Unlike with my other blog contributions, I did not spend much time on deciding upon what I wanted this one to be about. It is be about the city of Leuven, in which I lived for the majority of the past six months, and about its people and its urban identity. It turned out to be a true privilege that I was virtually self-employed during my semester abroad in Leuven, as I only attenaded two courses at the Katholieke Universiteit (KU) and spent my remaining “working hours” on developing and co-authoring two academic conference papers. These papers emerged from my Master’s thesis at the University of Bern and did not relate to my semester abroad, which is why I was always free to select my actual working hours as well as my workplace. Thereby, particularly the latter allowed me to visit numerous and various spots and venues in every area and neighborhood of the city. What follows will mirror my (ongoing) familiarization process with Leuven in its single steps: discover – understand – match and merge with what (I thought) I knew previously.
Belgians love bread. They eat it often, mostly on a daily basis. And they eat it at any time of the day, which makes, for instance, sandwiches (in Dutch: broodjes) a huge thing – well, at least around Flanders. Flanders is the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium comprising its own community, region and language area. Since I live in Leuven, which is a Flemish city near Brussels, my descriptions primarily relate to this part of Belgium. These descriptions originate from three major observations of mine about Belgians and their relationship with bread, which I also reflected on by discussing them with my Flemish hallway mates at my student residence, as well as with my international fellow students while having a Stella. Continue reading “Our daily bread: about fake bakeries, “gesneden brood” and “broodautomaten””
When it comes to language, Belgium is truly an exciting place to reside. There are three official languages: Dutch (about 59 percent of the Belgian people), French (~40%) and German (~1%). These linguistic communities represent political communities at the same time. However, they are not to be confused with Belgium’s three regions, namely Flanders (Dutch-speaking), Wallonia (French-speaking and German-speaking) and Brussels-Capital Region (French-speaking and Dutch-speaking), which respectively represent a political community on their own. Thus, Belgium altogether comprises six different political communities (i.e. governments). Needless to say, the intertwining of linguistic and regional diversity makes Belgium’s political and governing system a complex one. Its history has been accompanied by conflicts and tensions ever since Belgium declared its independence from the Netherlands in 1830. Hence, I would like to reflect more on those antagonisms later, which constitute clearly more than just a linguistic conflict, but first start by describing my personal situation in the city of Leuven with regard to language. Continue reading “More than a Belgian “Röstigraben””