Such a contradictory country.
Land of, quite possibly, the most passive aggressive people I’ve ever met.
Land where people seem to think that if you glare at something angrily enough, it will get the hint and change itself.
Land of negotiations, compromise, hemming, hawing, and even more compromise (anyone know how long Belgium has been without a national government?)
Land of progressive ideas: socialized health care, socialized work training programs, Catholics that are okay with condom usage and euthanasia.
Land of antiquated ideas: Zwarte Piet, resistance to teaching some masters degrees in English in order to preserve the Dutch language (which is already a hearty mishmash of Dutch, French, Latin and English), refusing to drink coffee through a hole in the lid.
Belgium, a country that, even now, occasionally throws me a curve ball that I can appreciate.
See, when I said earlier that Belgians are the masters of passive aggression, I meant it, whole heartedly. And this is coming from someone who was constantly labeled as passive aggressive in the US.
Back in Pittsburgh, if I saw something really bugging me or if someone was being more than understandably rude, I had no problem saying something. If nothing constructive, at least a sarcastic comment or a backhanded remark to let the person know that their behavior wasn’t what I found to be acceptable. Earlier this week while I was getting on the bus some old guy was pushing me from behind when I didn’t move fast enough for him, so I threw my elbow back. He started grumbling in some language that wasn’t Dutch so I turned, glared at him and said something along the lines of, “Please, why don’t you bitch a little more.”
His response was to breathe gustily from his nose. Obviously he has mastered the passive aggression far better than I have.
I have observed, time and time again, people being pushed around, treated rudely, inconvenienced and several other manner of irritating things and in almost every case they have done or said nothing in their own defense or to confront the person behaving rudely. They just breathe heavily and glare and clench their teeth in a not so menacing way.
I’ve come to expect this and usually act pretty much the same unless Piet’s around to back me up (I’m still not good at Dutch snark, but give me another year or two, I’ll keep working at it). So today while I was standing waiting at the bus stop in the middle of the center, while I found it irritating that a teenage girl was riding her bike on the platform rather than down on the street, I simply prepared to back out of her way. If we’d been in my neighborhood I’d’ve stood in her way and forced her to get off the bike or ride onto the street, but this platform was elevated and she could’ve fallen, so I was going to let it go when an old man who was stepping up to the platform reached out, grabbed the girl’s arm while she was still on her bike and started reprimanding her.
She pulled her arm away, didn’t bother turning her head and kept riding, in true Belgian fashion, but another woman who was waiting on the bus and had seen what happened actually grabbed the old guy and started yelling at him, telling him he’d had no right to touch the girl. He got all uppity, complaining that bikes weren’t allowed on the sidewalk but the woman kept at him, and really gave him what for.
It was awesome.
Technically both parties were wrong. Riding on the sidewalk is fine-able here in Belgium. Bikes belong on the street unless it’s a very small child and then I believe there is an exception. But the old man wasn’t in harm’s way. He went out of his way to try to pull the girl from the bike and in doing so he was behaving just as dangerously as she was.
And I was pretty happy to see someone open their mouth and actually say something when they saw something wrong going on.
Guess it just goes to show, there are some people here who are willing to take action to achieve the desired outcomes. Maybe those people should be the ones trying to form the national government?