One year ago today, our family arrived in Belgium. And in that one year I have learned a lot about this place. For instance, summer only last for two weeks.
Also, Belgians really love construction (or so it seems, considering how much of it they do).
And, taking Vitamin D pills is a part of life.
Also, gas is really, really, really expensive.
So let me take my one year anniversary to impart to you some more Just Noticeable Differences. ( What? See here.)
1. Belgian drinking glasses are really small. Glass on the left? Pint glass from anywhere in the world. Glass on the right? Drinking glass from Belgium. Guess which one doesn’t fit in my “large sized” Belgian dishwasher. The one cool thing about Belgian drink ware, however, is the beer glass. Every Belgian beer has it’s own glass, labeled with the name and is designed so you can properly enjoy your Leffe, or St. Feuillien, or Ciney. And every one is bigger than that tiny glass on the right.
2. Everything that comes with written directions, whether it’s a toy or a television, must have those directions translated into different languages. I’m not just talking about the three, yes three, official Belgian languages. For example, here are the warnings found in a Kinder Surprise chocolate egg….
… and that’s just the back. The other side has just as many for a total of 37 different languages. My sweater from H&M? Came with washing instructions in so many languages it took 7 tags for them to all fit. It was like a little book attached to the neck.
3. Belgian front doors do not have doorknobs on the outside. So don’t leave your keys inside, because that’s the only way you’re getting in. Even unlocked, the door is unopenable from the outside without a key. I find this super strange.
4. When you say “old farmhouse” in the states, I don’t know about you, but this is what comes to my mind…
… because “old” often translates to “run-down”. Would you care to see an “old farmhouse”, Belgian style?
They were built out of stone. They have stood for hundreds of years, they are often referred to as “farm chateaus”, and they’re everywhere, still part of working farms.
5. Have I mentioned “right priority”? Still the bane of my existence.
6. I find this one interesting. Belgium is broken into two distinct parts. Up north are the Flemish… the Dutch speaking Belgians. Down south are the Walloons… the French speakers. (There are some German speakers near the border with Germany, but they don’t figure into this.) Anyway, they aren’t too fond of each other, the Flemish and the Walloons. In a country the size of Maryland (one of the smallest of the United States) there are two very different types of people with very different personalities, cultures, likes and dislikes, ways of thinking, languages…. How this is possible is beyond me. So I asked Ben about it. How are people who live so close, so very different? His best guess? Belgians never move. Most people here live within 20 miles of where they were born and raised. Cultures aren’t going to merge if they never encounter each other. Plus that language thing keeps them even more separate. They read different newspapers, watch different newscasts, attend separate events… all within this tiny little country.
So, here is a prime example of the culture differences between the north and south. The Flemish are a little less… uptight? Is that the right word? Probably not. But here is an ad (that I find absolutely hysterical) that runs on Flemish stations during regular old prime time programming. This does not run on French speaking channels. Those crazy Dutch! Warning! Warning! Not for little ears or, apparently, Walloons… Gran, I suppose you can watch but only because you’re the one who recommended the book
Strip Tease to me because, “It’s so funny”.
So, there you go. A little bit more of what makes Belgium, Belgium.
One year down!