Brussels

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The good

Bruxelles for the French, Brussels for the English, this city is characterized by its ‘Burgundian’ people. Translating to something like ‘flamboyant’, it basically means that the Bruxellois eat, drink and party more than their neighbors in the Netherlands or France.

And it suits me fine. Not only could you literally go out for a year, each weekend, without going to the same place twice, but also are there so many different style restaurants, its too easy to get fat during your stay in Brussels. In fact, a year after I came to Brussels, I had gained 6 kg.

But its true. the number of restaurants, bars, cafes, pubs, clubs and discos in the center of town seems to be larger than the number of people living in that same area. Then again, the area needs to cater for an absurd amount of foreigners with shitloads of money. People working for the EU, NATO or one of the many international organizations having its HQ somewhere close to Brussels.

It is a fact that there are more foreigners living in the Brussels area than there are Belgians. Of course, with the large population of Moroccans living in a couple of the suburbs, its not only due to Eurocrats in town.

However, this is less a bad thing as it may seem. Loads of inexpensive – but good – inexpensive eateries exist because of this, making it possible for you not having to blow all your cash on nothing but a meal .

The veggie scene is a whole different ball game however. The number of restaurants that cater for the green-spirited can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Still, even they serve a good grub.

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The bad

In a country where a convicted child rapist and killer can walk, unescorted, out of the palace of justice and be free, during the preparations of his trial. In a country where it takes a month for a major food contamination to be made public, after which almost every meat product is taken from the shelves. In a country that has three language regions and six governments. In such a country there must be something fundamentally wrong.

There is. It is something that is an integral part of every Belgian. Something not totally unlike schizophrenic behavior. Every Belgian is either Flemish (Dutch speaking) or Walloon (French speaking). And then, even some only speak German.

Brussels is the only officially bi-lingual part of Belgium. However, the language on the street is French. So it is very common for two Vlamingen to speak to each other in French, without even knowing the other to be Flemish (and Dutch speaking) as well. My landlord spoke French with one of his tenants for years, before finding out the tenant too, was Flemish.

Then there is bureaucracy. Pure madness. Although Belgium is squeezed in between France, the Netherlands and Germany, some consider Belgium to be the most northern Southern European or most western Eastern European country. The former state owned bank ASLK/CGER (everything here has two acronyms, a Dutch one and a French one) up to one year ago had one computer per subsidiary for internal, electronic, communication. I don’t even want to start on the process you have to go through when trying to register as a resident. I mean, the police where able to lose my application forms. Twice.

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And the ugly

This heading had to follow, of course. But this one too, is applicable to Belgium.

Particularly the south-eastern part of Belgium, the Ardennes, is riddled with hills or (very) small mountains, resulting in, historically, people sticking to their own valley for the bigger part of their lives. Without reason, the best circumstances for in breeding. And yes, the result is some VERY ugly mother fuckers. But, as it can go as well with in breeding, some VERY beautiful specimens. Big eyed, friendly faced, slender beauties are generally the rule in stead of the exception. At least, in Brussels. Beware, when venturing into the hills.