New and Different Things
Here are some of the things I've noticed about the Belgian culture that are different from ours:
1- Greetings. Every time you say hello or goodbye, you kiss everyone on their left cheek. In America, we shake hands or wave. Waving is a lot faster, but I absolutely love the kiss. Even with people you don't know, they kiss you. It's so much more informal than handshakes. Guys will sometimes shake hands (like at Rotary meetings) but mostly everyone just kisses. And says "Enchantee" which I am in love with.
2- American music is on the radio all the time. And they play the same songs they do at home, but they don't edit anything out. It's all real. I am still shocked when I hear some words play on the radio, but no one understands what they mean. A really popular new song is called "What the Fuck" and everyone sings it without noticing anything. And little kids know more words to American music than I do (which is impressive, because I know A LOT of songs)!
3- Everyone dresses so preppy here! Remember the girl on Clifford, The Big Red Dog, named Emily? She always wore her sweater draped over her shoulders and tied below her neck. We thought this was so weird when we were little, because we all just tied our sweaters around our waists. Well over here, that is the only way to do it! Except for you don't tie the sweater, you just let the sleeves hang down. It's kind of hard to picture it, but it's just very preppy. And remember how in junior high, everyone wanted to show how cool they were by wearing shirts from brand names saying things like "Hollister Beach Babe" and "Abercrombie Cutie"? Those are HUGE here. Just plain t-shirts with the brand name plastered all over the shirt. Also, everyone wears skinny jeans and scarves of all sorts. It's just a very preppy look.
4- When people hear I'm from the United States, they ask where. I say Wyoming, and no one really understands until I say "cowboys" and Yellowstone. And then they understand. And they all want to know why I picked Belgium instead of France. They genuinely are confused as to why I would want to go here when I could go to a place like France. And then they start the French jokes...
5-Before I came to Belgium, I was told that everyone speaks English and it would be really easy to adjust because of that. Well, everyone thinks they speak English. Some actually speak it really well, and try to help me, but others confuse me more. One girl was trying to explain an ice cream truck and kept calling it "the ice man". I was baffled. Other people just want to practice their English with me, which I love, but then I suddenly forget all my French and it takes a while for me to switch languages again. And when people speak to me in English, my immediate reply is in English, and then I'm told that we speak French here and I should learn it. Or I will be explained something in French, and actually understand it, just to be told the same thing with several different variations from several different people trying to explain it in English. It's really cute that they all want to practice their English, and most people actually speak very well, but it can be quite confusing.
6- Cheerleading is literally a foreign concept to older people. They know "pom-pom girls", but view them as kind of a joke. That's the only thing even comparable to cheerleading that they would know, and it's not that similar. Teenagers all know what cheerleading is, and see it in the movies, and think it's 'super-cool'. I can't explain the purpose of cheerleading or tumbling or stunting to anyone because I don't know the language well enough yet. And when they ask me if I do any sports, I say cheerleading, and those that know of it tell me that's not a sport. So in that regard, it's very similar to America!
7- Belgium has 3 official languages: French, Dutch, and German. Very few people speak German, but near Germany it's very popular (duh.). Everywhere else, everything has multiple languages on it. Restaurant menus have one side in French, the other Dutch. Street signs in Walloon have French in big letters, Dutch in little letters. People will talk about seeing foreigners, and I hope they're from England or America, but the term "foreigner" usually means Turkish or Muslim. It's all very confusing. And the word "ici" means "here" in French. The word "hier" means "here" in Dutch, but "yesterday" in French. Signs everywhere say things like "FRITES! ICI HIER" And I always take that to mean "FRIES! HERE YESTERDAY" instead of "FRIES! HERE (fr) HERE (ne)". And then I get sad, because the fries aren't there anymore. It was so confusing at first, but I'm getting better. And I did a fruit wordsearch today first in French, then in Dutch, and I found all but 2 of the Dutch words. Which is cool, considering all I know how to say in Dutch is "hier".
That's all I can think of now, but I'll add on if I notice any more. In other news, there is this huge music festival in Belgium called Pukkelpop. It's three days long as has huge names perform like Wiz Khalifa, Eminem, 3 Doors Down, and many more little names. Today was the first day of the festival and due to the rain, one of the stages collapsed. It's estimated that 6 people are dead and over 40 injured. It's really sad that people went to a concert to have fun and a major incident like that happened. I know some people that were there and I hope they're okay, but I'm sure they are. Pukkelpop sounds like a sweet concert, I wish I could've gone and stages wouldn't collapse!