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Some thoughts on Brussels Expats’ depression

I’ve recently read on The Economist’s blog that Brussels makes people grumpy and that during autumn/winter Brussels can look like a grey desolated communist neighbourhood. In my view Brussels cannot be compared to Bucharest, anyway, not from the grey communist architecture point of view. I believe David Rennie, the author of that post did not really experienced the impact of Bucharest’s grey view, nor realised the tremendous architectural difference between the two capitals. However, I agree that Brussels can make people grumpy and feeling depressed. Let’s see why and what we can do about it. It is about 8.00 in the morning and I am about to get on the tram. As most of the times, at this time of the day the trams are packed, especially in the doorway. Somehow tram/bus commuters in Brussels can’t process the fact that they would have more room and feel more comfortable in that crowded tram if they would simply move towards the sides of the tram. However they just prefer to block the doorway, to be packed as sardines and shout to express their anger for being stepped and pushed every time the tram breaks abruptly. The result? Grumpiness or depression! The solution? Just simply move towards the sides of the tram/bus/metro and make some room for yourself and the others. Smile, speak politely and be respectful. If it does not help try to remember your favourite song so you focus on […]

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>That long and challenging quest for a job in Brussels

> As many others, I started some time ago the race for another job. The recession didn’t make it easy especially at the beginning. Brussels, although capital of Europe and home of many European headquarters, remains a small city (e.g. Bucharest is twice as bigger and has twice as more inhabitants) where jobs are scarce and the competition is cruel. From my job-searching experience the common setbacks for an expatriate in finding a new employment are: You don’t speak Dutch. Ouch! If you don’t speak Dutch than you’re chances to find an employment in the private sector in Brussels are already diminished by 50%. All the multinational companies present on the Belgian market will demand you to speak Dutch. So, even if you find the perfect job description, even you have all the skills, competences and knowledge job-wised, if they also ask Dutch, don’t even bother to apply. You’re wasting your time. Between a candidate with less experience and less skills but with some Dutch and another candidate with an extensive profile and no Dutch, the company will choose the one who is able to speak Dutch. Not fair, but true. You don’t have enough experience. According to an HR Professional from Secretary Plus, the current job market is flooded by extremely qualified communications profiles in demand for a job. These people, with 5-7 year experience, speaking several languages, had lost their jobs and are ready to take any other […]

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>When the sun is covered by thick clouds, just dance!

>It’s cloudy today and it’s raining. It feels like automn, provided that it is the 1st of September. The sun is somewhere hidden, almost undetactable. Adieu soleil, already? Is there a sun anymore? But what really reminds me that there is still a sun behind those thick clouds is.. nor Chimay blue or Bacardi breezer (my favourite drinks). That thing is called dancing. I started out dancing when I was around 4 or 5. I was at a party with my parents. Feeling lonely and being extremely shy, I took refuge on the side of the dance floor. Then I started hearing the rhythm and feeling it all along my body. I made a step at right and then another one at left. By the end of the night I was the attraction of the dance-floor. Ever since, when I feel down or extremely happy, I dance. It is about joy, about defeating sorrow, about encouraging myself or just to prevent depression or anxiety. With the time, I changed, so did my dancing .. a voluptuous move of the hips, curves drawn in the air by smooth hand motion, a frenetic shake of the bum, contractions of the belly, shoulder up and down. And when you’re least expecting – a kick of foot on the floor and clap. Olé!

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>Queuing on the police office stairs to get a new passport

> I went to Romania for almost two weeks. Excepting the two days in Bucharest during which I attended Alina’s wedding and visited a wonderful museum that I strongly recommend (Romanian Village Museum, located in Herastrau Park, Bucharest), I spent most of my time in my home town- Focsani. I was quite busy with doctor appointments and annually health checks (because I am strongly convinced that Romanian GPs are more competent than the Belgian ones) to beautician appointments (because Romania is a lot cheaper when it comes to beauty treatments) and all kind of administrative institutions. And speaking of administrative institutions, this was a good occasion to test my capacity to remain calm and to comfort myself by saying “Gaby, this is Romania, well-known for bureaucracy and inefficient procedures, so calm down, breathe, yeah breathe and be patient”. I needed a new passport as my old one had expired. So I went to the local police office to ask about the procedure and the costs. A rather bored officer told me that I needed to pay some taxes at “Finante/ Finances” and then to come back. What finances? I asked but no answer was given. So I took a cab and said that I had to go to “finances” that turned out to be an institution where all sorts of taxes payment was done. Over there everything ran smoothly. I paid everything I needed to pay in order to receive […]

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>Smurfs in the living room

> The presence of smurfs in the living room was reported this morning. The little blue creatures were seen dancing, racing, playing football and sunbathing. Books were removed and a whole shelf was taken and transformed into what will be known as the new Smurfvillage. ———————– The Smurfs, or “les Schtroumpfs” in French, are those little blue creatures that enchanted my childhood and no doubt yours too. No higher than three apples, the smurfs live in the woods and most of the time they wear a white cap and white trousers. However Smurfette, the miss Smurf, wears a white dress which matches her white shoes. There is a Papa smurf, said to be more than 540 years old, a Baby Smurf who was brought by a stork from nowhere, a Poet Smurf in a quest for inspiration and for creation, a Greedy Smurf, who is obviously very greedy, and even a Cook Smurf. To meet the smurfs you can have a glimpse here – the smurfs website. The smurfs were created by the Belgian ilustrator Peyo (Pierre Culliford) and apperead for the first time as secondary characters in the stories of Johan & Peewit (other comic characters), published in “Le Journal de Spirou”. But soon after they became aware of their success, having their own comic albums and gaining international recognition. Now, besides the worldwide success and endless adoration, the smurfs also have a shelf in the bookcase of my […]

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>What I love about Brussels is…

> There are so many things that I love about Brussels. Although my home for the last 5 years, Brussels never stops to dazzle me and make me feel proud of living here. Here are some of the things that I love about Brussels: – the cosmopolitan vibes and the European atmosphere; In Brussels you can taste every other culture from Europe and if you are an expat, you will find so many people like you, coming from all over the world – Brussels is the capital of Europe and showcases most of the European Institutions. Go to Schuman or to Place Luxembourg and you’ll find yourself surrounded by expats, MEPs, lobbysts and so on. Visit the European Commission’s HQ or the EU Parliament and you’ll be overwhelmed by the dynamic of the grand surroundings. – the multicultural events, the variety of concerts, the prolific art. For instance, last week it was the Jazz marathon, a 3day marathon of free jazz music broken down into more than 400 concerts of various styles of jazz: rock, soul, lation and modern – the Japanese tour and the Chinese Pavilion – the music in the metro stops. It is cool to listen to Vivaldi while waiting for the metro – the people from all over the world. Go to Havana on Saturday night and you’ll find there at least 15 nationalities – the panoply of options and possibilities that this city offers – […]

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>What I hate or simply dislike about Brussels

> As an expat myself I have quickly resented the differences between myself and the rest of the inhabitants of the new country that I embraced – Belgium. Living in the capital of Europe for the past 5 years, I have become more and more aware of the habits of Belgians or non-Belgians- “Bruxellois”.  What I  hate or simply dislike about Brussels: – People crowding in front of the exit of the tram/ bus. I don’t get it! Why do we have to be crushed like some sardines or unable to get in the tram, only because a bunch of morons have decided that staying in front of the door is the best thing to do. People, there is plenty of room all along the tram’s corridor and there you don’t risk being asphyxiated. I am extremely frustrated about this, really! In the morning, at the peak hours, it is simply impossible to get in  the tram or bus, only because the passangers sit in front of the exit. So you need to wait another 10 minutes, only because some people don’t have any bit of common sense and stay like statues in front of the door. – Some Moroccons/ Arabs that think if I am not an Arab, I am more likely to end up in their bed.  How many times did I hear this – “Mademoiselle, vous êtes charmante! Un café avec moi?”, “Franchement,  vous êtes ravissante!”- so many times, […]

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>To kiss or not to kiss

>The first thing that really struck me in Belgium was “la bise”. For those who don’t know the French term, “la bise” is the kiss that Belgians do when meeting each other. For an expat, this may be really awkward, not to mention confusing & even a bit vexing. Imagine: Girls kissing each other. Teachers kissing each other. Students kissing teachers in less formal situations. Boys kissing each other (that was really shocking, as in Romania you will never see this; it would be simply outrageous), bosses kissing employees, employees kissing bosses and so on. Saying “hello” or “good bye” is not enough. You have to also kiss the other. Some kiss by touching their lips on your cheek, others just touch your cheek with their cheek and some will just imitate the kiss by doing a gesture in air which resembles to the real kiss. Well, at least is only once. In France, one may kiss twice and in Turkey even three times. But what do you do when you don’t like this kiss? As an expat, you are expected to embrace the culture of the country of adoption (y compris la bise). I have nothing against kissing my friends. In Romania, I used to kiss (on the cheek) my friends – especially girls, when meeting them after long time. With boys, it depends on the occasion and on the type of relationship. A hug sometimes is enough. A […]

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>A venit primavara!

>”Un sut in fund e un pas inainte.”“Tot ceea ce se intampla, se intampla cu un motiv.” “Ramai pozitiv si incearca sa iti pastrezi zambetul pe buze, sau macar in inima.” Sunt cateva din sfaturile si incurajarile pe care le-am primit in ultima vreme. Si incerc sa le urmez. Un spirit care ramane pozitiv, merge inainte. De ceva vreme simteam ceva in aer. O apasare, o povara. Evident, trebuia sa aiba loc ceva – o schimbare. Iar primavara a adus cu ea aceasta schimbare. Intai a fost un soc, apoi o incomprehensiune. A urmat mânia, ura, apoi acceptarea. Acum incep sa vad ca era poate solutia de care aveam nevoie. Acum sunt linistita, evident intr-o anumita masura. Privesc viitorul cu incredere si surad la soare. Stiu ca va veni din nou sa straluceasca pe strada mea. Sambata am vazut ghiocei – cred ca pentru prima data la Bruxelles. A fost o zi insorita, cu gugustiuci gangurind timid si alte pasaruici cantand mai arzator. Gradinilor din asa-zisul cartier englezesc din Schaerbeek (eu si Chris l-am denumit englezesc, caci ne aduce aminte de casele din Anglia) le mijeau florile. Ici colo palcuri de ghiocei se aratau umili, puri, naivi si totusi bravi. I-am adorat. Mi-am umplut plamanii de acel aer primavaratec. Mi-am inchis ochii si m-am intors catre soare sa ma hranesc cu lumina si caldura lui. Pasii mi-au devenit mai hotarati si iar calea a devenit mai clara. Acum zambesc. A […]

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>Cand sunt in focul creatiei… creez!

>Uneori imi place sa ma desprind total de lume, sa ma izolez intr-un univers al meu si sa nu fac altceva decat sa creez. Noul flat mi-a dat nenumarate ocazii de a creea, de a imbunatati. Am inceput cu peretii, apoi am continuat cu mobila, apoi cu accesoriile. Intai m-am jucat cu vopseaua si tapetul pe pereti. Apoi m-am jucat cu vopseaua pe mobile, iar cu tapetul pe cutii. Am decorat, am cusut, am creat. Iata cateva dintre creatiile mele. Felicitare Scrinul: inainte si dupa make-up

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>Stepstone: Burnout looming over every fifth employee

>According to a survey conducted by StepStone:19 per cent of European specialists and executives suffer from burnout symptoms caused by stress on the job Stepstone, Duesseldorf, Mai 2007. About 19 per cent of the European specialists and executives are feeling distinct physical and mental symptoms of exhaustion which they attribute to stress at their workplace. For another 27 per cent the raised pressure is increasingly effecting them deeply. This was the result of a current survey of the European job board StepStone conducted among 21,586 visitors in eight European countries. According to the survey merely 54 per cent of the respondents are coping with their workload. The results coincide with the analysis of the German Universitätsklinikum Freiburg (University Hospital Freiburg) where the emotional exhaustion symptoms caused by job-related stress is being researched internationally for years. “When there is an increase of the workload and at the same time there is a lack of acknowledgment and given credit for the accomplished tasks there is a dramatic rise in the risk of burnout”, says Prof. Dr. med. Joachim Bauer, head of department of at the psychosomatic and psychotherapeutic medicine-center of the Universitätsklinik Freiburg. Compared internationally the German specialists and executives are the sad front-runner. Here, 24 per cent suffer from burnout syndrome while only 44 per cent are able to cope with their workload. Best prepared are the specialists and executives in Denmark where two thirds of the respondents (66 per cent) […]

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>Living abroad, but still able to speak Romanian

>I have been living for four years in Belgium now. Actually, for four years and almost two months. I go home to Romania once or twice per year, depending on my work or studies. In the first three years in Belgium I used to speak a lot of French (after I became fluent, of course, as at the beginning I was speaking a gibberish French), but in the past months I spoke mostly English (work and home). And in spite of all these four years spent on this foreign ground, after studying and working in these French and English European languages, I must admit that I am still able to speak my own language – Romanian. Indeed, not only I can speak Romanian, but I haven’t lost my accent (now it is more Moldavian, due to my native town’s influence) nor the language’s tonality. I can still speak Romanian! You may think that this statement is a bit absurd. Unfortunately there are many Romanians who, after only a few months spent outside their nation Romania, seem to totally embrace the language of their new adoptive country. They come back to Romania, now and then, very proud of their achievements “outside”. They like to show off with their expensive cars, their branded clothes, their Louis Vuitton bags (faked or not) and with their ability to spend loads of money. Aside these, they speak a Romanian with various accents, topped with all […]

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