R – Renovating
Renovating and DIY is part of Belgium culture, just like a great devotion for the home. Many people buy houses in desperate need of work and renovate them. Others just build their brand new houses. And, most of the time, they do that themselves, slowly, in their spare time, contracting only when absolutely necessary. Countless weekends painting, drilling, insulating, assembling, wrecking and rebuilding…. It comes in handy when you think that there are over 400 people living in each of square kilometer of Flanders, a bit above the average of the whole of Belgium. This makes it one of the most densely populated areas of Europe, with an increasing number of inhabitants who preferably live outside cities. It does improve one’s life quality, but makes urban planning quite challenging. There’s not much more space left to build on and property is expensive.
I presume this spirit is the cause of the abundance of DIY stores. And they are always full of people choosing buckets of wall paint, drooling over the novelties in the tool section, confidently choosing light switches or glaring with incredulity to the extension of the screws section…
I know these scenes all too well (specially the screws section one) because I rented an apartment which required some initial care and which compelled me to many trips to DIY stores, to nag my handy colleagues a lot, to go to work with forgotten paint smears on my arms… and I enjoyed it a lot! Oh the things this country’s doing to me!
S – Sweet
Belgians know their treats. Of course, they are reputed for their chocolate, many of which are distributed around the world. And, although wonderful, these brands don’t beat the work of those small chocolatiers making pralines in the back of his store front.
But there’s even better stuff than chocolate! And than waffles too! There’s going into the nearest bakery for a loaf of bread and leaving with a bunch of fresh mini tarts with different fruits, for instance… Belgian patisserie is delicious and incredibly full of fat! I can’t sustain a diet, I can’t go back to the weight I had before I came here…
Ah the wonder of a perfectly textured and not too sweet base combined with the fresh and soft pudding and the cover of apple or rhubarb or strawberries with a hint of jam… Confession: I am utterly and hopelessly addicted to the mini tarts of my neighborhood’s bakery.