Grand Place - Brussels, Belgium

A Tribute to Brussels

Reading Time: 3 minutes

It was December 11th, 2014 when I arrived to Brussels. On my very first day arriving, I met a Belgian who worked at the hostel I stayed at. He told me something that rang true by the time of my departure and afterward: “You hate coming to Brussels, you hate living here, and then you hate leaving.”

I had no impression of what Brussels would be. When I accepted my job offer, the only thing I knew was that it was the Capital of the European Union. It was my second time in Europe and the first time had given me reason to come back, so where better than EU Central? What I was telling myself was more of a wish than a fact, and I was hoping the former would become the latter:

“I love Europe, so I’ll love the Capital of Europe.”

Oh how innocent I was. As you probably guessed already, my first month was horrible. I had few friends, I was apartment-less and I was broke. It wasn’t anyone’s fault but mine for not preparing enough. The problem was that I needed money to rent a place, but I needed to have a place in order to have a residence permit. Also, I needed a residence permit in order to get paid for work. It was confusing – and navigating through a bureaucratic system parlayed in French and Dutch didn’t help me either.

Eventually, I got it all figured out. I had my bank account open and I found an apartment, moving in with a couple that made my life easier. This was the beginning of an upward trend in my time there. I started renting my new place on the day before Christmas and they made me a Christmas dinner as a welcoming gift. Relief wasnt enough to describe it. It was as if a weight was lifted off of my shoulders and heart.  From that day forward, I knew that  Belgium’s clouds could be weathered by the people who lived there.

But the actual place I was renting was terrible. I recall not having hot water for upwards of two weeks. Some of the weakest wifi I have ever had. To top things off, my room eventually was infested with flies. Five months into my contract, I decided to move. I had already become acquainted with the city and I knew the good areas. I could finally find a place more fitting for me.

When I moved, I found a wonderful place in the better part the city that was close to amazing bars, fritkots and the European Parliament. To add to the beauty, summer had finally come. Anyone who knows me knows that I love summer and it was simply wonderful. Hanging out with new interns at the EU Headquarters, drinking beer by St. Catharine, eating at Mama Roma’s pizza place, going hiking every weekend while travelling on others. It took seven months for Brussels to feel like home.

When I finished my work contract, I didn’t realize what I was going to miss. I knew I wasn’t going to miss the bureaucracy and navigating it a language I didn’t know. What I did end up missing was everything else. Brussels is weird. There’s no arguing that. But I learned to love it, like you learn to love that ghetto bar close by. It’s not the cleanest and it may not even have the nicest people, but it’s honest – and that honesty is undeniably comforting.

After I got over the shock of the airport bombings on that took place two days ago, I can safely say that it will recover because of the people there. As much as they complain about the city – and as much as I did – there is an undeniable love there.

It will recover because Belgium always recovers – even if it’s in the most inefficient way possible.