Expat Voices: Jodi Everding on living in Belgium
Jodi Everding says there isn't a bad place to eat in this country (well almost) and is a big fan of shopping in Antwerp.
Name: Jodi Everding
City of residence: Brussels (but I will be splitting time between Brussels and Paris come January)
Date of birth: 28-6-75
Civil status: Single, but in a relationship
Occupation: Fabric Research & Development
Reason for moving to Belgium: My boyfriend took a job in Brussels, so I quit mine in the States and came with him!
Lived in Belgium : Since May 2010, with a 90-day "break" to return to the States due to lack of a visa.
What was your first impression of Belgium?
I speak specifically of Brussels here, but it reminded me a lot of Paris. I sometimes refer to it as "Baby Paris", which sorta sums it up for me--and I don't mean it in a bad way at all. It's like a less lively version of Paris.
What do you think of the food?
There isn't a bad place to eat here. Wait… actually, I may have found the ONLY bad restaurant in town (microwaved, day-old quiche… yuck), but at least the dinner special was cheap. I pride myself on getting out there and trying all of the foods that a city has to offer, and there's lots to be found in Brussels. The traditionally European fare is great, but if you dig deeper you can find good sushi and Thai and couscous and even a Columbian grocery that makes fresh empanadas daily.
What do you think of the shopping in Belgium?
In Antwerp, its bar none. In Brussels, it's OK. There are some great independent boutiques in the Dansaert/Chartreux area, a few other scattered around Place Brugmann that I think are great. And we've got all of the high-end and chain stores covered in Brussels, too. But if you really want to get inspired, pop on the train to Antwerp--it won't disappoint!
What do you appreciate about living in Belgium?
The outdoor markets with their fresh produce and spices and meats and cheeses. The quality (and range) of beers on offer. The different languages I hear on a daily basis (and the inspiration to get my French into gear).
What do you find most frustrating about living in Belgium?
The cold, dreary weather that depletes your will to leave the house. (I'm writing this in December…) Of course, in the summer it was pleasant and nice and alive with people at outdoor cafes. But these months of wet gloom are really quite depressing.
What puzzles you about Belgium and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
It puzzles me that everything I read said that Belgians were standoffish and not helpful, etc, etc because I have met and encountered nothing but nice people here. The Belgians I have encountered have gone out of their ways to help me in many ways. I am quite touched by it. I miss the ease of going to the grocery and picking up some vanilla extract or canned pumpkin or assorted other things for baking. I miss having a big oven, as well. I miss the confidence that comes with being fluent in the language spoken. My French is pretty OK, but I am slow on my feet and it's frustrating when I have a question but can't think of how to phrase it quickly.
How does the quality of life in Belgium compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
I think the quality of life here is good. The health care is good, the food is good, the shopping is good, the public transportation is good, the amount of culture on offer is good. I quite enjoy it here. Except for the weather.
If you could change anything about Belgium, what would it be?
I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but… the weather.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Get a good guidebook (there's a new Time Out guide out now) to get you started and then explore on your own. Learn the language (French if you're in Brussels) and don't be afraid to use it. People appreciate it when you at least try. Explore all over on foot; I've found so many things in Brussels by just wandering around with my boyfriend. And while you're wandering, take the time to stop and admire the architecture and have a coffee or a sweet and just enjoy being here. I know I am happy to be here… I hope you will be, too!
I keep a blog of my life in Brussels… and just of my life in general.