Posted in Daily Life, Travel

All the little things

We recently returned from a trip home to the U.S. for the holidays and I have been thinking about what defines my life here. People kept asking what life is like in Belgium and is it very different from home? I found that I could not say it was all that different but it is certainly not the same. Sometimes I feel like I could be anywhere doing the same things- taking my son to school, making dinner, going for walks, etc. Then at other times I feel like I am in this totally alien place compared to what I am accustomed to. I guess what it comes down to is an accumulation of little things that are different that affect your daily life. So, I started collecting a list of things I have noticed thus far-

  1. Doors- I never paid much attention to it but in the U.S., doors in public buildings open outwards, and in Belgium you never quite know which way they open, but usually it is the opposite way of which I try! Back home, this is due to fire codes, here I am not sure if those exist….
  2. Dining out- There are some great restaurants here in Gent, but I have found the “leisurely” meal here to be a bit too much (especially with a 4-year-old). Getting your food can take literally an hour or more and you must ask for the check if you want to get out of there. I kind of used to hate how wait staff would rush you to turn their table back home but I also like to get something to eat before midnight…
  3. Privacy- there are a lot of hedges in my neighborhood, and many of the front doors on the houses are on the side of the house. People like their privacy and kind of keep to themselves, though they do tend to have giant windows and glass doors on the backs of their houses (that look out into the hedge enclosed back yard of course)
  4. Weighing your fruit- in the market you must weigh your own fruits and vegetables and print out a sticker that shows the price. If you go to the check out without this, they will not weigh it for you, they will send you back to weigh it. They had a sort of optional version of this at Wegmans but that seemed more like a way to engage my son in grocery shopping than an actual necessity.
  5. Doctors- When I went to my first doctor’s appointment I was very surprised to find the doctor answering her cell phone while I was in the midst of explaining my medical history to her. Thought it was actually pretty rude. Turns out, there are no receptionists at dr. offices here, so the doctors do often answer the phone during appointments. I don’t know, I kind of like to feel like the dr. is focused on me when I go in to see them…
  6. 24-hour time- I realize that there are only a few countries in the world who don’t use this, but I am from one of them and I have not gotten used to saying 15:30 instead of 3:30. I find myself having to count each time someone gives me a 24-hour time. Makes sense though…
  7. Bathrooms- this is a big one for me- most stores and publics places do not have public bathrooms. There are some exceptions but you won’t easily find or access the bathroom in the market or a clothing shop. At home, there was always that security that there is a bathroom nearby if you need it. Plus, even if there is one, you often have to pay to use it!

Every day I notice more of these little things, so maybe part 2 will be in the future…

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