I’ve only been in Brussels for about two weeks, but I’ve already eaten chocolate/waffles/Belgian fries in lieu of a true meal more times than I care to admit. But aside from my horrendous dietary choices, there are a few things that I picked up on soon after moving in, so I thought I’d share them with you.
So here you go, The Newbs’ Crash Course to Brussels:
Brussels is surprisingly similar to D.C. in the sense that the city is actually really quite small, and everything is very much walkable. Although I’m pretty much covered by the rather extensive public transport system, a walk to the most downtown-y parts of downtown will only take me about 30 minutes.
Belgium has three official languages: French, Dutch, and German. Although Brussels is geographically located in Flanders, the Dutch region of Belgium, French will get you quite a bit farther in Brussels than Dutch will, but you’ll always see road signs and the like in both French and Dutch. Most of the people who live here are multilingual, and it’s not uncommon for someone to know how to speak five, six, or even more languages (English included!).
Belgium is known for two different types of waffles, “la gaufre de Bruxelles” (“the waffle from Brussels”) and “la gaufre de Liège” (“the waffle from Liège”). The Brussels waffle is fluffier and spongier, is formed in perfect rectangles, and is usually served with a dusting of powdered sugar. The Liège waffle (my favorite) is usually a more irregular shape and is made with nib sugar that caramelizes and forms the most delightful crunchy shell. Pro tip: only the tourists get waffles with all the fixings. A true Belgian gets them plain!
For whatever reason, water is fairly expensive in Brussels. Most restaurants don’t serve tap water, and at some, a bottle of water will cost you more than a decent (and larger) glass of beer. Tap water is your wallet’s best friend here, so don’t be surprised if you see someone filling up their water bottle at the sink in a restaurant/pub/fancy opera house bathroom. It’s actually quite common and very acceptable.
Naturally, this doesn’t sum up Brussels in its entirety, but I think that if I had to give an elevator pitch about Brussels, these are the points that would come to my mind first. I’m sure I’ll be learning a lot more things while I’m here though, so stick around and stay tuned!