Having lived on three different continents he remarked that I must have had exposure to a lot of different cultures and that they could be fodder for stories.
This of course gage me an idea.
As many of you already know, Toronto is currently in the grip of icy weather conditions and the condo building where we live has no hot water or heat.
If something like this were to happen in Belgium, these conditions would not have to be suffered alone. In the absence of family, friends would be all to ready to share their home with them. And if no friends were available, then perfect strangers might lend a helping hand.
While it’s often being said that all people are the same, they behave in very different ways.
For instance, around this time of the year, family and friends would make a series of visits to wish each other a happy New Year. While it’s customary in Canada to call ahead first and set a date and time, there’s no such thing in Belgium, at least not in days gone by.
Not that there has to be a special occasion. When my folks felt like visiting they would decide on who to visit, put in their coat, hop in the car and go.
If the couple was home … great, if not they would think of someone else to visit.
If they found nobody home, they would go to a local pub. Occasionally they would find the friends they intended to visit already there, or they would walk in at some point during the evening.
Other times, while trying to decide who to visit, a car would roll up in front of the house and friends would visit us. Sometimes it was just the one couple, other times other couples would join.
Nobody made appointments, nobody called ahead to see if someone was home, or it was convenient, they just took a chance.
Belgian homes are nearly always prepared for guests who drop by. There’s beer and wine in the basement, soft drinks in the fridge, and cookies or even a cake in the pantry.
A visit always started with a pot of coffee with cookies or cake, followed by something alcoholic. Beer, wine or ‘nen druppel’, meaning glass of liqueur.
As the evening wore on, hungry mouths were fed with sweet or salty snacks, or a sandwich was made.
On weekdays visits lasted to around midnight, as everybody had to get up the next morning to go to work and the kids had to go to school. On Friday and Saturday night though there were no limitations and a visit could last until the wee hours of the morning.
Have times changed, have people changed, or is it a Belgian thing? After all, Belgians are famous for their hospitality.