"Xenophobe's® Guides: Enthusiasms"

Xenophobe's® Guides: Belgian enthusiasms

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Want to know what gets a Belgian hot under the collar? Here's an idea of what stimulates their passion.

Xenophobe's® Guides: A book series that highlights the unique character and behaviour of different nations with insight and humour. 

Beneath all that social conformity lurks a nation of strongly moulded individuals – an individuality expressed less in unconventional dress and behaviour than in enthusiasms, some of which can be all-consuming.

Belgians can be passionate about their jobs, whether they be vets, soldiers, sewage workers, or cheesemongers. A recent survey showed that 70 percent of Belgians are happy in their work – 10 percent more than the British or the Italians.

"I love West Africa," said the parasitologist from Ghent, thrilled to be back in Senegal. "For me this is paradise. I love the people, I love the villages. But most of all I love it because it has so many parasites!" More often, however, the job is only a means to fund the real driving passion for some activity pursued out of office hours, at dawn, dusk, weekends and through the night: cycling, football, gardening, dogs, stamps, computers, racing pigeons, etc.

Belgians are avid collectors. A corner of the garage, a cupboard in the bedroom or an entire suburban house is likely to contain evidence of this: definitive collections of matchboxes, early typewriters, tin soldiers, swizzle sticks. Dotted round the nation are pocket-sized private museums, open to the public, of locks and keys, porcelain figures, lace bobbins, chips, old clocks, tombstones...

One collection was triggered by a car accident which for a while left taxi-driver Mr. Alfred David with an odd gait. Comments that he ‘walked like a penguin' spurred him to turn his home into a museum devoted to penguin paraphernalia. His house became so crammed that his wife apparently presented him with an ultimatum: either all the clutter left or she would. It went, and he with it.

Bizarre collections do not bother the Belgians: they like enthusiasm, as long as it stays within the bounds of decorum, of course. And if they do not have their own private equivalent of a penguin museum stashed away in a shoe box under the bed, they rather wish they did.

For more, read The Xenophobe's Guide to the Belgians.

Reproduced from Xenophobe's Guide to the Belgians by kind permission of Xenophobe's® Guides.

Photo credit: brianac37 / Republished 2016.

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