
-Belgium is a country producing a lot of comics and all Belgians have a lot of them,
-We DO love potatoes (we are pissed off to hear about the english word "french" fries, ours are the ones!),
-we really enjoy a wide variety of beers,and we also have some local alcools
-our chocolate is good (note that this come from the colonisation time)
-Brussels is messy
-Despite of the linguistic conflict, we feel all Belgians when someone think you are french
-Despite of the size of the country, Belgium is made out of a lot of small areas that all have their own landscape, habits and specialties, from the sea to the forest, from the waffles to the beers.
-We love when sun and beers are around, hanging out in a park on the summer time, we try to get outside as soon as there is a little dry weather!
hope this help,
posted by in Belgium forum
Hope I can help you out with some of my observations. I was born and raised in Belgium, but have chosen not to live there for the past 5 years because of various things, some related to my ideas below:
- Belgian life is still very conservative, everything new and more modern is usually frowned upon at first and takes a long time to be properly established.
- Belgians love potatoes, beer, chocolate, pastry, football, free concerts in parks and in city squares, going on sun and ski holidays, and generally eating and drinking royally. Oh yeah, don't tell Belgians you like Heineken beer if you don't want to be mocked for the rest of your life.
- Most Belgians will say they are not racist, but believe me a lot actually are (against non-white people from outside Europe in particular).
- There is a general idea that politicians and the government are messing up the country and have been doing it for a long time, but no one actually thinks about trying to change things themselves.
- Belgian political power has been fragmented so much that it seems like nothing actually ever gets done.
- The organization of everyday life is quite hopeless, everything from store opening hours to public legislation doesn't seem to make any sense.
- Belgians are generally proud of the educational system and it's probably one of the only things that doesn't get overly criticised all the time.
- Public infrastructure is a joke. I think 85 % of countries in the world have better and safer roads than Belgium. Cycle lanes, when available, pose a real threat to cyclists' lives. Especially in cities.
- Though a lot of people moan that life has become so expensive, lots of people still spend a lot of money on luxury products and services. It's all about living above your class and showing it to others.
- Sports are a big factor in Belgian life. Primary and Secondary school students have Wednesday afternoon off to dedicate to extra-curricular activities such as sports and hobbies. Traditional sports include football, basketball, tennis, cycling, gymnastics, swimming, horse riding and athletics. Various competitions, leagues and open meets usually draw a good crowd. This might play some part in the very low obesity level in Belgium.
- Though we moan a lot about the goings on in our country, most people would never think of relocating to another country. Loyalty to the country runs deep, but not so much on the surface like in the US.
- There seems to be a general tendency to look back at 'better times' and constantly compare to the present. The same goes for the older generation and the Euro. Many of them still calculate back to old Franks, though prices have changed substantially and are no longer comparable to pre-Euro standards.
- Even if it seems that my list shows more 'negative' aspects than 'positive' ones, it's part of the Belgian mentality to shrug off some of the bad and soldier on. It seems to be generally accepted that all is not so bad and that we are lucky in comparison to so many others.
- Don't call fries 'French Fries'. It's a sensitive issue. Don't rub us the wrong way.
posted by in Belgium forum
I can only agree with Demona and Niels.
Unfortunately, Belgium is not a happy place to live.
I'm 34 years old, came here from Moscow in 1991 with my parents, am fluent in French and in Dutch, have studied in the university here (ULB) and I can tell you the following:
- For working people life is for sure very difficult. It's difficult to get everything done, because the shops close so early, because it's hard or sometimes impossible to find a cleaning lady, it's hard to go from one point to another because there are huge traffic jams, there is not much to do.
- People are in general very cold and not sympa. Nobody will talk to you spontaneously (especially in Flemish part), even if you smile and speak their language. Life is very hostile and grey here especially for SINGLE people.
- If you had a bad luck and did not find a partner (husband) in your young years when you were in university (for instance because then you were not well integrated, did not speak the languages, was hard to study , etc), then had a long bad realtionship, and now as a 34 year-old woman want to find a decent optimist person on who you can count and who you'd like to build your life and family with - good luck. They do not exist. And in Belgium it's extremely difficult to find new friends/partner once you are after 30. Everybody is living very family oriented/children/parents, etc and is not looking for any new contacts.
- I have a couple of friends or people almost as close as friends (from the Belgians)here but I can tell that I already had some bad surprises. People who are friends with you (especially Flemish) as long as they are interested or want something from you, and then just drop you from one day to another after 10 years because they finally found a girlfriend for instance and they are not interested in you anymore.
- Each 3 or 4 months I have to go on holidays away from Belgium, otherwise I feel like I become crazy. Life here is certainly very depressive.Huge long raffic jams - getting worse every year and nothing is being done to improve them, political games at work, economic crisis, government that has been paralyzed for years (and after the results of this election it will be worse), no public transport developped, high pollution, not enough green spaces, high taxes, etc.
- I have a good diploma and a good job, and yet in the past 2 years I lost my job twice because of the economic crisis. Bonne chance in finding another job on your level and getting to know people. All seem very introvert into their problems.
I'm sorry I can not be more positive for the moment, but a lot of points in terms of quality of life would be a lot better in France or Switzerland in my opinion.
The worst moments of loneliness I experience them here. I can not leave from here because my father has gone through a surgery recently, otherwise I would have done so.
The only thing is that indeed it's better to leave once you find a partner, I do not a lot of women who start over at 34 years alone and migrate to another country. It's difficult psychologically.
posted by in Belgium forum
Personally, I have lived and worked all over the world and there is nothing wrong with Belgium, that I cannot experience anywhere else in the world.
If you want to make some thing happen - you will. You can organize your time to pop to the commune; most open from 08h00 (some days) and close at 19h00 (on some days). You can order most things online and have it delivered to your home or office. If you can manage without it - you probably do not need it - so shops do not actually have to stay open for long hours for us to get organized.
After 20 years here (travel for 40%), 2 children (in local schools now), self employed (now), running a charity, hosting events and more - I can still get things done, meet people, spend time with my family, meet Belgians, get out (even on a Sunday) and enjoy life.
Why - because it matters to me to do that. Nothing stands in my way - ever. There is so much chioce here, places to meet people, groups and clubs to join, netwoks to be part of - my only problem is that there are only 24 hours in day.
If you want to make it happen - it will. If people want to eat potatoes - cool by me. If some people want to spend most of thier time with family - that is OK as well. There is plenty of room for all kinds of people, minds and prefrences. Lets enjoy that......