A Morning in the Life of an American Housewife in Belgium

(Housewife, Stay-at-Home Mom, CEO of Martin Industries… call it what you will.)

Whatever you call it, though, just remember, I’m an American CEO… overseas.  And that makes my day a little different than yours.  A difference I have finally gotten used to, maybe even embraced now that we have such a short amount of time left in Belgium.

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Wake up at 5:30 because that’s when the sun comes up (Unless it’s winter in which case, change that to 9:15.)  Slam closed the blackout shades that were mistakenly left open a few inches.  Climb back into bed.

Two hours later, drag the kids out of bed, one of whom is screaming that, “It’s so bright, it hurts my eyes!!!!!”.  (Unless it’s winter, then said child will instead be screaming, “Let me sleep, it’s the middle of the night!!!!”)

Allow the kids to watch tv while they eat a breakfast of Speculoos paste spread on a French baguette with Wepion strawberries, a breakfast that I recommend everyone try because, so good.  Television is allowed because, if you watch Phineas and Ferb in French, it’s suddenly educational.

Stick the kids in the car and drive to the on-base schools.  Nearly kill all of us while trying to change lanes due to an errant motorcycle driving down the center of the road.  Yep, right on the center line, going a million kilometers and hour.  It’s called lane splitting and it’s totally legal.  Almost kill everyone again by failing, as usual, to see another guy flying into the road from the tiny side street on the right.  Because it’s my job to come to a screeching halt so that that car joining my road from a tiny, barely paved, tractor path that sits at a 90 degree angle to my 70 km/h road can fluidly turn the corner without stopping his diesel fume spewing Renault Twingo.  Remember when I said I probably wouldn’t mention the right priority rule again?  I lied.

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Get honked at for doing something.  People like to honk and wave their hands in the air.

Say goodbye to child number one and she heads off the American school.  Say au revoir to child number two as he heads off to the French speaking Canadian school.  Go to the grocery store now because it won’t be open this evening as closing time is, at the latest, 7:00.  Choose a whole bunch of tiny packages because that’s how it all comes.  Teeny-tiny packaging.  Even the few things that are marketed as “family sized” are no larger than a Big Grab bag of Cheetos from 7-11, meant to be a single serving by U.S. standards.  Pull two bottles of water out of a six pack because opening packages is totally o.k.  Tear open a box of Capri Suns and grab one.  Pack all my tiny containers and formerly six-packed bottles into my canvas bags that I actually remembered to bring into the store, guide my cart with the all-direction wheels into the parking lot, heaving it with all my weight so it doesn’t slide sideways into another Renault Twingo nestled into it’s tiny parking space.  Unload, then return the cart to ensure I get my two Euros back.  Show the lost looking, brand new American in the parking lot how the carts work when he asks if he can take mine because all the others are chained together.  “See, sir, you have to stick a coin in the handle to separate the carts”.  Demonstrate by clicking the chain into the cart handle to free my Euros.  Wish him luck as he takes his newly unchained cart into the store, slamming into things as he goes due to lack of control of the all-direction wheels.  He’ll get used to it.

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Back in the car, turn off Star Wars, Episode IV from playing on the screen behind my head and turn on the radio.  Scan through the channels but find only Stromae on every one.  Yes, his music is catchy but if you stop and Google translate the words, it brings you down a bit.  “Papaoutai” is about a little boy wondering where his deadbeat dad is, sadly waiting for him to come home.  “Alors on Danse” is about all the immense troubles of the world from debt to starvation and the people who just dance to ignore them.  “Tous les Memes” is about a couple breaking up.  And yet, the Belgians love him and play his music any chance they get, especially at halftime during soccer games.  Dance in my seat to Papaoutai all the way home.

The rest of the day I will be found doing several tiny loads of laundry in order to keep up with the pile, making a lunch in Celsius rather than Fahrenheit, not watching French speaking television, hand washing my American sized dishes that don’t fit in my Belgian sized dishwasher, refilling my car with gas at the equivalent of almost six dollars a gallon, and swatting flies in my kitchen.

And that’s my expat day.  For now.  Pretty soon, sooner than I care to realize, my days will also be filled with organizing, tossing away, house hunting, panic traveling, and saying goodbyes.

Someone throw on some Stromae, quick!  It’s time to just dance!

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One thought on “A Morning in the Life of an American Housewife in Belgium

  1. And… If you are an expat wife living AND working in Belgium – factor in the issue of sharing grocery shopping space directly after work or on a Saturday with the rest of the non-working population (i.e. retired and clearly stay at home mom’s).

    hee hee – but loving every minute here!
    Especially the ability to enjoy a glass of vino on the sidewalk outside of a restaurant, watching buses, trams, cars and cyclists zoom by – just because the sun is shining.

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