It's only when you live somewhere that you notice that the trivial, seemingly insignificant, things can in some cases serve as a good microcosm of society at large. The following may help to illustrate this:
1. There have been problems with Mons' ATMs for several months now. Specifically, the Fortis bank and its disputes with the company that delivers money to its machines. This has meant that withdrawing money isn't as straightforward as it should be. For now, they seem to be dispensing money as normal, but I read that the problem may well reoccur again.
2. I mentioned a few months back that my local supermarket, Match, had installed four self-service checkout machines. What I forgot to say was that in typical, make things as toruously slow as possible, Belgian-style, you are only allowed to pack your things after you have scanned all of your items and then paid for them. Doing so beforehand (I have tried), i.e. after each item, only messes everything up, and risks being told off by the staff.
3. Smoking is technically banned at Belgian train stations, yet this doesn't stop people having a puff on the platforms. Even the SNCB (the ones who run the trains) staff (ticket inspectors, maybe even the drivers!) like to get in on the act and have a drag at the odd stop.
4. After being severely delayed on two occasions on the train over the last few months, we did what any self-respecting English person did: filled in a form, hoping to get some form of compensation. Have we heard anything from them? Have we bollocks. Even though we are actually entitled to some sort of refund.
5. Belgians can't stand waiting. They don't understand the concept of queuing. They push and shove their way on and off trains. Two locals even had the temerity to push in front of me at Match! As I was standing in line, I bent down and went to get something out of my bag, which the person behind me used as an invitation to sneak past me. I stood my ground on the second occasion as someone else, even more blatantly, decided that me being in front of him didn't in any way mean that I should be next in line.
So, what do all these things have in common? Well, not much, except that when they do happen, I tend to sigh and tut and think to myself: 'oh, how very Belgian.'