Patience is a virtue, right?

I’m trying hard not to upset those gracious enough to accept my family and i into their country by criticizing so please take this as slightly tongue in cheek.

It’s no wonder Belgium has been overrun more often than Lady Gaga has changed dresses.

I used to laugh at the British announcing their imminent arrival in the Falklands, but for Belgium you could give several years notice and they still wouldn’t be ready.

I’m sure this is the only place in the world where a queue is compulsory ( and jumping them is accepted without protest), where getting a number to be in the queue is also compulsory, where waiting is done without protest ( i waited for 15 minutes behind someone yesterday who was told when he finally got to the front ‘ no we don’t have those’ and walked off without complaint – in fact I’m sure he even smiled)

Where service however it is spelt does not mean service as most would know it. Where disinterest exceeds passionate engagement, and decision I think must be misinterpreted here as derision.

Anything to avoid making a decision is supported more readily than anything that promotes a decision. Meetings!
How many would you like? They have meetings for meeting. The concepts of “meeting” and “decision-making vehicle” are mutually exclusive.

In the world of job creation and pedantic bureaucracy they also seem hard to beat. How about the Polite visit yesterday?

To ensure that, yes, we were living at this address, and we did have two young girls, and I am married to Chrissy, we had a local Police officer visit, sign four copies of a document, leave us with two, then depart. Guilty before proven innocent, and for what purpose? No wonder they could only afford to travel on a bicycle.

Initially I thought I could learn from the patience I had observed from the outset with my new country (as people ambled across a pedestrian crossing without a care in the world about the queue of traffic forming behind us, and the Belgian driver commented “oh, they have a right to take their time!”).

Since, I have found it largely frustrating, hugely inefficient, and generally a waste of time. Having said that however, I am more patient – because, as i say, you shouldn’t be surprised by what you expect. Now i expect things to take longer than they should, to be in-efficient, jobs to be created for no real purpose, and people to regard queues as the ultimate exercise in patience, rudeness and mindlessness all at once. Often the level of service is such that I find myself recalling the old university joke whereby you responded by suggesting someone joins the ‘far queue’.

But in between, the people are generally wonderfully charming, interesting and easy-going. And that does my head in a bit.

We had a laugh night with an Irish couple and an American couple, all of us expats, and expressing much the same frustrations and experiences, whilst being beguiled by the pleasantness of many we met.

So I’ m not sure where the happy balance is, but I do feel that a bit more constructive tension, a bit more passion, and at least one decision every week would go a long way to making Belgium a great place to live (oh and queues should be banned and medals awarded for the most impatient customer, and the most attentive customer service system – which i must also add so far would be awarded to out Bank, which might say more than just a little about the focus of things over here).

Right I’m off to bang some heads together, as soon as I can get to the front of this queue.

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