We’re coming up on six months in Belgium. Half a year! Enough in most places of the world to have seen at least a little bit of maybe three different seasons. Unless we’re talking about Belgium, in which case, one and a half seasons, and that’s being generous. So maybe it’s time for another list of JNDs. Just noticeable differences. What the heck am I talking about? See here.
So here we have another list of those little quirks that continue to make this place seem so foreign to me.
1. Everything is closed on Sundays. All your shopping, of any kind, must be done any other day of the week. You will occasionally find a grocery store that is open on Sunday morning. This is a big deal and it is advertised on the store sign, nearly as big as the actual name of the store. “Ouvert le Dimanche Matin!”
2. T.V. shows start at random times. I assume this has to do with the fact that most shows are made in the states and are designed to be 22 minutes long in order to slide in three ad breaks. But here in Europe, there are fewer ad breaks and they are mostly between shows, which is nice, but they are so long you could prepare an entire meal and take a quick shower before your show comes back on. Regardless, the times don’t match up perfectly so shows will start at 8:09 or 2:12 or any other time the schedulers please.
3. Speaking of advertising, we get to see the stars sell out. Have you ever seen George Clooney in a coffee ad? Or Hugh Jackman selling Lipton tea? How about Bradley Cooper selling ice cream or Ryan Reynolds pushing Hugo Boss cologne? I have.
4. Toys here are dangerous. Not all toys, mind you, but it’s not unusual to find science toys that can burn off your hand or toys that help little ones learn how to sew that include giant, sharp needles, or “My First Toolbox” type of toys that have boxes of real nails. Close parental supervision is the real name of the game here.
5. Background music, you know, the stuff that plays at the grocery store or in the mall or at McDonald’s, is not what you would expect. Imagine what you would hear pumping out of a bar on a Saturday night. That’s more like it. Just turn it down a notch or two and now it’s suitable for any Belgian parking garage. Oh, and as they love the stuff that’s in English but don’t always fully understand the lyrics, they don’t bother to tone it down for young ears. Explicit? To say the least.
6. Another driving experience that scares me to death? The crosswalk. Remember how you were taught to look both ways before crossing the street? Belgians don’t. I have yet to see a single person look up before stepping into a crosswalk. Adding to the problem, crosswalks are often not at intersections. So you’re cruising along at 70 kilometers per hour and suddenly you have to slam on the breaks because there’s a Belgian in the road. I have nearly mowed down several of them.
So to review, my DVR is confused, I might kill someone with my car, my kids may lose a finger or learn dirty words at the local Delhaize (though never on a Sunday), but at least we’re still finding things to enjoy.
See you next time!