zzzzzzzHusband. Drummer. Marketing, Sales and Customer Service Specialist. Music and Art Collector. Road Cyclist. Volunteer. Traveler. bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb Amateur Photographer. Media/News/Coffee Junkie. Hockey Fan.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Frite To Be Tried: My Belgian Spin

My last few hours of 2+ weeks in Belgium. This has definitely been a trip to remember, full of terrific memories and unique experiences that I will savour for quite some time.

The Belgians are great hosts. It's not that they go out of their way to provide a warm welcome or great customer service. It is simply the way things are done; there is no 'phoning it in' over here. Not doing great work is simply unthinkable. That alone, I think, is what will resonate longest: the lack of pretence and a profound lack of attitude (OK, I came across a couple of D.B.'s and was snubbed by the greatest cyclist in history, Eddy Merckx - he can be rather cantankerous - but really that was it). Most interestingly, the concepts of 'who you are' or what one's 'status' is comes across as quite insignificant. "What do you do?", often one of the first questions asked upon being introduced back home, may come up in conversation here but much, much later. It's considered a rude lead off, actually. Better evaluations by local standards (or by any standard, in my view): Are you a good person? Respectful? Do good work no matter what that work is? From my experience anyway, these are paramount attributes in Belgium. It certainly shows in the treatment of guests, clients and the way Belgians interact with friends and family, and it is on display on roads and highways. Think of that, Vancouver: a country full of keen and courteous motorists. 

I covered Belgium's rich cycling tradition here the other day so at the risk of repeating myself all I'll say is this: cycling is to Belgium what hockey is at home. In fact, I would suggest it is even more tightly woven into the collective fabric. Even though most Canadians tune in and watch hockey, not many actually play either casually or as part of league. And you certainly don't see many seniors out there back-checking. 

Oh, yes...there's the beer. I've never been much for beer, preferring stiff drinks made with bourbon, scotch, rye, vodka...you get the idea. During my time here, however, I have not had a single cocktail, nor have they been missed. Triple Karmeliet is my new favourite drink, all 8.6% of it, a beer introduced to me by a helpful waiter in Oudenaarde. All hail to the monks that indulged in developing this other (more interesting and fun?) faith.

Of course, many of my observations are not unique to Belgium or Belgians. Over the last 16 days, however, I have taken keen notice of what I have experienced and it really has been very impressive - and humbling. I have witnessed and learned much (I hope) and intend to bring some of this exceptional hospitality and thoughtfulness home with me. I owe that to everyone who made this trip so extraordinary.

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