Learning Dutch while traveling: first impressions of Belgium

I’ve just spent my first day in Belgium, in the capitol city of Brussels. I’m here with two friends from Berlin in order to attend a “language festival” on Saturday in Leuven. For the next few days, we’ll be staying with some Esperanto-speaking friends here in Brussels while we explore the surrounding area.

Today we wandered around downtown Brussels. We joked to each other that pretty much every store here has either a) waffles, b) chocolate, c) fries, or d) beer. It’s not totally true, but nearly. Unfortunately (for us), the majority of the people in Brussels speak French, even though it’s in the northern part of Belgium that is majority Dutch-speaking. Apparently it’s a large exception in the area.

Brussels is a very beautiful city. Lots of small streets, beautiful old architecture mixed with a lot of modern buildings too. It would be fun to have more time to explore around and try out all the local beers, and see more of the city. One thing that surprised me, though, was that the “Grand Place / Grote Markt” (a big square in the middle of town) seemed to be quite littered with trash and empty beer bottles, and was full of beer-swilling rowdies.

My friends and I began searching out bookstores (naturally ;), and found a decent-sized Dutch bookstore. It seems that book prices are quite high here, mostly around €20 for a novel. I managed to find “De Da Vinci Code” in Dutch for €5 though, so I have something new to read. Speaking of prices, I find food quite expensive here too, compared to Berlin anyway…although Berlin is widely known as a very cheap city.

We’ve been staying with some Esperanto speakers, one from Croatia and one from Slovenia, who met each other at an Esperanto event. It’s been quite fun practicing Esperanto with them. Tomorrow we’re heading to Antwerp where we’ll meet up with more Esperanto speakers, although we’ll be focusing on practicing our Dutch with them.

Saturday is the Language Festival in Leuven, where we’ll be attending several 1-hr seminars about various languages. I think I signed up for Polish, Lingala (from central Africa), and two others. All of the seminars will be given in Dutch, so it should be interesting to see how much I understand.

More soon, when I get some spare time 🙂


One Response to Learning Dutch while traveling: first impressions of Belgium

  1. Andrew says:

    Hasn’t Belgium been without a functioning government for something like 4 1/2 months now? How has that affected things?


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