Has anyone on this blog been to Belgium?
Has anyone on this blog been to Belgium?
Yep, lived there for a year as an exchange student.
Tell us about it! Is it similar to Germany? France? Is the food good? Are the people nice?
Depends. A lot.
It is both a bit like Germany and France and the Netherlands, but also quite a bit nothing like any of those. It's an amalgamate of all those cultures and yet something decidedly new and different, I'd say.
You need to check out the chocolate creations. Forget losing weight while there, just make sure you fit into the clothes you bring with you. Alternatively, get yourself a djellaba or mumu and feast away.
Food is generally good. French fries tend to come with both mayonnaise and ketchup at the same time, might catch you off guard. Mayonnaise is big in Belgium. People are either super nice or extremely hostile, approach with caution and a smile. Check the vibe before starting to talk. Try to stay on topic. People are welcoming but wary of other cultures, depending on their political leaning they might be openly hostile towards American citizens. You might encounter nice and bright people that are not too PC on prejudices, stereotypes and cultural or racial jokes. Judge them hard and you will be judged right back.
I suggest you stick to the beer-drinking populace. Good places, good food, good mood.
Make a check list of things important to you and, depending on how much time you'll be able to spend, see to get it all done.
This is all very helpful. Did you eat these?
Oh, interesting. Looks lovely, what is it? A cherry cordial of sorts? No, I don't think I've tasted these particular ones. The outer casing seems to be more sugary than chocolate? Do tell, what am I looking at?
Every brand, major or not, tends to make a wide range of classic confectionery, some with modern, not too classic approaches and re-interpretations. There's also a thing of seasonal and limited run offerings.
My current favourite is Neuhaus, but that's pretty random, I'd say. Everyone seems to know Godiva.
When there - or before - plan to seek out their shops. Feast your eyes, sometimes there's disappointingly few smells to pick up. Set a limit (financial, not caloric) for trying out confectionery. Don't overeat in a single session or day, be smart. Enjoy.
What I find to be important is the artisanal aspect of chocolate and confectionery. No Mars bars or M&Ms. Stick to the real stuff. If you like 'milk chocolate', consider yourself in heaven. If you have not (yet) developed a taste for high percentage dark chocolate, Belgium is a good place to start.
Oh, do you speak any French or Dutch or do you have friends/colleagues ready to be your guide?
We had a good time! I went to Belgium as an Erasmus exchange student in 2003. My husband followed me and got extremely lucky and found a job within 2 weeks. We lived in Brussels in a neighborhood called Ixelles, which is close to the main Brussels Free University campus. The area was super multi-cultural since it bordered on the low end embassies quarter, the Congolese quarter, etc. Off the top of my head, the main street from where we lived into downtown Brussels had Chinese, Austrian, Algerian, Greek, Italian, Congolese, Lebanese, Japanese and Belgian restaurants and a bunch of bars. There was was park with two small lakes near where we lived (Ixelles Ponds), which was great to go hang out at in summer. To be fair, there were outdoor spaces all over. It's quite green in my memory. As a student I also had really cheap access to loads of cultural activities (museums, concerts, events). Public transport was great and a total steal. I think my monthly pass was 24€ which gave me access to all buses, local trains, metro, trams etc. I think my husband's full price monthly pass was 36€. I found life overall to be relatively cheap. We paid a relatively high rent (own fault, could have found cheaper), but groceries and everything else like going out, transportation, health care was cheap.
The Walloon part of the country is relatively poor, so it's closer to industrial northern France than gay Paree. You'll have a lot of small, run down colliery towns. The Flemish side is on average wealthier, so you get a lot of back and forth between the two communities about one side mooching off the other and the Flemish being selfish etc.
Oh, and you can't forget the chocolate and waffles! There are little takeaway style shops everywhere. We ate so. many. waffles. And drank so. much. beer.
Flanders, but not Wallonia so much. The Flemish seemed very good keeping their trains clean. The Walloons, not so much.
Clean trains, eh? That's important.
I feel it's more important that there's a group of humans that self identify as Walloons.
Yes! You should go to Ra 13 in Antwerp, it is one of the global centers of weird avant-garde fashion.
Fashion! Really? Tell me more.
I think this is actually a question for campfire
Keenan, I'm learning.
I might be wrong!