I come from the land down under, but Brussels is a great place to follow.
It’s not that I spend my days in Canberra pining away, wishing I was in freezing winds, slated rain plus the low clouds of Brussels all the time, trying to shuffle along the cobblestones in my flat shoes because I cannot and had not worn heels in years in Brussels; that is not it.
And, it’s not that work and life and the beautiful backdrop of Canberra (also known as the ‘bush capital’) is not keeping me busy with walks, runs, and work increasing the sun spots on my face thanks to the harsh bright Aussie sun; because it is.
It is the case however that I am reminded of and have ties to Brussels, every day of my life here. Really, if it is not banking, loose ends from my former working life, a house, a partner ( long distance is a whole other book let alone a post so let’s talk about that later..) or the fact that I work for the EU where Brussels gets mentioned every day and we eternally wait for ‘Brussels to get back to us overnight’, it can be that I talk with someone from Brussels every day.
Either via Facebook or twitter, or messenger, or by many emails that fly back and forth in our digital age.
I think that the first week I started working at the EU Delegation in Canberra someone had come back from Brussels and brought Neuhaus chocolates, a month later a colleague was going for the first time and I was advising on where to stay, what to do, what they must see and which chocolates they had to bring back for us.
Part of my work now is organising trips for a prize winner of the EU Qantas Journalism Award so all that background on the city helps from giving them the best transport advice to where they should go for a drink (St. Catherine).
Some of my friendships in Canberra are Brussels related, the way I do things (a colleague looked at me horrified when I put apple on a cheese toast – it was strong brie!), the way I talk (apparently) and the way I enjoy myself seem to have changed too.
You see the last time I lived in Australia was in 2007, and by February of 2008 I had moved to Brussels not having come back at all in the meantime. Now when I go to the supermarket people tell me I have a French singing type of accent (?) one person ventured: “Was it Belgian by any chance!?”. They had a Belgian background.
My everyday work is translating what is happening in Brussels for an Australian context, so it does help that I love Brussels. In fact, it is a major bonus.
I left Brussels for Canberra in February 2015 and in the past two years and nine months I have been back to Brussels three times, and love and talk about, (what else?) the chocolate, the frites, its parks, its galleries, have been berating people visiting this December about their absolute obligation to visit the Christmas market and generally missing the closeness of Brussels to the rest of Europe; in contrast to the massive Australia.
So you could say, I’m missing Brussels but in our ‘interconnected and complex times’ have I really left?