Found a few facts and figures relating to the Belgians whilst trawling through Le Metro, which has become my indispensable guide to all things going on in this country. That, and being very helpful at expanding my French vocab.
A study has found that about one in four Belgians smoke, with the habit increasing with age. Whereas around 25% of 15-24 year olds smoke, that figure rises to 33% for 45-54 year olds. Some of these figures do seem to vary according to which report you consult. It also suggest that Belgians are towards the lower end of the scale in terms of people who smoke in the EU, according to a European Commission study released last year which showed the Greeks to be Europe's biggest smokers at 42% (so when they're not busy rioting, they're busy smoking), with the Slovaks the lowest at 22%. We're on 28%, which is about 5 points higher than I thought we'd be, although the effects of the smoking ban may take a few more years to kick in.
Yet more evidence (this time more than simply my anecdotal stuff) to back up my claims of 'rip-off Belgium,' are found in a joint Franco-Belgian study which concludes that the cost of food is on average 12% more expensive in Belgium compared to France. A food basket containing exactly the same items from the two countries will cost you €473.50 in France (that's some weekly shop), but will set you back €540.60 in Belgium. There are variations within the report of certain foods being cheaper in Belgium, but overall the picture is one that I've been boringly banging on about since I moved here.
And, staying with this theme, a European Commission report this week finds that Belgium has amongst the dearest mobile phone (le GSM as they're sometimes called here) tariffs in the EU. Only Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands pay more to use theirs.
And so to something different. Whilst browsing through my Metro this week I stumbled across a job advert for a number of posts at a hotel in Brussels. The whole advert had been written using some rather bad English, and I know it's cruel to laugh, especially when I'd love my French to be this 'bad,' but it did make me giggle. A lot. For example, the vacancies listed include: 'revenue manager,' 'floor supervisor' (whatever that is) and a 'mice coordinator.' Now, I'm not entirely sure what a 'mice coordinator' is. At first I thought they meant cleaner but they have also listed 'public cleaner' as an available post.
Maybe something to do with pest control, but aren't they usually linked to environmental health type agencies? Still, the advert asks you to: "Challenge yourself for Great Spirit at work...at a hotel that is away from the ordinary." And to reply, you are to, "jump on your mobile and compose 02 224..." I'm sure there are dozens of other gems in the Metro everyday, and I shall now be trying to look out for them.
I never understand why when foreign companies or galleries/museums, or governmental bodies, want to write something in English, they don't double-check things with a native English-speaker first. But then if they did, it'd take away my fun.