August marks six months since Merv joined me in Brussels, and six months since the launch of our blog. It seems to us the perfect time to look back on our joint experience of Brussels so far – it has been an intense but exciting period, filled with lots of adventure and discovery.
Between frequent trips to the Brussels commune to deal with all the administrative requirements of Merv’s stay in Belgium, we’ve enjoyed getting to know some of the many gems that our new home city has to offer. Brussels is a vibrant city, playing host to a number of events and festivals throughout the year, from food fairs and music festivals, to museum visits and street parties – there’s never a shortage of things to see and do. To keep up with it all we’ve had to keep our energy levels up, and luckily Brussels is well equipped for that too, with a seemingly endless number of restaurants, cafes and bars, many of which exude a uniquely Belgian charm and quirkiness that have made for some colorful meals and interesting nights out!
Beyond Brussels, we’ve also started to explore some other parts of Belgium, with visits to the larger cities of Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp, as well as to Hasselt and Voeren in the province of Limburg, and nearby Mons. Merv’s also managed trips to Westvleteren and Bastogne. While we’ve resolved to try and see as much of Belgium as we can while we call this country home, being based in Brussels means it’s very easy to travel to other parts of Europe as well. So far we’ve ventured across the border to visit the Netherlands (Maastricht), Italy (Verona) and France (to Paris on a couple of occassions – I can never get enough of that city!).
I can’t believe half a year has passed since I landed in Brussels. Although this city continues to find new ways to surprise me (in good ways and bad!), I’m starting to feel less and less like a new arrival and more at home each day.
The shock of arriving in a new city and adpating to a new environment and, in the case of Brussels, not one but two different foreign languages, can be an overwhelming yet thrilling experience. Arriving with the intention of calling a new city home, even if only for a little while, brings its own set of challenges beyond what a tourist might encounter, but being forced to adapt in such an intense way has also been very rewarding.
After six months, the culture shock is starting to fade. I’m no longer phased by having to weigh my own fruits and vegetables and bag my own groceries at the supermarket (I’m finally remembering to bring my own bags each time). I’m always ready with a fifty-cent coin in case I need to use a restroom, even if it’s in a restaurant I’ve just had a meal in. I’ve learned to keep to the right on the road and on the footpath, and have learned to respond to “merci” (thank you) with “s’il vous plait” (please). Bread and water have been replaced by fries and beer as diet staples (it doesn’t help that beer is cheaper than water!) and I have become an expert in decalcifying household appliances. These past six months have just flown by, and they have been great. I can’t wait to see what Brussels has in store for us next.