Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Travelling to Belgium part 3

Day 1-2

I've now walked a lot in Brugge (why do the french-speaking population insist on calling it Brüges? That is pronounced exactly like Douche, so I can understand why the people who actually live there prefer the more Germanic "Bruche"), and I've taken a ton of photos, some of which will probably turn out to be cool when I take a second, more critical look later. Being here is very relaxing, and sitting outside in a snack bar/cafe/brasserie close to the Markt and cathedral is an almost meditative experience. Our hotel rules, the food is good, etc. I even tried Belgian beer - proper beer, not what I usually drink - and came right back to the conclusion that I really don't like beer. I like Corona, Bud Light and Miller. Of proper beers, the Weissbiers I've tasted in Austria are closest to my actual liking, plus maybe Hansa.

It's unbelievable how many chocolate shops it's possible to cram into one city, by the way. Also, there are way too many tourist shops for tourism not to be one of the revenue sources for Brugge - no diggity. It's totally awesome to walk down the narrow streets and look at the (very green) canals, and sit in the shade of a chestnut tree, of which there is an abundance. Later this afternoon, there will be some shopping.

There is a strange duality in Belgium. Here in Brugge, I've got no problems making myself understood - and understanding the answers I get - in English. Even at the local grocery store, English works fine. People here can communicate in English. However, in Brussels, which is the capitol of the European Union, it's a different situation altogether. Which is pretty much the reverse of what I expected, until I realized that Brussels is in the french-speaking part of Belgium. How come I can ask almost any person in Brugge (100% so far) and have English work, but when I call a hotel in Brussels, it's Inspector Closeau time? And it's not Jean-Claude's Rent-By-The Hour Can-Can Hotel either, it's the five-star Le Meridien, for crying out loud.

I've called them twice - one time to cancel our reservation, and one more time to confirm the cancellation, because of a technical snafu. Both times, I've started out talking to some receptionist, who immediately transferred me as soon as he or she heard that I spoke English. Then I first heard some "Le Voulez-vous, parce que je le vaux bien", followed by a snoring sound or someone clearing their throat, which I assume is Flemish, and then "If you want to 'peak to an Anglais-'peaking 'ersun, press 3". And from there, it's downhill. "You want to cancel reservation from 'otel? Can I 'ave numbér, please? You 'ave resérved 'otel room yes?" English, motherf*cker - Do you speak it? If anything, this has strongly reinforced the view that cutting out the Brussels stay was a very wise decision, seeing as how I don't speak french. I know that Pigeon dreams of dumping me on teh french countryside, and if anything, I am absolutely sure that I'll never, ever, ever, go to france on vacation or otherwise, unless I've got someone who can translate for me - preferably someone who doesn't want to dump me in the sticks. I absolutely do not care if it looks like Paradise with a face-lift - if I can't even get something to eat due to communication problems, my ass is SO not going there.

Why is it so difficult to understand that in a day and age where globalization is a key phrase, we need to have one standard language that everybody learns well enough to use if there is an outside chance they'll have to communicate with international customers through their job? Otherwise, someone planning to do international business would have to learn one language for each country he or she visited, which is less than practical. Back in da day when the four major European languages were English, Spanish , french and German, a decision was made that English should be the international language. Was that necessarily the best choice? Hell if I know, and Hell if I care. The point is that today, the international common language is English, and especially in the capitol of the European Union, every motherf*cker who might come in contact with people through his or her job should be able to speak it.

If I travel to some Vietnamese village, I don't expect them to speak English. I didn't even necesarily expect every shop keeper in Wien to be able to speak English, so I used what little I remembered of my legendary high school German, and it worked fine. However, in Brussels there is no freakin' excuse.


Pigeon said...

They're belgians !!!!

They are all stupids !!! It's an empirical proven fact !!! (ask any french)

That's a good excuse no ?

Wilhelm said...

That's your story and you're sticking to it, huh? ;-)