Things Belgians Do

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.

Kisser

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.

Always dishing,

Jun

 

13 Comments

  1. Kelly

    Paying to Pee? That must be hard. What if you don’t have any cash on you? Does it make the public bathrooms cleaner? What if you just need a place to change the baby, or yourself?

    Reply
  2. Nancy Alexander

    Pay to Pee? I’d be broke as a joke telling people I can’t afford to pee lol is that where the saying “doesn’t have a pot to piss in” came from because women’s bladders aren’t as strong as we age?

    Reply
  3. The money stuff…That is very interesting to me and surprising. I would be caught off guard with that too. I wonder is it because we are more materialistic in the United States or are Belgians less judgemental and superficial with that stuff? Thank you for sharing as always.

    Reply
  4. vivi howe

    You forgot to mention or maybe for a later blog, how blunt they are with their comments and views. Nothing gets sugarcoated. If you are wearing something ugly, they will say so. Another difference is attitude of the sales people in stores. They don’t care if they sell you something or not and will not go out of the way to find out if that item might be in another affiliated store. Last but not least…daily showers are unknown to them.

    Reply
  5. haha I lived in Holland as an expat in my early twenties and the “paying to pee” thing drove me crazy! Also we had to pay for a library card…and pay for ketchup packets at Mcdonalds.

    The three kiss thing took a lot to get used to as well.

    Love your blog!!

    Reply
  6. Phyllis

    Stealing part of this-“Stretching can be good for the soul sometimes. It reminds you that you did something good for yourself today.” This so fits my life today; thank you for sharing yours

    Reply

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