I think this blog post is going to be more focused on what I have noticed about Belgian culture rather than just an update.
A few words on how I am doing before the culture talk, however. I am now more than three weeks or so in and I must say I have been finding it hard to keep in contact with those back home because of varying schedules. It’s scary to think we’re all doing our own things wherever we may be but it’s always nice to see familiar faces or hear familiar voices whether that be on the phone or through Skype.
Last Wednesday was a congé (holiday) for the French community. This means that there were no lectures to attend and consequently meant I could have a day to relax and get some work done. I went to breakfast with a friend I met at church that day who is German and working at an orphanage for a year in Belgium and we went to a Crêpe restaurant for breakfast. The crêpes were incredibly tasty and I was surprised by how many combinations of sweet and savoury foods you could have with crêpes! Who knew you could have crêpes with fish?! I’m not entirely sure how that would go down however but I’m sure it would be nice if that is the sort of thing you enjoy! Different strokes for different folks aye?
That evening, I went to the cinema with my flatmates to watch ‘HhHH’ because they had an offer on at the cinema. HhHH is a film about one of the SS soldiers, Reinhardt and the resistance of Czech soldiers. It was incredibly heartwarming to see the comradery between the Czech soldiers and their fraternité but I couldn’t help but dislike this movie because it was incredibly violent and I feel I’m rather sensitive to movies like this. I don’t think I was the only one, however, as one of my flatmates, who was sat next to me jumped at every gunshot. How I was convinced to watch this movie I do not know, I will not be watching this film ever again! Nevertheless, you can’t beat a good offer!
On the topic of church, I attended my first Bible study at the Protestant church and was given a French bible! I really enjoyed bible study but I was really nervous about praying or singing in French because it was such a small gathering. I did gather up the courage to pray in French however even if it lasted a minute at most! Still, I consider this as progress! It’s very difficult to find the words that you already recognise in English and use them in French especially when you are discussing the Bible or trying to praise God. Nevertheless, I’m going to keep trying – petit à petit, ça va aller. Don’t get me wrong, my French is by no means great even though people will compliment me on my efforts. I still make frequent faux-pas or resort to saying things in English when all else fails. For instance, once I told my flatmate that I was leaving him to go upstairs but instead of saying je te laisse, i said je te quitte. For those of you who don’t know the difference, the second is what you say when you’re dumping someone that you are in a relationship with. This was definitely a cringe-worthy moment as he had mentioned that his girlfriend had dumped him about a year ago.
Moving on swiftly back to Church, yesterday, I went to my first GBU meeting – this was also in French! GBU is the Groupe Biblique Universitaire which gathers to study God’s word and be missionaries on campus to spread the Good News of the Gospel. We are currently reading through 1 Peter or 1 Pierre. We’ve only just started but I’m really enjoying analysing chapter one and being reminded of the need to continuously exercise faith despite rough patches because Jesus has promised us an inheritance that can never be corrupted, made dirty or wither away. I look forward to continuing this book.
Culture in Belgium
With regards to the culture here, there is a lot to like but there is a lot to dislike. For example, I just find working hours very awkward and inconvenient. I tried to buy a syllabus for one of my courses and the opening hours were something like 10h30 – 11-h30, then it closed until 13:30-14:30. I turned up at 11h45 which meant I missed the first chance of the day by 15 minutes! I had lessons in the afternoon so I wasn’t able to make the second and last chance of the day to buy this syllabus. Moments like these just make you appreciate the 9am to 5pm (take or leave) mentality we have in the UK.
Aside from this, another thing I have noticed about Belgian student culture is the fact that beer is very popular among students and often makes an appearance at any social gathering, be that dinner or a party. For instance, my kot had a housewarming the other day and there was beer! Over here the brand caraplis seems to be really popular and I’ve learnt it’s a Belgian made product so this would make sense. Another thing students get up to here is folklore which I was told was quite prevalent here in Belgium by a Belgian friend. Students here take part in initiations called bâptemes where students endure three weeks of being shouted at, eating disgusting things, doing horrid and humiliating things all throughout the night in order to be accepted into a kot or a cercle. I’ve been told some very horrible stories about what some of the students get up to during these three weeks and seen for myself how humiliating it is and I just simply do not understand why this is not regulated. For instance, today in lectures at the hour break a bunch of students came down from the auditorium seats to the front where the lecturer was, they lay down with their face to the ground and started crawling while a girl (who I take is already a member of a cercle) was shouting and recording them. Get this, the lecturer just stood aside and let it happen! Over here, these things are part and parcel of student life and even the lecturers know this. Parties, beer and bâptemes are definitely not mon truc . Continue reading “Working hours, la bière and Belgian students #5”