ngn
home - colophon - about ngn - ngn@kbss27.be
expatriates

A species I had thought extinct until I had to work in the south of France there were so many British ex-pats around Nice they had their own radio station, which once aired the memorable whinge "The baked beans I bought at M&S were made in Germany!"
X/001

Living away from the country you were born in is not enough to make you qualify as an ex-pat: you need a particular, blinkered outlook. Here in Brussels there must be ex-pats from every country in the EU and quite a few others beside; it is of course the Brits that I notice.

Ex-pat Brits shop in W.H. Smiths (though it's only fair to say the shop is long-established rather than opportunistic), Marks & Spencers, Habitat and one or other 'British Shop' on the outskirts. They watch the BBC, bristle at any plans to kill off Radio 4 long-wave, and have an English-language weekly full of letters about the inflexibility of Belgian officialdom and adverts for masseuses, dog-walkers and incredibly expensive apartments. They may have some remnants of school or even university French, and cannot understand why Flemish-speaking town hall staff are not charmed by this evidence of linguistic open-mindedness.

Certainly, some of them may be here in Belgium without having enthusiastically chosen to move – perhaps obliged to accompany a partner. But why try so hard to pretend they've never left the UK? Be daring, I say; respond to new surroundings and savour the differences between home and away. At the very least, you'll end up appreciating the preferred and familiar ways better for having had the chance to compare them with what prevails on the Continong.