Dream, laugh, walk around and discover one of the smallest but more magical and curious countries in Europe!
Sara Sánchez González
When we arrive the first day in Belgium, many of us barely know much about it, even sometimes, we have never heard that is not only a French speaking country. Different administrations, different traditions and different languages in three parts of the country. The most popular: Flemish and Walloons. But, are they so contrasting? I’m going to do a review of all the differences and similarities I’ve seen between them, taking into account that I’ve had the chance to live both in Flanders and in Wallonie.
MAIN DIFERENCE: No doubt: the language. Dutch (flemish) VS French. When the first time you listen to someone talking in Dutch, you might think that he is speaking a mixture of German and Chinese; the second one, French, is more familiar for Spaniards. Most of Belgians, especially young people, can speak both languages (and also the English, better in the Flemish part than in Wallonie), although it is true that Flemish people feel more comfortable speaking in English than in French. Television: Flanders doesn’t dub any films and series in English, but adds subtitles in Dutch; however, the news, some comedy shows, competitions… and cartoons are dubbed. On the other hand, the Walloon TV offers programming only in French. Cinemas in Belgium usually show movies in OV with subtitles in Dutch and French (something great), although children’s films are always dubbed into one of those languages.
PARTY. Both enjoy ‘la fiesta’ as one Spaniard. Although they have a very different schedule compared to us and although we think that we are the best night owls of the world, Belgians know how to finish a party at 7 a.m. Anyway, in truth, every Spaniard misses here the churros with warm chocolate or a tapa by the end of the night. Something else that took my attention were the concerts, spectacles and dinner for adults: very common.
SPEED OF ACTION. What they call PATIENCE, I would call it SLOWNESS, especially when you’re queuing. At city councils and secretariats, Belgians also live without hurry… Anyway, is noteworthy that in supermarkets nobody complains If the cashier spends 50 minutes by passing a milk carton by the cash register; and a very important note: older women do not try to sneak for paying before you (a strong tradition in Spanish stores, right?).
WEALTH. The Flemish part is richer than Wallonie. Therefore, if you want to fall in love here, be smart and catch a Flemish Belgian. Moreover, there are more career opportunities in the Flemish part, but certainly you have to take into account the difficulty of both languages, if you start to study them from the very beginning. Anyway, as I pointed, if you are trying to be rich or trying to find a rich husband, study Dutch!
TRANSPORT. Comparing to Spain, transport is pretty good, since trains are pretty cheap and there are a lot of different bonuses and offers with discounts. Anyway, there is a disadvantage: you won’t be able to use a bus bonus of TEC (bus company in Wallonie) to take a bus of DeLijn (Flemish company), what is a pity. Transport par excellence: the bike.
GREETINGS. We think that Spaniards are always dishing out kisses, but what about Walloons? Every minute you can see two young boys who are given each other a kiss on the right cheek as a greeting and, even if someone is not your best friend, you will get the same kiss if you meet him on the street. EVEN, I’ve seen how children are placed in a row to kiss their teachers on the cheek at the end of a class of gymnastics, or how a young girl kissed its driving school teacher after getting out of the car. This is something that really caught my attention! In Flanders you won’t see that tradition: young guys shake hands to greet (and even girls with girls when they just meet for the first time). As a friendlier way, Flemish people give two kisses on the cheeks or THREE!
FORM OF RECEPTION OF A FOREIGNER. Pretty good in both parts. In most settlements, jobs and companies, you are treated as one equal. They appreciate your work and your knowledge, no matter where are you from (in general, this is my impression). If you’re young and Erasmus, the truth is that Walloon Belgians are greater hosts (since in the Flemish part, they are less accustomed to mixing Belgian students and foreigners in kots), but I am sure that language has something to do, due to… tell me what Erasmus student comes to Belgium to study in Dutch…!
THEY ARE A COPY… Eating ‘belgian’ fries, loving the beer, surviving without shutters and using a damn and minute pillow. Both, they eat a broodje or boterham or tartine at 12 and have dinner between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. (although I know the strange and mysterious case of a Belgian family that dinners at 8 o’clock, but this is a case of research). Usually, children have the ‘healthy’ way to start the journey eating too much chocolate, that is, sometimes their noon meal is based on what Spaniards would call “the sandwich of Nutella that our mothers allowed us to eat just once a week before going to catechesis”.
Then, who I think that is better of both? It is impossible to answer this question because there are scoundrels and Princes at both sides, as all over the world! And, do they have any particular problem between them? Absolutely not, I think is just a matter for Governments, politicians, administrations, companies, those people too attached to the historical memory, the extremists… as always and as ever!
Encuentra la versión española de este post aquí: http://dependoneoporbelgica.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/flamencos-y-valones-realmente-diferentes-2/