Traveling the world, learning languages, and immersing myself in new cultures.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

14 Things This American Notices Between Spain and Belgium

After a year and a half of living in Spain, and almost five years living in Belgium, I’m going to compare the two countries, based on my experiences in them. Obviously, everyone is going to have different opinions, and feel free to post in the comments, but this is my blog, so you get to experience these two countries through my eyes now (and you will like it because I have good vision. I got Lasik a few years ago. Best decision ever). I will do my best to avoid a Pamplona versus Brussels article, and keep it more general, however, the majority of my experiences have come from these two cities.

Let’s start off with some common ground. Both Spain and Belgium:

1. Are in the EU = football (fútbol), euros, metric system, EuroVision, etc.

2. Have north and south cultural divisions, exemplified by difference in language and traditions (though Spain takes this a bit farther with some east/west divisions as well).

3. Have two languages on street signs. Flemish and French in Belgium. Spanish and Euskera in Navarra, Spanish and Gallego in Galicia, Spanish and Catalan in Catalonia, Spanish and Valencian in Valencia, and Spanish and whatever it is they speak in Andalusia (haha).

4. Have a king.

Now, on to the good stuff, the differences:

1. The Spanish dub everything on TV and movies. In Belgium you can usually find an original version of any movie. I've heard in Madrid and Barcelona they have more original version movies, but not anywhere else in Spain.

2. The Spanish take a siesta/ break in middle of day. This is not the same hour long lunch break in Belgium, but a legitimate shut-down of all businesses, up to three hours, depending upon the industry.

3. The Spanish eating schedule is really late. If you go out for dinner in Belgium, everything is crowded between 7pm and 9pm. In Spain, they don't even start to eat dinner until 10pm, and restaurants are open until 12am on weekdays.

4. In Spain, most bars serve good food, especially the pinchos found in the north. In Belgium, bar food is not quite so delicious... in fact, I can't think of any Belgian food that is just amazing. I like mussels and waffles, but they don't come close to fried zucchini pinchos or chorizo a la sidra

Mama, what is the big yellow thing in the sky? A luxury?

5. Belgians are not bothered by rain. Life continues like normal, because rain IS normal. The Spanish seem to disappear as soon as a drop falls from the sky, especially in the south, where it rains very little. And, in the north of Spain, which does not in anyway fit the stereotypical beautiful weather that people associate with Spain, the people still are rain averse. 

6. As a foreigner I've had some interesting experiences in Europe, but I remember when I got my residency in Belgium, the Belgian police came to my house to verify my address and my residency. In Spain, not so much. Once I had my paperwork, that was the end of vigilance. 

7. Tuenti (Spain) vs Mobile Vikings (Belgium). Two low-cost cell/mobile phone operators, the best in each country in my opinion, however, Mobile Vikings has far superior customer service and product offerings. Not exactly what I was expecting, since "the people in Spain are generally less cold than the rest of Europe". (not sure who I'm quoting here, but I've heard this many times).

8. The size difference – in 2 hours, you can be anywhere in Belgium. Spain is quite a bit bigger. Although it is still super small compared to America, and I find it funny when Spanish people think that 4 hours is a "such a long drive".

9. The cost of living is way cheaper in Spain. In Brussels specifically, cost of living is ridiculous, since they are taking advantage of the diplomats. I'm in the north of Spain, where it's a bit more expensive than the rest of Spain, but to me, everything is still cheap.

10. Quality of life is better in Spain. Thanks to the culture, the mentality, and the food, life is just more relaxing and enjoyable in Spain; even in the north. 

What do you think? 

This list is based on my experiences and I'm curious if you agree of disagree. For the Spanish and Belgians, do you agree with my list? For the non-Spanish and non-Belgians, what have you noticed in either country, or differences between the two?

Thanks for reading! For more on my life in Navarra, check out VEN con TMax.

(some of the images/videos used in this post are from other sources and not my own)



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