Antwerp Polaroids, street photography, travel Europe, Belgium,

A while ago I wrote a blog post about the things I miss about Belgium now we’re living in Sweden and many asked me why I’d stay here up north if I miss my home country.

To me (us) moving to Sweden was never about hating Belgium or thinking that everything in Sweden is better. We’ve been thinking/dreaming/talking about living abroad for a while and at one point you either choose to jump or to get stuck dreaming forever. We chose to take action.

We’ve been looking at different places, different countries, and our wishes, desires, and needs. After my solitude project in 2015, it clicked with this area. Our biggest wish was to live in some place close to nature where we would be able to walk the dogs right from our home (instead of taking a car), where we would be able to go swimming in summer and hiking in the snow in winter.

Never did we plan on turning our back on Belgium and as you can read in the blog post, there are things to cherish in every country. (as there are things to dislike in every country)

So here are 10 things I definitely not miss about Belgium:

1. In Belgium everybody seems to be in a hurry. Doing things quickly. Always having the phone close by and letting it interrupt conversations. In traffic, you need to hurry all the time, keeping your foot ready for the green light, crossing quickly, smoothly merging on the highway. Quickly deciding whether or not to stop for an orange light. Hurry from one meeting to another. Running errands instead of going to the shop.

2. There is no nature left to enjoy. Everything seems to be fenced, private, and loaded with rules. Every collection of trees (hard to call it a forest) has a woodward chasing dog lovers that let their dog run off-leash or people that are involved in ‘illegal’ activities like peeing or picking mushrooms. And oh my, the idea of making a fire somewhere… impossible. Swimming in a river or pond? Illegal and/or dangerous. Camping in nature? Illegal. Sleeping in your car? Illegal. No wonder people go crazy. Also dirt everywhere. How difficult can it be to not leave your junk in the public space?

3. It’s impossible to park your car anywhere and there is always stress about fines. Luckily I love taking the bus but one can’t do everything by public transport.

4. Streets seem the perfect place to show off the state’s impressive collection of lights, signs, and creative solutions to slow down traffic. Sure I get it that there are too many cars, that they’re bad for the environment but for heaven’s sake, frustrating drivers isn’t going to solve that. And how many road signs can one person spot? I used to be exhausted from driving.

5. Traffic jams everywhere. The last time we were in Belgium, we had one at 12. Noon! Wtf?
I remember that when we moved to Sweden, we often asked people how long the drive was to a certain place and we were utterly confused when they replied in miles. “Yes, but how long does it take?”
I haven’t been stuck in traffic in years. If I spot other cars, I call that busy.

6. Most places don’t allow dogs to be off-leash. And to get to a place where they can have some fun, one needs a car.

7. It’s much harder to find activities that don’t cost any or much money. For example: here we can go skiing, ice skating, grill sausages outdoors, hiking, swimming, kayaking, … none of it costing more than your own gear or food, and for most activities, I don’t have to go far. Sure it’s harder to go to the movies, fancy restaurants, workshops, or other organized activities, but the base level of possibilities feels covered. I certainly don’t mind spending money on the things that I love, want, or need, but now they feel like something extra. In summer, I can walk out into my garden and jump in the lake to feel refreshed. I don’t need a car for that, nor do I have to buy a ticket. If I wish to, I wouldn’t even need a bathing suit haha. It’s also totally normal to meet up with friends, bring some simple food and drinks and hang out by a fire while in Belgium it’s more common to meet at a bar or restaurant. If I would want to ski, I had to go to an indoor event or book a trip abroad.
In my opinion, having the basics covered adds to our quality of life.

8. There is no way to escape other humans.
Sometimes I just want to be alone. Clear my mind or think while walking or having a good time with my dogs. In Belgium there are people everywhere, all the time. And they have opinions.

9. I don’t feel as safe in Belgium as I feel here. In Belgium, I’ve been in unpleasant situations several times, always because of men- and bystanders doing nothing. It takes extra energy to always watch your back and bag- and speak up or even defend yourself. And of course, it’s no utopia here, I’m not naive. I’ve seen the crime numbers from Sweden and they’re no good but I guess that with more space and less stressed people close to each other, there is less chance to get in trouble.

10. The mess that is Belgium. Especially when it comes to buildings. (check the website Ugly Belgian houses) lol. I’m not sure if I’d ever become bored of all the red houses here, but at the moment it’s just so visually satisfying. Even with different construction styles, they all match and look super pretty, especially in the snow of late summer light. In Belgium, streets, shops, houses, parking lots, pigeonries,… it seems like a 5-year-old opened ‘The sims’ and randomly threw in some features.

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