There are, generally speaking, some things that Belgians do that Americans do not. Obvious differences on the surface is language and a few others:
– Use euros and not dollars,
– Have a monarchy still in place and renewed, and
– Pay to pee in most places.
However there are social aspects, on a basic but broad level, that are different. To name a few:
1. Greeting. Three kisses, left cheek-right cheek-left cheek, is the greeting here. Three kisses. It’s a lot, and I remember my first weeks living here I’d lean in to give a kiss on the cheek to someone and I’d forget about the rest of the kisses. I had awkward tug-of-wars with myself and my kisser so many times as I pulled away and then jerked back, feeling bad I’d left the kisser just hanging there.
This was me, in 2011, shouting inside my head “Damn it! I forgot more kisses!” I’ve felt stupid many times. Now two a half years later I’m better at the three-kissing, but now some people have adopted the one-kiss just for me and so it’s a matter of keeping track now. I may never master the kissing greeting here.
2. Money stuff. Everyone pretty much knows how much money everyone else makes, and what their monthly rent or mortgage is, and even though I’ve lived here long enough it’s still disconcerting to me. Everyone around me here speaks openly about how much or not much money they make, and how much they bought this or that for. There are then further discussions around living expenses and money spent in general. Americans are generally guarded about such information even with members of their own family. The first time I heard my husband Davy telling everyone our “how much” informations, I was screaming in my head what the fuck?! I’m getting used to it slowly.
3. Exes. People stay more-than-friendly more often with family and friends of ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends here, even if there are no children had together in the picture. It’s not like in America where for the most part ties are cut in the name of “closure.” At first this caught me off guard and I thought Belgians were insane, but the shock is wearing off and I can see how it can work in a small country like Belgium compared to The United States.
Living the life of an expat is a constant learning experience. I’m being stretched in different ways. Stretching can be good for the soul sometimes. It reminds you that you did something good for yourself today.