Life as it is: Brussels

Monday, the sun is shining through my window as I quickly get ready for school and grab my stuff. When I step out of my door, I see two of my friends on their way to school. I join them and we start talking about our weekends.

I have only lived in Brussels for 6 months know, but the city and its citizens have really given me a warm welcome. When I first came here, I knew nothing or no one, but after a few days I already made quit a lot of friends and got to know the city. These friends have only became better and closer friends and the city started to feel more and more like home to me.

Feeling like an insider instead of an outsider is the best thing that can happen when you move to a new city. And that is how I feel living in Brussels. I feel part of this city and its community. A rich community with more than 100 languages spoken and home to more than 180 nationalities. And I also love being so close to other countries, which makes international trips and short getaways so easy.

Only day 2

After my second day of school, I went to “Spanjeplein” here in Brussels. As we were chilling and talking a little bit, we saw something weird across the square. There was a man talking aggressively to a woman and waving his hands around. The woman seemed to be sick and puking in the grass. As I watched this happening, I looked over to my friends and saw they were watching too. One of my new friends said to me “This is not okay we should go check.”. We simply could not ignore what was happening and without even thinking I stood up and walked over there with her. As we came closer, we saw that the man had tied a rope around the woman’s arm and had just injected her with some heroine. We were shocked to see this and went over to ask if everything was okay. The only one replying was the man, while the person we were worried about was the woman. She was obviously sick and someone had just shot her up with heroine. As we asked here if she was okay (in French), she still didn’t reply. The man said everything was fine and made it seem like he wanted us to go. So we left. It was a really weird experience.

Right after this happened, the next thing already started. At the other side of the square, a gang fight was starting. One of my friends overheard that they were fighting because a boy had stolen from a girl from the opposite gang. As they started fighting, I didn’t really know where to look and what to do. I honestly had never seen anything like this. We saw them punching and kicking each other. After a while, the fight came to an end, I think because they had had enough.

Feeling at home in the big city

So enough about negative experiences in Brussels. The positive experiences definitely win. From day one, I have been really in love with the city and its vibe. I would not have picked any other city in Belgium. I like the – what I like to call – “big city vibe” that you have around here. I also like that there are so many types of people, so many nationalities, a lot of tourists,… And each one of these people has an interesting story to tell. I also find people in Brussels really kind and open to talk. That’s also one of the things that made me feel at home here so quickly.

The old man and the dog in the morning

For example, there is this old man who regularly walks with his dog and each time I come across him he says “Bonjour!”. So after a while I remembered him as the “bonjour-man” and started saying bonjour to him first. He smiled and said bonjour back. Small things like this can really put a smile on my face and others.

A vintage loving city

Another thing I really love in Brussels is thrift shops. Compared to my hometown (Hasselt), Brussels has so many. And I love it. My wallet and my mom might not like this fact as much as I do. I find thrifting the funniest and best way to shop for clothes. As you find unique pieces and buy sustainable fashion instead of fast fashion. A short list of stores definitely worth a visit: Think Twice, Foxhole, Episode, Vintage per kilo etc.

I am actually unsure about where my love for vintage started. I remember that, as a child, my parents took me to antique shops or markets and I looked beyond bored at all the “old stuff”. But all that has changed now. I now have a real love for vintage things (not only clothes). When I walk past a thrift store here in Brussels and have a little time, I just have to walk in. I’ve always had a thing for fashion and (making) clothes. I learnt how to sew when I was about twelve years young and started making my own clothes or little teddy bears.

I’ve always had kind of my own style. I wouldn’t say I am a person who really follows fashion. The reason why I love thrift shopping so much are the unique pieces you find. It is so nice to find a real “one of a kind” that will more than likely have a heck of a story to tell. Besides just thrift shopping, I also like to adjust or “thriftflip” clothes. This is a way of modernising a piece or adding more of your personal style to it. I find this a really fun thing to do.

Partying

As far as concerns going out, I honestly did not really have the time to party a lot in the past months. I have to admit that I only went to a real event just once. This was Hiphop night at “Madame Moustache”, a bar near the “Sint-Katelijneplein”. I had a really good night and definitely enjoyed the music. Apart from dancing, I did go for drinks a couple of times, the “Sint-Katelijneplein” or Gorikshallen are my favourites. They both have some lovely cafes and bars.

Construction works

Another typical thing about Brussels is that there are always construction works. Ask any local and they will definitely tell you how bad it is! Fences, excavators, etc. are seen everywhere in the city. For example the “Anspachlaan”. The city has been working on this street since for forever (2 years to be exact). The end is finally near, or, at least, they’re halfway.  With this 28 million euro project, Brussels wants to improve their mobility, air quality and solidarity. The avenue will be filled with more than 3000m² of green islands, there will also be trees and a fountain on the square. I’m really looking forward to seeing the result of these works!

Brussels’ specialities

Brussels is also a culinary city. With specialties like fries, chocolate, waffles and of course Belgian beer. Let’s talk a little more about that last one. Belgium is a country with a real beer culture. Beer has become part of its culture and lots of beers are brewed in Belgium (Jupiler, Stella, Cristal, Brugse Zot,…). In 2016, Belgian beer was added to the list of UNESCO heritage. The culture is also really visible when entering a café and just looking at the diversity of beers on the menu. If you’re a fan of beer, you should really consider visiting the Belgian Beer Brewers Museum. The museum was built into the basement of the old Brewers’ House at Grand Place.

My name is Charlotte. I’m 19 years old and born in Hasselt, Belgium. Growing up I started loving tourism and traveling more and more, so I decided to study tourism. My wanderlust and hunger to travel and explore grew and got fed by wonderful family vacations to Sri-Lanka, Bali, Florida, Crete etc. But for me tourism is definitely not always about visiting a far-away destination, I’m really enjoying myself here in Brussels now, because it’s a new city to me. So that proves to me that tourism, discovering and exploring does not always demand someone to get on a plane and fly to another part of the world. Besides my interest in travel, I’m really interested in photography, interior and fashion. Luckily for me all those go together quite well.
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