Happy Anniversary to us! No, not that one, the other one. Today we celebrate being in Belgium exactly one year to the day. I won't go over and summarise again how things have gone over the last year because I already did that (somewhat prematurely in fact) at the 9 month stage. But, suffice to say that it's been an extremely enjoyable, unpredictable and culturally eye-opening 12 months.
Life here is at times tricky (the language, finding work) but never dull. I'm lucky to be working regularly (for now, although I take nothing for granted when it comes to being an 'independent.'), have met a whole range of lovely people (in particular a couple of Americans who have enriched our lives no end and become really great friends) and have relished the chance to be able to explore other cities in Belgium as well as neighbouring countries. Being part of an island doesn't half cut you off. I've also never felt so pro the EU, warts and all.
You'd never guess that Belgian's capital city is also the home of the EU. Their political system is just an unfathomable mess. How the country survives is beyond me. And how Belgian is still one country is just a mystery. I guess, for now, it's just harder to break up than stay together. But, in my view, the long term outlook for Belgium isn't great. And their politicians, from both sides of the linguistic divide, are quite frankly a bloody disgrace. Even for a political anorak, I've grown tired of the endless wranglings and never-ending negotiations. Just to repeat: there is still no government in Belgium. The general election was on June 13th, 144 days (and counting) ago.
Yet, Belgians as a group, and in particular the Walloons, are a really friendly, polite and respectful bunch (except when they get behind the wheel of a car). Well, all the ones I've met anyway. Bloody unreliable and never on time for anything. Happily let their dogs crap wherever they feel like it. And you'd never guess entrepreneur was a French word because it certainly doesn't apply in Wallonia. But, still, they've been good company and I've never yet had one laugh or snigger at my French. Although the 2 year old son of a Belgian friend did take it upon himself to tell me (more than once) how to properly pronounce the French word for frog ("grenouille"), and got slightly irritated with me when I wasn't doing it correctly.
It's not easy living abroad. Without learning the language it's even harder. But, life is far easier, more relaxed and far far less stressful than it is in England. And people just seem so much happier. Or maybe that should be content. Certainly less aggressive and rude. Post-recession UK sounds pretty hard for an awful lot of people. I think I've chosen the right time to escape it for a bit.
And, I'll be here for another 2 years. Besides, haven't seen nearly enough of France yet!