Friday, 24 October 2014

Belgian tips

Just in case you find yourself in Belgium (and that is not impossible), here are some more handy tips I've found that could make your stay easier.

Zebra crossings are just a suggestion
I thought the standard system of 'stop when a pedestrian is crossing on the zebra crossing' was actually a pretty good one. Well, it seems not many people here agree with me, because from my experience it looks like zebra crossings are totally optional. For a lot of drivers, they are a bit of street art and not a lot more! They seem to stop (mostly) if carrying on would kill or maim the pedestrian, which really is the most important time to stop if I'm honest, so at least I have that to be thankful for.

Some of the traffic light systems actually make it so that cars can drive over the zebra crossing while pedestrians have the 'green man' showing, so we're not even safe when the misleading green man leads us over the road, having to stop mid-way for a car that hadn't noticed us. Great idea, Belgium..

If in doubt, say s'il vous plait!
As me and my mother found out during our trip to Brussels (post on its way), the phrase "s'il vous plait" means upwards of a gazillion different things. It means 'please', 'you're welcome', 'pardon', and probably more things that I hadn't noticed. This leads to funny situations, when people try to speak in English upon realising that we are Anglophones, and translate directly from the French. This conversation happened more than once:

1. Can I have this, please?
2. Yes, there you go.
1. Thanks!
2. Please.

You may realise that the additional 'please' at the end there is actually a translation of the "s'il vous plait" meaning 'you're welcome', but it is frequently (and oddly) translated as 'please' instead. This makes no sense at all to Anglophones. I think this also happens in German-speaking countries too, because the word for 'please' and 'you're welcome' is the same there, as well ("bitte").

The food here does not form a sustainable diet
According to the staff at my project, every volunteer who has stayed here before put on weight during the year or so that they were here, due mostly to the national diet. The food pyramid in Belgium is actually made up solely of chips and waffles (none of your fancy vitamins, not here, thank you very much!), so I suppose it's no surprise that one might gain a few pounds. I'm not complaining just yet, but I think my vital organs might be.

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