For the last three weeks, I’ve been living at the heart of Brussels, Belgium. I’ve met people of different nationalities that have come here for one reason or another. It’s exhilarating being in a place of so much diversity and culture.
I want to share a few things I’ve noticed in the last three weeks. I’m sure I could make a list as long as a short novel, but I will try to be as brief as I can.
Bikes, Buses, and Trains
According to the CIA online world fact book, Belgium is a country about the size of Maryland but with a population of 11.2 million. Within the region of Brussels, people rely on the metro, trams, and bus system and they use the train to easily travel outside of the city. For example, Amsterdam and Paris are only about a two hour journey by train.
Many people ride bicycles and there are special bicycle lanes all over the city. This cuts costs and saves energy. Cars are much smaller in Europe than in the U.S. A person with an SUV would stick out like a sore thumb here. The roads are much narrower and there are a lot more roundabouts.
Speaking of cars, I have never seen anyone pulled over for speeding or any other traffic violation in Brussels. While I have seen a number of police cars and other emergency vehicles, there is a lot less regulation on the streets.
Their Relationship to Alcohol
Belgium may be known for their beer, but alcohol is treated differently than in the States. More people are responsible with their drinking, including those under the American legal drinking age. In the States, alcohol has a more negative association. It’s forbidden to touch a drink before being 21-years-old and more likely abused.
Sunday Really is a Day of Rest
In Brussels, most stores (apart from the really touristy areas) close all day. The roads aren’t busy. People are outside with their families. They put aside their work. The church I attend meets in the morning and in the evening, regardless if it’s a holiday or not.
In the U.S. Sunday is typically a day where we do our shopping, catch-up on work, grab a quick bite to eat, and meet our minimal amount of time with God by attending service. This isn’t always the case, but sadly often true. Americans have it so easy because most things stay open every day of the week from early in the morning to late at night. We have big stores, long hours, and we even stay open on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
People Put Down their Phones
I have not seen a single person taking selfies, posting things, or shooting videos the way Americans do….Well, maybe the way millennial Americans do. I rarely see people, including young people, buried in their phones when they are with their friends at the park or at a restaurant.
Obesity isn’t an Issue
There are large green spaces in the city, usually with statues and fountains. In Brussels, people walk more, ride bikes, and altogether are more physically fit. They don’t eat three heavy meals like in the States. They enjoy long dinners and have lighter breakfasts and lunches.
I went to see a movie Monday and the concessions worker didn’t ask if I wanted a large popcorn and a large coke. It was a small bottle of coke and a portion of popcorn for two people. Not like the big buckets we have in America. In other words, they know how to portion themselves here while still enjoying the good stuff.
I know this wasn’t my usual post with themes on facing personal fears, trying new things, or the occasional movie review. I wanted to give a glimpse of the major things I’ve noticed about the culture in Brussels. Next time, I hope to write something more along those lines but I hope you enjoyed learning a thing or two.