8 million people in small towns
Well that’s probably a little insulting to call some of the cities of Belgium ‘small towns’ however the reality is that take away Antwerp and any other city of more than 100,000 people and you have 8 million Belgians living across the country in ‘small’ towns and villages.
So whilst we often think of NZ as a small village, Belgium truly is a collection of small villages. The infrastructure is so different to what a Kiwi or and Aussie is familiar with. I wonder with the population so dispersed, or perhaps ‘not agglomerated’ is a more relevant view, how this influences the modernization of Belgium.
For me the country is very contradictory, home to many high tech and multinational businesses and a hub to eastern Europe and at the same time often I find Belgium just so stuck in the past. I expect this in France, but France has a different approach, there is industry / technology and there is what they are unashamed about protecting – their roots, their culture, their way of life, the villages, the eccentricities and so on, and somehow they make it look quaint if not frustrating for some, (OK maybe more than just a few).
Maybe it is with Belgium it is all so mixed up. At times Beglians make me feel like Forrest Gump ‘they’re just like a box of chocolates you never know what you are going to get’, i can feel either totally stupid, totally perplexed or totally engaged and welcome.
We laughed the other day with what appeared to be a nationwide promotion in the stores, something which translated as ‘the day of the client’ we expect it meant there would be a special effort to provide service for customers. Surely you don’t need a special day to do what you should be doing anyway!
Presently I am in Los Angeles , and of course we all know the Amercians can be totally over the top on service, and I hate the tipping system – not that I don’t like to tip, I just like it to be a choice not a requirement to ensure someone gets fairly paid. Of course LA is no small town in fact California’s GDP is large enough to make it the worlds 8th largest economy.
Clearly it is a big leap from Belgiums box of chocolates to Californias over-the-top-ness, but it does bring to mind theTom Watson comment about IBM ‘until you think and act like a big company you’re never going to be one’.
So with 80% of the population locked into small towns what does that mean for what Belgium can or cannot be?