Como en casa

I guess that, when you’re aborad, and although one shouldn’t do this, you can’t help but to compare with your own country. And there are a few similarities between Uruguay and Belgium.

Both are “small” countries trapped between two local giants and their relationships with Argentinians, especially the Porteños (inhabitants of Buenos Aires) can be compared to the one French-speaking Belgians have with their French neighbours, and more particularly the Parisians: a small inferiority complex. Though we will usual put it differently and present the neighbours as being conceited. A thing which Argentinians/French hardly understand. Yes, they do make fun of Uruguayans/Belgians but it’s all with the best intentions. Actually, they think we are suuuuch friendly and warm-hearted people! A compliment which, most of the time, we will greet with a suspicious look.

This inferiority complex makes that we also share a certain sense of modesty. Although Uruguayans are prouder than Belgians. I’ve seen a word that kind of describes how I feel they think about themselves: “orgumildad”, which is a contraction of the words “orgullo” – pride – and “humildad” – humility.

Also, both have gained their independence in the first half of the 19th century after centuries of occupation by many different powers. A fact that actually explains the first two arguments.

Uruguay is quite a flat country too, with the summit being Pan de Azúcar (514 meters – 694 in Belgium with the Signal the Botrange). Also the climate reminds me of my home country: it’s humid. Though I do think we have more rainy days in Brussels than they have in Montevideo. But the colour of the sky here is not unfamiliar to me. Or, better said, the lack of colour. It’s grey.

They also have the obligation to vote. But here, you can get into serious trouble if you don’t present yourself. Students for example, who can go to University at the State’s expense, can be prevented to study for one year. Public servants can lose a month of salary. Same goes for Brazilians actually, who wouldn’t be able to buy a car until they pay a fine. Or, which is far worse, they can lose their rights to social security.

Last but not least, another similarity between Uruguayans and Belgians is that they only give ONE kiss. Anyone who is in regular contact with foreigners will have had the same dilemma: do I give one kiss? Two? Three? Four?? Or just none? And whatever you finally settle with will be the wrong decision. Either you or the other person will get stuck with the cheeck mid air waiting for the missing kiss. In Wallonia, the norm is one single kiss. Even when it’s two guys, either if they know each other well or are introduced through a common friend. Until now, I hadn’t seen this anywhere else. But here, the rule is exactly the same: one. Not more and not less. It does spare me quite some embarassing moments.

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