Each week I talk to someone who left their home country behind and moved to Belgium. This week Jason from the USA tells us about his life here.
1. Hi, Jason! Could you please introduce yourself? Tell us a bit about who you are, where you are from, where in Belgium you moved to and when/why you made that move.
I’m Jason Waddell, an American statistician living in Antwerp. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at life in Europe, so when the opportunity came for me to join a small Belgian startup in 2010, I took it. Since moving here, I’ve started doing stand-up comedy shows in the Benelux region, and recently joined the cast of the show Fans of Flanders, a show about life in Belgium from the foreign perspective.
2. What were your expectations before you moved to Belgium and did the reality align with those expectations?
Having never been to Belgium prior to moving, my limited cultural reference points suggested that Belgium was “Germany, but smaller”. I was quickly disabused of that notion, as the day I moved here I had to disembark a train with all my belongings because the Belgian trains (well, train operators to be precise) had gone on strike. Germans would never allow such a public transportation failure.
3. What’s the biggest difference between life in the US and living in Belgium?
Things are much more relaxed here. It feels like in the United States everybody is trying to get ahead, work overtime, climb the ladder. Belgians really care about work-life balance, and focusing on the community.
4. What do you love most about Belgium?
The bike lanes! Being able to traverse a city so effortlessly is incredibly liberating.
5. What do you like least about Belgium?
This may come across badly, but… the family culture. Many Belgians are incredibly close to their families, but seem to have difficulties opening up to new people. If I had been a student here, I would have found the fact that Belgians go home to their villages every weekend to be extremely off-putting.
6. What do you miss most about the US?
Look, I know it’s a stereotype, but I miss the diversity of fast food options that the United States has to offer. For a cheap, quick, lazy, gluttonous meal, Belgium really only has the frituur (Sofie: fries shack) and the kebab shop. The Americans have diversified and mastered the culinary arts that can be ordered and consumed from the comfort of your car. Belgians aren’t nearly lazy enough to drive that sort of industry.
7. Do you think you’ll stay where you are now, or do you think you’ll migrate again some day?
I am open to either possibility. I’m starting to really settle in Belgium, but there’s always part of me that wants to blaze a new trail.
8. Could you share some of your favorite spots in Belgium with us?
All my favorite places are in Antwerp. I love Kapitein Zeppos on Mechelseplein for a nice Belgian meal where all the locals flock to, and De Muze to unwind with a “pintje (Sofie: a beer).
Are you an expat who moved to Belgium, or do you know someone who is? I’m always looking for new expats to talk to. Check out the X-pat Files for more information on who exactly I’m looking for and drop me a line!