As American college students getting ready to study abroad, we frequently were asked, “Why Brussels?” that is if they even know where the city is since most Americans think it’s in Germany (not one of our best qualities).
At the time, the only way to justify the question was that we were gaining experience as interns at Together Magazine, but we couldn’t help questioning why we didn’t choose a more classic study abroad location such as Paris, London or anywhere in Italy.
Now that we have been here for more than three months and the end of our stay nears, we really enjoy Brussels and could not have picked a better place to live and work.
We didn’t really appreciate Brussels until we started travelling to more touristy cities and missed the home we had made in Belgium. Everything from the people to prices to nightlife fell short of what we had experienced in the capitol of Europe. It was when we went further abroad that we realized the potential of where we were staying.
We arrived in mid January and it rained the entire first week. We were told the weather would be gloomier than we were used to, but arriving here with the onslaught of precipitation was a slap in the face from the study abroad gods. It was almost as if it was a sign that we had chosen the wrong place.
But the more we experienced what the city had to offer; our attitudes changed little by little without realizing that it happened. We started appreciating our favourite bars, restaurants, parks, etc. and especially the beer. The high alcohol percentage is quite pleasing to our American taste buds and it helps speed up the “going out” process. While we were in London, we went to a bar and asked for the most alcoholic beer on tap. The bartender told us they were all about the same at 5 percent. Though the beer was still good, it just wasn’t the same as Belgian brews.
The people in Brussels are always nice to talk to because the city is not overrun with tourists. Many of the people we have met here are not native Belgians; they typically come from a different country but were drawn to Brussels for political or business reasons. Because of that, the Belgians are used to non-touristy outsiders and are more willing to meet and hang out with people from different countries.
Although Brussels may not be the most beautiful or popular city in Europe and their symbol is a little boy peeing, it is a fantastic city to live in. Brussels is for the people.
Now when people ask us, “Why Brussels?” we can simply respond, “You just wouldn’t understand.”