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According to a study released recently by the Brussels Studies think tank, Brussels sees its expats as a ‘separate community’.
Being an expat myself, who came to Brussels, not by choice or to improve my knowledge of Belgian beers, but mainly motivated by professional opportunities; this study comes as no surprise. Indeed, after three years in this ‘separate community’, I fully understand the feeling of the Bruxellois who consider us as a sort of high-salaried and over-graduated ‘caste’ with its own codes, language, rituals, and even district.
If you want to experience “EU-land”, there is no better place than Place du Luxembourg on a Thursday evening around 7pm. This square, located a stone’s throw from the European Parliament in the very heart of the EU district; encapsulates the EU expat community. Young, good looking MEP assistants chatting with handsome and ambitious consultants (absolutely! – Ed.) while enjoying a couple of beers, switching from English to Polish, from French to Spanish; laughing and yelling about the latest rumour on the new Commissioner for Environment.
If you come from outside EU-land, you might not understand a single word of the conversation. I sometimes have the impression that the EU expat community is constantly living a second “Erasmus” exchange, with the difference that more money is involved.
English, or better said “Brussels jargon”, is the common language of expats. The EU-district is its working area, Ixelles, Etterbeek, Uccle, and Bruxelles-Ville are the places where the majority of expats live. You will rarely find an EU expat living in Scharbeek or Jette. EU Expats even have their bars and restaurants which they like to frequent on an almost daily basis, and there is even sports competitions organised between various groups of expats.
Then again, opportunities to meet Belgian people, except your local baker or the cashier in Delhaize, are rare. What a pleasure it is then for me when my Belgian uncle invites me for a Sunday lunch in Ganshoren. I enjoy the conversion with my cousins, about the bars and shops I have never even heard of, and truly realise that I am living in Belgium.
Ever wondered what was standing in the place of the European Parliament 200 years ago when you were smoozing on Place Lux? No? Me neither but it’s definitely something I’ll ponder next time I am there.
The ‘Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique’ has put a map online of Belgium drawn by Comte de Ferraris back in 1777 which became famous in the map-addict circles for being the first modern map based on mathematical calculations. Honestly, the precision of the map and the quality of the drawings is quite astonishing and deserves a quick gaze.
Compare it to Google maps and you could hardly tell which one is more precise. One bad point though: de Ferraris’ one doesn’t have the street view…
Today, the 9th of May, marks Europe Day – an occasion established to commemorate the anniversary of Robert Schuman’s proposal for the creation of an organised Europe. Today we celebrate the very essence of what Europe is and what it means to be European.
Here at Grayling we wanted to revel in this European spirit in which people meet and connect with each other by going live with our very own blog called “The Lobby”. The Lobby is about the EU institutions, Brussels, and the world of EU public affairs and public relations. Sporadically it touches upon music, good food, art, technology, and unfair referees…all the things that make for everyday conversation.
Feel free to enter The Lobby, have a wander, a ponder and read about what’s hot in Brussels; pick up our latest publications on the “Coffee Table”; hear the latest gossip on “Place Lux” and of course you are more than welcome to share your views with us!
Wishing you an enjoyable Europe Day!
– Maxime, Rob, and Emil