Friday, October 07, 2005

Belgian Curiosities

I've learned quite a lot of things about this country that I didn't know before, things that really surprises me.

First of all the thing the rest of the world call "cell-phone", "mobile", "mobile phone", or "handy", the Flemish people call it "GSM". As in "I will GSM you tomorrow, OK?".

Sam proudly shows one of the Belgian national treasures

Every single household seem to have a deep-frier to make French fries, "frit", a national passion for a dish. There is usually a whole section at the supermarket with sacks full of it. With that they eat mayonnaise (One could argue that they are eating mayonnaise and add a few fries to it). Still, with all frit, waffles, beer, and chocolate, it is rare to see very over-weight people. Impressive.

They make and drink a lot of beer here. And in a great variety. Some stuff would probably not be called beer at other places. Most importantly though is that there are many kinds that tastes great, there are plentiful of nice places where you can drink them, and many friendly people to drink them with. It is affordable to go to the pub as well. Well, that is from a Swedish perspective I guess (not a Chinese).

Another thing is that I had no idea that the country is so divided, and from now on I will probably consider it to be two. If it wasn't for the complication of Brussels that would probably be the case. What about Brussels you might ask? Well, the country is divided into the two regions Walonia and Flanders. Walonia is the southern part where people speak French, and as most French speakers it seems, only French. In Flanders, the northern part, they speak Flemish, a version of Dutch. Most of the people here also speak at least French and English. Flanders is the more prosperous part and many people there are angered that they have to contribute so much to the Walon people, who they see as backward, lazy, and who are not contributing anything back, including learning Flemish. So again, what about Brussels? Brussels is an administrative region in it self, situated in Flanders, but is multilingual. If the two regions where to separate, the big issue would be: What about Brussels? So far there doesn't seem to be possible to find a solution that enough people would be ready to accept. Meanwhile it seems the voters in Flanders is turning more and more radical with the extreme right seperatists party Vlaams Belang as an outlet. I've actually not heard the opinion of anyone from the Walon part, and even if I did meet one, maybe I would have to learn French first to understand.

Why doesn't the Flemish join Holland then and Walon join France? Well, if they actually did split, many speculate that the Walons actually would. The Flemish then? They dislike the Dutch probably more than the Walons! Tricky region this. One anthropology professor claimed during an introductory course here that the largest cultural difference between two neighboring countries is between Belgium and Holland! I find that hard to believe, but he did sound pretty informed.

One related thing to this is that the country is so small geographically that all students head home during the weekends. That means Wen's place doesn't have a wash-mashine, even though 12 students live there! They all go home during the weekend and bring their clothes with them. Many also brings plastic boxes with food from home. The other meals will consist of toast, fast-food (frit, kebab), or food at the school canteen.

All these observations are verified by my huge sample of about a dozen people during my 5 weeks stay here. ;)


Edward said...

...which is still far better than the sample sizes you normally use when making your statistical observations. ;-)

Johan said...

You mean like the observation that all people from Bäckefors are ugly? I actually only needed 1 sample for that one. Then your brothers proved that my method works. Heeeh