1) I now have internet! So life just got 100 times easier. Maybe we are too dependent on the internet today but when everything is communicated online and via emails, it is quite isolating to be without it.
2) On Thursday evenings “Brussels Museums Nocturnes” happens till 10pm, where you can see a selection of museums for 1.50 if you’re under 26 (we realised after paying full price). We went to the Musée d’art fantastique, which was completely bizarre. A house stuffed full of strange skeletons and things in jars with nothing to tell you why any of it was there. Perfect for Halloween maybe but not somewhere I’d want to be alone on a dark night…
3) In the UK we talk about the weather a lot. Here, the locals don’t really discuss the weather at all, they just accept that it will be raining. I want to know what people talk about and how they make small talk in countries with consistent sunshine (cue trip to Australia).
4) More on the banks… as you go inside the bank to the cash machines 24/7, this turns them into a place for homeless people at night. The ING bank at Flagey has a guy who sits and draws cartoons at night. I had only been into ING banks up to this point, but the other night I ventured into a BNP bank to withdraw some money. The cash machines there also made alarming noises but are slightly different. The first thing you do is put your card in and then you can’t proceed until you’ve clicked the box to confirm that yes, you won’t forget to take your card. You then select how much money you want and you can’t proceed until you’ve clicked the box to confirm that yes, you won’t forget your card. You then enter your PIN and you can’t proceed until you’ve clicked the box to confirm that yes, you won’t forget your card. You then decide whether you want a receipt and you can’t proceed until you’ve clicked the box to confirm that yes, you won’t forget your card. You then take your money and receipt and … walk out the bank. You go back in when the homeless guy points out that you forgot to take your card.
5) They have a very sensible compromise between small shopping baskets and large trolley. Medium sized baskets that you can carry or if they are too heavy have wheels and an extendable handle to pull them along. I am a fan!
6) Trains are half price in Belgium at the weekend, which is something everyone takes advantage of. The corridors were full of people sitting, we were lucky and sat in the stairs.
7) Every man and his dog (no make that every man and his dog and every man’s neighbour and his neighour’s dog) goes to Bruges on a sunny Saturday. The crowds are so big in the narrow streets leading towards the main square that it takes a while to move anywhere. It is undeniably beautiful but the hordes of tourists take away from this a bit. I think Ghent is beautiful too and underrated. I’d like to return to Bruges and do a walking tour and a boat trip on a week day.
8) I like their university policy here. If a student wants to take a course, they will teach the course even if only one student takes it. In the UK there always has to be a minimum of 10-15 for the course to run.
9) I now have a MOBIB card so can swipe on and off the public transport like a local. Maybe the novelty will wear off but it is quite exciting to swipe on and off, even though you have to do it without really looking at the machine and wondering how it works to look like a true local.
10) The fact there is an ocean between the UK and mainland Europe makes it feel very separate. It is so easy to travel between all the countries in mainland Europe that people regularly do and know lots about them. They feel very connected. The UK to a lot of people just means London and lots of people have never been because it is further away. People are surprised that Scotland wants to separate from England since we aren’t “attached” to any other countries. I kind of agree with them, we are unique in Europe for being 4 countries in one, it seems a shame we wanted to take that away.