We have been going through what is perhaps one of the most unusual periods of time here in Belgium – an entire month of (almost) continuous sun. In certain cases, the temperature here was warmer than in some regions of the Med!
The thing is, most items are normal to the locals. They do not bat an eyelid at the wide range of things that we foreigners find absolutely mind-boggling.
Take the conversation I had with a friend this week. We were sharing a drink and catching up at one of the many places that adorn the magnificent Grand Place. A few beers later and we started chuckling about Belgium.
“Do you know what the problem is?” my friend said as he munched on a handful of peanuts, “They’re still learning how to be a country – that’s why they [couldn’t] form a government; it’s not incompetence, it’s ignorance. Childish ignorance.” He nodded at his own wise words, convinced that he was correct.
“Still learning?” I asked. I tried to sound as if I believed his theory but I wanted more information to see if I should just laugh out loud or order another round of beer.
“Take this example,” he continued after a mouthful of Belgian’s finest, “my wife has finally finished her driving lessons.” I knew that his better half was going through the joy of learning how to drive and I had often heard of his attempts to get a cheap second-hand car that she would be able to 'smash up as she sees fit' (his words) once she got her licence.
“She went in for the first test yesterday. I won’t mention how long she had to wait in the queue because that’s government muppets for you, but I will talk about the result of her test.”
I raised an eyebrow, “Oh?”
This did not seem to be strange but then I’ve never driven with his wife before.
“That’s a good thing, right?”
“Oh I’m happy about that and so, obviously, is she. The thing is, this is just the first part of the test and it’s just a simple written one. The second test is a practical one.”
I shrug. “Makes sense.”
“Perhaps – but the second one is in six months’ time.”
I shake my head, “That’s a long gap.”
“It’s not the gap that worries me,” he continued, “it’s the fact that since she passed the written test she can now legally drive… as long as, in six months’ time, she takes the test to prove that she can, in fact, drive.”
Which explains a lot.
Of course, this is the country that, due to the vagaries of case-law, also has a law that says it is legal to throw brussels sprouts at tourists.
The Unexpected Traveller, who occasionally answers to the name of Antoine, works in the murky world of IT where he does lots of stuff he can't explain to his grandparents. He travels, for fun or for work or for funny work, and enjoys noticing that the world is full of odd and strange wonders. He writes about his stories and encounters on his blog. You can find unexpectedness as it happens on Twitter or spot him lurking on Facebook.