Being a Belgian in Brussels: cooler than being Moldovan on the Galapagos

Back in Santa Cruz. I felt that my stay on the Galapagos was coming to an end. The next day, I would be going back to San Cristobal, where I would spend my last night. I met one last time with Floor. And twelve other people. I thought it was funny how some of the younger travellers were amazed by the fact that there were 8 nationalities from 4 continents around the table. Working for a multinational and living in Brussels, that’s part of my daily life. I just don’t give it another thought. When travelling, though most of the time I tend to see similarities rather than differences, you meet people with a routine that is very different from yours. You don’t always realise that what is completely normal to you can seem extraordinary to someone else.

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In Brussels, you are special if you’re… Belgian. Even if you are in the capital of Belgium. There are so many foreigners living there that, very often, they barely get in contact with the locals. When employed by the European Union for example, or one of the countless agencies, institutions and organisations gravitating around it, it is very possible you won’t ever get in touch with Belgians at your work place. I remember an evening where I had parties at two different places, both with non Belgian people. As always when in an international environment, the first question you’re being asked is “what’s your name?” and the second one is “where are you from?” When I answered “I’m Belgian”, in both cases I suddenly got the attention of the whole assembly. One of the attendees stated he had been living in Belgium for two years and it was the first time he properly met one. One good French friend of mine even admits that she occasionally brings me along to parties, so she can boast about her Belgian friend. OK. That’s meant as humour. I hope. But the fact that jokes are being made about it does say a lot about the reality. I guess that’s why I hang out with foreigners much more than I do with locals in Brussels. I feel exotic in my own country.

Back at the multicultural table on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Lobster, laughs and ice cream. A nice way to end my stay on Santa Cruz.

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