Banter from Brabant

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Initial Observations

We have been negligent, and we apologize. School is in full swing at this point, and while we are only in the second week, it is clear that we will be kept very busy. Let me also say that the lack of comments is discouraging… we love comments! Let your opinions be known! We can’t bite… we are too far away.

Many have inquired about the cultural differences we are experiencing in Leuven, and I will attempt to cover this topic in brief in this post.

One of the first observations that we shared is related to language. It is well known that most Europeans – especially the younger generation – know English very well. However, we always aim to be polite in our communication with other cultures. The best way that we know is to ask “Spreekt u Engels” in Dutch when beginning a conversation with someone in Leuven. The general reaction to this attempt to be polite is a condescending laugh, followed by “of course”. It is likely that they think it is funny that we are even bothering since this town is full of students who likely do not bother with politeness.

The other odd thing worth a brief mention is that Flemish students return to their mother/father every weekend instead of staying in the city. Granted, Belgium is rather small, and you can get nearly anywhere in about 2 hours or so. (Mind you, I speak of the Flemish side… the French side have their own University connected to the University that Beth attends in Leuven… a long story, but there are few, if any, students from the French side of Belgium in Leuven.) This means that the biggest party night in Leuven is Thursday since the whole city nearly clears out for the weekend. We beleive this is odd because we tended to prefer to stay at college when we were attending – you never know what you may miss if you leave.

Finally, people walk SLOW! We walk fast, so adjusting to this pace has been difficult. That’s all we have to say about that.

Although we have been noticing the cultural differences, we have not experienced culture shock. Rather the opposite… we both agree that we are beginning to feel agitated with daily life in some ways. The biggest agitator is walking around on the sidewalks. As I mentioned above, people walk SLOW. And if in groups, they tend to walk side-by-side – VERY SLOWLY. Two people walking side-by-side is one thing, but when you have three or four, it is a pain. It throws us off track; we stumble around, and finally get around them by moving onto the street. I know this happens most everywhere, but it never fails to agitate.

Do not think that we are not appreciating our experience – we still are. We are now conscience of what annoys, and find ways to change our attitude about them.


  • Ok so I am probably going to break some stupid blogging custom by using this comment box as a rambling message, but oh well I don't care. I will start by actually commenting on this article. I must admit that I am delited by the many small annoyances that torment you two. Keep up this critique of Flemmish culture it's good for a laugh. I'm glad to here that there are actually still people left in the world who take the time to enjoy a nice leisurely strole, and have not become slaves of function. As to a lack of comments, sorry I need more everyday tid bits or some of that Voigt flare that has been so lacking as of late. I mean come on, it really can't be denied that "In Leuven" was excedingly dry reading, I shall have to remind myself to leave a comment critisizing it further some other time. Ok all you just brousing bloggers this is the point where my actual comments about the articles digress into a more direct dialoge with the authors for this transgresion I neither care for nor am eliciting your pardon it's just that if you were looking for more information that has to do with this article you've long passed that point. Sorry that this comment may contain a bit of a negative tone it is just that at the very time we have moved to the metro area you two are no longer here. So that sucks. Candice and I have moved to Hopkins. Well Candice would tell you we moved to Minnetonka because that is what the address says but I am trying to break her of this annoying habit. We do pretty much everything in Hopkins and I like it better because it seems less like a snobby, slapped together suburb and more like a self contained community it is only due to some ill drawn postal line that we barely cross into Minnetonka to eat, sleep, and otherwise dwell. Here we live in the Conservetory Apartments, quite aptly sounding for Minnetonka. What is most worrisome is that Candice has taken to chiming in after I tell people we live in Hopkins with a rather more nasal Minnetoooonka. Sigh. At any rate I work in Special Education at the Main Street School of Performing Arts and it's a lot of fun. Candice is in home health nursing visiting mostly elderly. We have purchased a peice of GPS technology to help her and for better or worse she is getting to know the many roads of the metro area. Finally I have to address this posted name which was selected because the intro song was playing in the background as Carter watched a now beautifully restored dvd of some of the hero's of my childhood. Ah yes it is all part of my twisted plot to clone myself by introducing 80's media into my son's life or so Candice claims. I have to get going you two have fun and keep posting your adventures I enjoy reading about them even though I complain. Doug can relate.

    By Blogger Thunder Cats Hoooo!!!, at 12:13 AM  

  • Re: The Slowness

    Do you think that it's just here in the US we are so fast-paced? I know whenever we go out of the country (Mexico or wherever) we have to adjust to what we call "local time." Everywhere but here is just more lesiurely..I think you'll get used to eventually.

    By Blogger The Rolands, at 8:10 PM  

  • Interesting side note about the Flemings, the party known as Vlaams Belang (a hard right party you would only see in the European system of porportional representation -- on the flip side of course the Green Party actually has power due to this very system) believes that the country of Belgium should no longer exist and that Flanders (the northern half) should be the indepedent country of Flanders (Vlaams). They of course hate immigrants and want to maintain the Catholic, "Flemish character" of Flanders. Here is a choice quote:

    "We have always said that immigrants are welcome in Flanders if they assimilate. Those who are prepared to become Flemings with the Flemings are welcome, whatever the colour of their skin"

    Not that thier point isn't without merit (but, let us not forget the difference between rhetoric and actual policy -- what kind of policy will force "assimilation"? Hmm...). Nevertheless, the problem is that they want Brussels to be the capital of the new state of Flanders despite the fact that Brussels is a city just on the Flemish side of the border between French-Belgian Walloonia and Flanders, but happens to be enormously dominated by Walloons (80%+). Here is thier English website:

    Take a look and see what you think.

    Oh, and btw, I now understand the THUNDER CATS title -- I recall the series. I originally thought you were referring to the Arctic Cat snowmobile in sarcastic adulation of, shall we say, "local culture"? But now, I see that you have moved to Hopkins and thus are a suburbanite! HA!! no... I understand Hopkins was once a independant town before the suburban occupation. An island in the sea perhaps? Congrats by the way. It is too damn bad we are now gone. Many of good times would've been had!

    Rolands!, fist of all, thanks for keeping up with our rather sporadic blog and posting as well. I think that we have to determine why the people seem to walk slowly. It appears that not too much work is going on. However, on the train commute that I (Doug) take, the rush hour for trainriders is incredibly dense with people rushing about trying to catch their various connections. Just today, I had to squeeze into a position sitting on a five step stairwell with four others doing the same -- the stairwells existence owed to the fact that this was a filled to the brim double decker train!

    By Blogger Doug and Beth, at 10:23 PM  

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