Friday, February 03, 2006
I think I am entitled to make some comparison between Australia and Belgium since I lived in both countries now. It was just lately when we were on holiday in Morzine that I noticed the little differences between the Aussie and Belgian-mentality. I think it is extraordinary how we are all so similar and yet so different in our simple little things.
One thing that has always stuck in my mind was following:
Belgians always kiss girls when they meet. Doesn’t matter if they were just introduced or you’ve known them for years but you always give a kiss. You kiss each girl when you enter somewhere and you give every guy a hand.
But then there are exceptions. You kiss someone three times with special occasions (birthday, Christmas,…) Some guys even kiss each other, yes, even non-gay ones but totally different story altogether. I like kissing all the girls but it also creates some nasty situations such as: the girl hasn’t washed herself in ages, or her facial hair is covering more spaces on her face than yours,… As you leave the same routine takes place.
This little ritual has the big advantage that you have to get close to everybody and be introduced. So after one round everybody knows who you are and you’ve got a good idea as well. It also creates an openness since people are immediately forced into your personal space line and you are in theirs. But this will also force you to be friendly to people you don’t like (Belgians are champions in this)! And it takes up a lot of time because you can’t kiss half of the group and forget the rest!
And that’s how Belgium works. For every little ritual there are rules of what to do and what not to do. Some I love and some I can’t stand.
Ingrid learned the little rules the hard way sometimes by doing something every one of us always wanted to do but never did because it didn’t fit the “rules”. I don’t think Australians are so stuffed up to care about rules. Off course you are not going to greet your best friend on a party the same as your boss on a Monday but it is all a bit more casual. It almost seems like there’s a secret manual (only for Europeans) going around with every possible situation and every possible solution in which it is explained how to behave. And I think this is a world-problem: just because you are not aware of some rituals and normal behaviours and fall a bit out of tone, you are looked upon as a savage or dumb or someone without an education.
I just think people need to be more tolerant towards different cultures. This is just a dumb difference between Australian and Belgian cultures but in essence it is the cause of a lot of problems worldwide. I just don’t see the point of starting a war or fatwa just because Ingrid didn’t know that you have to stop kissing my Grand-dad on his birthday after 3 kisses. We can laugh away such a culture difference why can’t we do it with other “meaningful” things and see it as what it is. Just a stupid mix-up because of not-knowing the culture