Comments for http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html en-gb 30 Fri 11 Jul 2014 11:45:46 GMT+1 A feed of user comments from the page found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html putupongopher http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=97#comment44 This post has been Removed Sun 02 Aug 2009 23:33:47 GMT+1 oliderid http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=95#comment43 Well being a Frenchspeake Bruxellois I mostly use the BBC web site to practice my English. Your blog was really my favorite part of it. Glad to see that you notice some charms in Brussels. I will miss you.PS: If by chance you could take with you few of our extra numerous civil servants and their bureaucracy, I'm sure the rest of the people living in Brussels would donate the sparred money to build a statue in your honor. Sun 02 Aug 2009 16:17:17 GMT+1 Clevelandish http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=93#comment42 Mark Mardell's Euroblog on leaving Brussels is certainly an improvement over the bilious goodbye we got from Justin Webb. But I feel that while Webb damned the city, Mardell has accorded it faint praise. I would like to propose a simple three-step introduction to Brussels for the benefit of anyone planning to stay here for some time. Note that nothing of what I suggest was mentioned by either of these professional journalists. Step One: Buy a CD of Jacques Brel; choose a few of Georges Simenon's best Maigret or non-Maigret novels (any of the nine published and praised by The New York Review of Books); get in a six-pack of a Trappist beer. Your day is made.Step Two: Go to the Fine Arts Museum and take a good long leisurely look at some of the Flemish primitives, then move on to Bruegel and Rubens. After that, go next door to the Modern or the Magritte, end up at the Musical Instruments Museum across the street.Step Three: Take a tour with an art historian guide to see the city's Art Nouveau architecture. Wander about the Sablon, both the Grand and the Petit, especially on a weekend when there's the open-air antiques market. That's enough to get you started off in the right direction, with the right attitude and expectations. On your own with a minimum of intelligent curiosity you will discover the Cinematek, the Bozar and, if you stay long enough, the Queen Elisabeth music competition, and everything I've left out. Webb and Mardell deserve a second chance. They owe it to themselves.Cleveland MoffettBrussels Sun 02 Aug 2009 12:05:17 GMT+1 MaxSceptic http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=91#comment41 Thanks for all the amusing reports, Mark. Good luck in the US.Personally, as a EUrosceptic I have a schizoid relationship with Brussels: I really, really like the city, its architecture (especially Art Nouveau and Deco) and relaxed cosmopolitan atmosphere - and especially the cafes, bistros and restaurants that offer excellent food at very reasonable prices. The fact that is, however, that all this good life is 'enabled' by the tens of thousands of well-heeled 'customers' who earn their salaries - and ample expense accounts - working for/with/around the EU. Sat 01 Aug 2009 18:06:38 GMT+1 cedricvd http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=88#comment40 mufc_nz wrote:"Brussels made up of Flemish and french speakers who hate each other, I prefer the french. Being Indian I lived in a small village called ottenborg, Flemish, mistake!, during local election the right wing got 70% of votes. Strange people, racists and rude."Don't you see the irony in calling an entire people "racist"? Furthermore there is no Flemish village called Ottenborg, and no village ever has had such a high election result for the far right. You just want to give the Flemish people a bad name by inventing some insults.About Brussels, it definitely has some ugly parts, but Brussels is so much more than the EU areas. It has beautiful Art-Nouveau Buildings, Interesting museums (such as the recently opened Magritte museum), lots of forests and parcs, excellent cuisine etc. Most people who don't like Brussels have never left the EU-bubble or have never even been there for more than a day. Sat 01 Aug 2009 14:27:53 GMT+1 KatherineAlmassy http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=86#comment39 I can't believe the number of people going on here about smell and dog poo. As if that is all there is to say about Brussels. That really reminds me of the number of people in Britain who talk about French people being smelly, never having a shower, etc. Talk of prejudices...When one considers the quality of food, accommodation, schools, healthcare, public transport and the friendliness of people, it is immediately clear that it is far better to live in Brussels than in any British city. Sat 01 Aug 2009 10:20:51 GMT+1 BernardVC http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=84#comment38 mufc_nz wrote:"Brussels made up of Flemish and french speakers who hate each other, I prefer the french. Being Indian I lived in a small village called ottenborg, Flemish, mistake!, during local election the right wing got 70% of votes. Strange people, racists and rude."Maybe you should have made a bit more of an effort to integrate. The flemish don't like to be sneered at, insulted for racists and called egoists. Especially not by francophones and anyone percieved to be on "their side". We send too many billions down Brussels and Wallonia way for that. Sat 01 Aug 2009 08:50:10 GMT+1 Buzet23 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=82#comment37 So it's 'au revoir' Mark, I think you'll miss the food when you're in that gastronomic paradise called the USA, steak, moules and frites are the highlight of Brussels (and Belgium). Personally I was always happy to leave the city when I worked for many years in a number of its areas, as the towns and villages around it are far nicer and it's rare I have to dodge dog shit where I live.I'm also sure you'll take with you a good knowledge of the inadequacies of the Belgian proportional representation list system, whereby the recent regional elections have resulted in a yet more moribund system, where failed politicians never disappear, they just slip back into their local communes as mayor or deputy mayor and carry on as usual. Oh for the first past the post system, at least you can remove a failed or discredited politician, something which is almost impossible with our list system.Goodbye and like most others I wait to see if your blog carries on with somebody new, hint hint Beeb. Sat 01 Aug 2009 06:43:25 GMT+1 brutus http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=80#comment36 This post has been Removed Fri 31 Jul 2009 23:40:25 GMT+1 democracythreat http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=77#comment35 mm writes:"Perhaps we write the first draft of history - I don't know."No Mark, you guys just copy the first draft and disseminate it.The people who write the first draft of history are the speech writers and press officers for the government of the day.You know, the guys from Number 10 and Brussels, whom you journalists crowd around, and whose words you copy down and repeat and call it news.If the journalism were independent, then I can see the argument that journalists write a draft of historical record. But, regrettably, the way the modern media operates has destroyed independent journalism.You all get your stories the same way. You share photos, and you even share streamed information from overseas. And domestically, you share the perspective of the government of the day, because that is cheaper than hiring journalists who hunt around for information in dark corners.The bottom line is that journalists entertain, and they do so in order to get ratings, in order to attract advertising revenue. Insofar as the BBC differs, it acts as a mouthpiece for the civil service and the government of the day. But generally speaking, even the BBC is in the entertainment business."For broadcasters, our fine thoughts and words don't even get the honour of being tomorrow's fish and chip wrapper - they just dribble away into the ether. But some words have a power to haunt, and one of my colleague's pieces has been my familiar ghost in Brussels."My point precisely: you cite a banal description of a city as some sort of haunting news piece. So someone wrote a piece about Brussels being dirty.BIG DEAL. It isn't exactly the Berlin wall falling down, or the first man to walk on the moon, is it?This is what you call haunting journalism. Someone's opinion about whether Brussels is dirty or not. I mean, I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but nobody in the big wide world really cares two hoots whether a BBC journalist thinks Brussels is dirty or not. People in Brussels who said they cared: they were making conversation with you, Mark. They didn't really care. Do you know why?Because it ISN'T NEWS. It is infotainment. It is something to talk about because one has to say something and one can't say the wrong thing. So the idea is to utter sweet little nothings that entertain.The reality is that you guys are so constrained by the editorial regime that you haven't any latitude to write insightful or provocative news stories. I don't blame you for it. A job is a job, and sure folks deserve to be entertained.But we common folk get the news despite you guys working for the corporate media, not because of it. I think that if you are going to enjoy life as a press guy in the states, you want to get very used to the idea that journalists entertain for ratings."The first draft of history." Jesus wept. Fri 31 Jul 2009 22:08:35 GMT+1 Girfity http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=75#comment34 Thank you Mark for such a fair and mostly positive assessment of Brussels. I have lived in Brussels for 14 years, both my children were born here and go to a local Belgian school. My family love living in Brussels and really think of it as home. Of course it has its faults, but so do most major cities. I remember Justin Webb's parting comments about Brussels all those years ago, and they made me really mad. So it has been a pleasure to read your blog and get a balanced and, for me, accurate view of my home town. Fri 31 Jul 2009 21:54:32 GMT+1 ironfranco http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=73#comment33 @31 SuffolkBoy2I have read most of your posts here and I agree with many of your visions concerning the interaction between the EU institutions and the national parliaments. It seems that we are in the same boat, or almost./My screen name came quite accidentally. I had proposed to the BBC stuff other normal names like *francophone*, *franco*, etc., but they did not accept them and offered me several prefixes, including *iron*. It was quite a funny story./ Fri 31 Jul 2009 19:43:47 GMT+1 alumzsh http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=71#comment32 I lived in Brussels 16 years ago and it sounds like not much has changed. A few, select highlights, but generally "blah". While I miss the mouth-watering hot waffle stands, I will never miss the agile maneuvering of dog crap to get to one. Are plastic bags and Pooper Scoopers really that challenging of technologies to master? Fri 31 Jul 2009 18:36:37 GMT+1 EUprisoner209456731 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=68#comment31 I don't know Brussels. I avoid it as I would expect to have trouble there if I told the truth.I do get the bit about being smaller than other capital cities. I think Berlin is great and the Germans have done and are doing a fantastic job. I certainly like visiting it. I think I would like to live there. A Berliner told me that the Berlin police are awful. I have not had that experience. They are not as cuddly as the Suffolk Police. Fri 31 Jul 2009 17:19:32 GMT+1 EUprisoner209456731 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=66#comment30 24. At 3:31pm on 31 Jul 2009, ironfranco wrote:some stuff containing the usual "EU"-lovers prejudices.Ironfranco!!I find your screen name very disturbing. I believe that th3e "EU" is creating structures which will allow the full, overt transformation to a pan-European, fascist state.I believe that there will be those who view themselves as some sort of Super Franco and will feel entitled and obliged to take over to keep the "EU" together. Please tell me why you use this name! Fri 31 Jul 2009 17:15:04 GMT+1 EUprisoner209456731 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=64#comment29 " ... being force-fed a pungent vegetable ..."This is far worse than that. It is about having the Fourth Reich rammed down our throats. This is about the creation of a sick, arrogant, megalomaniac dictatorship like the Soviet Union or the Third Reich or today's China.Hindenburg thought Hitler would achieve the destruction of Germany and how right he was.Kaiser Bill's English mum told him that his character was going to lead to big trouble and how right she was.The "EU" could well be "leading" us into a disaster. Anyway thank you for all your postings and good luck in the USA.If you are biased, it is in a very gentle way. You don't ban those who disagree with you. Some German websites do - not all.All the best! Fri 31 Jul 2009 17:07:04 GMT+1 greysweetalkinguy http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=62#comment28 I was wondering what had happened to you, Mark.I hope your contributions from the US are as insightful as those from Brussels. Heaven knows, there are not many commentators in the media who have many kind words to say about the EU. A shame, as Europe is where the future lies. I think it sad that David Cameron is reaheating William Hague's old, failed manifesto from the 2001 UK general election and getting into bed with neo-nazis from Eastern Europe, rather than seek the way forward with other centre-right ruling parties from Western Europe.Your despaches from Brussels will be missed: I hope the ones from the Potomac will compensate. Fri 31 Jul 2009 17:02:27 GMT+1 Guitarmoog http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=60#comment27 Dear Mark,Thanks for all you've done for the city of Brussels, and in improving understanding of the EU and its institutions. I've lived here in Brussels for 5 years now, and I agree with your summary of the city. It can be fun to visit, but it really is a joy to live in. Every day when i come home on my bike, two local shopkeepers pop their heads out to say Bonsoir; I can cycle to the woods, or to my favourite Ste Catherine pubs in ten minutes; the food, if not the service, is always superb. What I like most though is that Brussels does not give up her charms easily. You have to get out and scratch away at the stuffy facade, and then you find a world of free culture and music, and endless surprises. Musicians and artists are treated as just that, rather than service or product providers, and culture is for everyone, not just the rich.You only get out what you put in though. Those who don't enjoy Brussels tend not to put much into it, and see it as a dormitory for their professions. We hope you'll be back to visit, and that you enjoy DC. We'll raise a glass to you in the Hack! Fri 31 Jul 2009 16:10:49 GMT+1 Menno Aartsen http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=57#comment26 Mark, congratulations on your new position - I have greatly enjoyed those Brussels posts, these past few years, if only because I sort of preceded you, as a Dutch journalist, now living in the USA, after a seven year stop in the UK. I no longer "journalism", but journalism is like cancer - you're never quite shod of it.It will be fascinating to see what you make of this country - what befoxes many expatriate Brits is that the cultural and ethnic connection they expect to find in "the Colonies" is largely not there - you'll be told "I love your accent", but what the average American then doesn't tell you is that they really don't know what you mean by "fortnight".So, I am much looking forward to reading your musings, especially your reaction to the American culture freight train, which tends to run over you like a juggernaut, and is not at all like you see on television.I have one request, though, one that I make as a former journalist (NUJ London Freelance Branch), and as a long term resident of this country (I've been here since 1985). Please try to drag yourself away from the main metropolitan areas, occasionally. It is hard - all the years I spent in New York, then in Washington, D.C., I tended to focus on what happens in the main corridors, on the East and West coasts. But I've since moved to the countryside (albeit within driving distance from three international airports, one wants to experience, but not be cut off from civilization..) and discovered that much what makes America America actually takes places among the American people, and most of those do not live or work in the main urbanizations. Living here in rural Virginia has taught me more about the United States, and about America, than I ever learned in my sixteen years in New York City and Westchester County, and you really don't begin to understand Americans until you are where the parking lot in front of your office building is cleaned by a chain gang from the local jail, across from the square from you (four miles from the White House...).But for now, you'll have your hands full settling in. Feel free to call on me if I can help in acquainting you with your new home, all of your colleagues "visit America", they don't really live in it - and that is, in view of your work, perfectly understandable, it is a tough and busy job.Welcome to our side of the world - and should you ever pine for Belgian Lady Godiva chocolates, we have those in abundant supply. We have Belgian waffles, as well, but I've never been able to figure out what is Belgian about them, and the same goes for "Dutch cleaners" - we're not that clean, to begin with, but, like everywhere else, most cleaners here are Korean.... Best of luck! Fri 31 Jul 2009 15:50:24 GMT+1 ikamaskeip http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=55#comment25 Mr Mardell, your Articles have often got up my nose with their 'pro-EU' tendencies but at least on this occasion you stuck to something I could find sympathy with.... Brussels! My mother was born a Belgian to German-Dutch parents in a house on the Rue De Versailles, Brussels in 1914. My father was born an Englishman in a tied cottage in rural Surrey in 1913.The 2 met when my father was a part of the British Army that 'liberated' Brussels in September 1944 and was billeted with a relative of my mother who visited the 'Tommy' to see the 'heroes'.They married in haste when the Nazi Germans looked like coming back during the Ardennes Offensive in December 1944.Why the detail? Well, although after WW2 and demob they settled in England we lived a very multi-cultural-cosmopolitan childhood as a result of the cross-channel connections. Brussels was a childhood playground, my mother and father loved the place, the people (I recall as late as 1964 my father receiving a standing ovation in a Brussels bar as the words "...ici est veteran l'angelterre.." went round) and of course with widespread European family ties we saw a good deal of 'cold war' west Europe.The one thing my mother and father always agreed on from a political perspective was the 'Brussels-connection': In fairness to my mum I have to say I ignored her constant warnings and in 1975 voted 'Yes' to the European Economic Community.My mother loved Brussels and the assured peace and economic prosperity it brought via the Common Market.My father and mother also flatly stated Britain should have nothing to do with this 'organisation grande' which she cautioned would be "..une debacle pour les Anglais.." (by the way mum was Flemish hence mine and her very pouvre Francaise!).She and my father reasoned that anything that was directly in the interests of Paris-Berlin would not be in the interests of Great Britain as the 2 mainland nations were explicitly interested in dominating Europe for their benefit: Which my parents saw as no problem to Belgium or indeed the NELUX and Italy as these nations always had to play second fiddle to the 2 giants, so, at least in future they would get a more stable political-economic scenario and less chance of their lands being destroyed by hostility between Paris and Berlin. Not so Britain they argued: It was the threat to Paris-Berlin, it was the anglo-saxon nation that would not sit back and let Paris-Berlin decide matter and therefore Paris-Berlin would always do all in their power to reduce the independent-minded British by making Britons follow the European model lifestyle.So far as I can tell my parents pretty much got it spot on: Since Thatcher signed on the dotted line at Maastricht the UK has become a vassal state of the EU centred on Brussels.We learn from experience: Unfortunately, being a soldier in the BAOR I saw only the chance of helping reduce tensions by joining the EEC. It is mine and my children's misfortune that I should have listened to my wise and thoughtful Parents. Brussels is a lovely city for a holiday and as you rightly point out there is so much more to it than mussels, chocolate and beer... there's pomme de frite too! No, it and Belgium are far from boring and there's much to be interested in apart from the antiquated Hercule Poirot version of its lifestyle. Nothing in any of your Articles has ever altered my view Brussels is an excellent place, however, the 'EU Politics' are an absolute disgraceful scandal. The sooner UK/England rids itself of the Brussels as the centre for Governance of the British Isles the better. So, fare you well in the USA Mr Mardell, and perhaps if you are there as long as Mr Webb was by the time your BBC bosses decide another 'removal' is needed UK/England will have also removed itself from the venal, corrupt, undemocratic clutches of Brussels' EU. My late parents, I believe, will rest much mnore easily when their advice is finally taken up. Fri 31 Jul 2009 15:03:19 GMT+1 cyborgian http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=53#comment24 Mark, I don't normally read your blog but came across this item today on Brussels on the main page of the beeb. I enjoyed it. As an American who loves travel and culture I don't think one way or the other about this city. I like to appreciate things for what they are. Just as no two people are the same, nor are any two cities. But let's cut to the chase. I enjoyed your comments on your visit to the boutique in Washington, so as the new North American editor I'm looking forward to more of the same from your pen if you are relocating here. And you can frank, as I won't be offended. America is a strange place and I say that as an American. Your perspectives, experiences, humor and even dark humor are most welcome. Fri 31 Jul 2009 14:51:26 GMT+1 ironfranco http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=51#comment23 *The people are friendly. I love saying "good morning" and "good bye" in a lift, and wishing people a good afternoon, or day or holiday or whatever it is as you leave a shop, is charming.*Mark, being orthodox Slav and francophone by birth, I share entirely your sensitive and impartial way in depicting the atmosphere of the Belgium capital. What you say honors both you and your country cause there are still many Britons (and Europeans) who have reserves when it comes to them to admit that Britain is no more an almighty power that is eager to impose itself all over the world, but a leading civilized union within a much broader union of civilized nations. I wish you *bon voyage* and do hope you will continue to be the same Mark Mardell we know and support here./P.S. For the last few weeks, I was less motivated to post in your blog cause it was gradually transformed into an arena of very hot and unpleasant discussions that had little to do with Europe and the European Union./ Sofia, July 31 2009 Fri 31 Jul 2009 14:31:46 GMT+1 threnodio http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=48#comment22 Mark,Thank you for a great deal of erudite and interesting material, even-hand comment and not a few good laughs on the side. I am sure everyone of good will on the blog wishes you well in DC. I am sure many of us will join you on the other side of the pond - at least in spirit and in the blogosphere.Let's hope that whovever Auntie appoints to your old post does not neglect us and keeps us snapping at each others' heels. Have a great time over there. Fri 31 Jul 2009 14:23:53 GMT+1 Olm Guy Luxembourg http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=46#comment21 Totally agree. But Luxembourg is even ALOT BETTER than Brussels. Especially the people. I was supposed to be here for 3 years and I'm weeks away from 25 years. Fri 31 Jul 2009 13:51:54 GMT+1 TilinPaisa http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=44#comment20 To Mark, I normally do not leave blog comments but this article really intrigued me. I love reading about the inter-European-city-feuds. Which city is better really depends on who you talk to and where they live/come from. As a Colombian-American living in NYC, who has lived in both Paris and London, I'm going to have to say that I still don't know! I was however amused by your take on Brussels and I'm glad for once Paris, London, Rome, Madrid, etc..were not the center of attention. I have wondered about Brussels, I've only visited twice, but it did look like a city with secrets of a good life. Mark thank you for your insight and blogs, and congratulations on your new post, I'm sure you'll do great.Sincerely,Kata Fri 31 Jul 2009 13:31:54 GMT+1 sbzwashington http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=42#comment19 Dear Mark,As an American and a proud resident of Washington, DC for the past 20 years allow me to welcome you to the city. I wish you and your family best wishes while you settle in our Nation's Capitol. I certainly don't envy the packing and unpacking part, though...As you come to DC I encourage you and your family to seek out all of what the city offers - great free museums, wonderful green space and a variety of other opportunites. One simply cannot claim to be bored in DC - it is only a sign that you have not sought out the numerous offerings.However, I will not lie and tell you that Washington, DC is a perfect city or that the United States is a perfect country. Of course we have our problems. It is the one thing that every city and country on the globe has in common. However, as you discover this land and its residents please keep an open mind and try to refrain from being jaded by the many false impressions of so many outside the US. There are many misunderstandings and false impressions - both good and bad - that float around about the US and its residents. We have our particular habits and customs that you may find unusual and our fair share of "nutjobs" (again, like anywhere), but Americans are generally a friendly and open people.Good luck in your move and I look forward to your posts as you discover North America. Fri 31 Jul 2009 13:30:57 GMT+1 Brassdoff http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=40#comment18 Mark, your swansong was a pretty fair summing-up of Brussels' largely unrecognised charms, though I thought you went easy on its native citizens. In public they can be self-centred to the point of rudeness. They appear to have a total lack of awareness of other people. Keep your head down, is the attitude: don't get involved. So the bureaucracy - bad enough elsewhere - is infuriating here. But in private, or among friends, as I'm sure you've learned, the Belgians can be friendly, sociable, full of joie de vivre. The evidence is there for all to see in the crowded restaurants, or on those cafe terraces that magically fill up at the merest hint of sunshine. I came here for a year and despite an initial hostile reaction to the place, stayed on for twenty - which is not untypical of expatriates here. Scruffy old town - but it has a certain je ne sais quoi..Enjoy the USA! Fri 31 Jul 2009 13:08:44 GMT+1 bxl1976 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=37#comment17 As somebody that relocated to Brussels at the end of 2004 and is about to reach the ominous 5 years threshold of being based in the capital of Europe, I can recognise myself in almost everything that both Mark and Justin have written in their FOOCs. Bureaucracy in Belgium is infernal, customer service non-existent, taxes prohibitive, and dog fouling as much of a national sport as mussels and beer. But it is a city I have learnt to love becuase of its size, the beauty of its architecture, the quality of the public services you can access (both hospitals and schools are excellent), the gentlemanliness of (some) of its inhabitants, its low key charm and, of course, its multi culturalism. I have plenty of friends who have lived in Brussels throughout the nineties and the memories that they carry of the place very much echo Justin's 2002 piece. But from what I see (from many of those friends as well), the city has moved on and the refreshing inflow of 1000s of young people from the new member states has not only increased the availability of Milla Jovovich lookalikes in the streets, but also generated a very vibrant night and cultural life. The only issue that still angers me about every day life in Brussels, and which both Justin and Mark have failed to mention, is the pathetic and petty infighting between the french and flemish communities to which you are constantly and invariably exposed (even as a foreigner), the second you step outside the ghetto of the European quarter.I am sick and tired of people stepping out of lifts and responding to my well meaning 'bonne journee' in sneering flemish, and I am getting increasingly irritated at having to walk out of restaurants when in the company of Flemish colleagues, if they do not provide a menu in Flemish. Two years ago, I attended a political meeting organised by various political parties to tryin to promote their policies to the expatriates from the EU living in Brussels, that can vote in local elections. Within a few minutes a discussion on public services in Brussels degenerated into a war of insults between flemish and french speaking parties. Trying to capture expat voters by telling them how good bus services are in ghent was one of the most absurd circus acts I have ever seen. On that occasion, I was tempted to scream from the back of the room 'just let me know which one of you guys will get rid of the dog S**t'. Sadly I just decided to leave instead. Alessandro Fazio Fri 31 Jul 2009 12:47:43 GMT+1 Brigate133 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=35#comment16 Best of luck in America Mark. I will certainly miss your Euro Blog. You have left some very big boots to fill. Fri 31 Jul 2009 12:46:54 GMT+1 JayBeeke http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=33#comment15 Mark, thanks for honoring us with your stay. I've read almost every single post since you moved here, meanwhile wondering if your experience would be different from Justin's. And I'm glad it was. Good luck in the US of A! Fri 31 Jul 2009 12:45:53 GMT+1 gmt_18 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=31#comment14 First of all, sorry to see you leave - your insight and wit shall be missed.We French people wallow in making cheap fun of our Belgian neighbours (and so do the Dutch on the other side) but, take my word for it, it is possible to be in love with Paris after having spent 30 years there *and* appreciate Brussels and its profound charm. Its urban planning is messy, its streets are even dirtier than ours, it is not properly taken care of, it is not even beautiful with a few exceptions, it has its share of shady quarters, but it oozes charm and personality or, should we say, personalities. This is a city of villages. And yet, somehow it feels like a capital city.There are many ways to be rude, some very sophisticated indeed. The Brussels way is not the worst and behind the façade, most Belgians I know are friendly, generous and faithful. Belgium as a whole has a wonderful concentration of arts, culture, music, traditions and idioms. If a metropolis is really missed, neither Paris nor London is very far away by train. For the rest, the quality of life, including food, is second to none. Honestly I would take Brussels, or Chicago, against Washington any time - but I hope, for your own well-being, that you shall disagree!One should really go to Brussels and stroll in its streets rather than being content with worn-out clichés about EU bureaucracy. The average Bruxellois is no more ersatz of the EU bureaucrat than the average Maltese is a carbon copy of a Knight of Malta, leading a grand life and ignoring the impoverished people around. In fact, this is a genuine city, possibly one of the most enticing in Europe. Fri 31 Jul 2009 12:32:36 GMT+1 JohaMe http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=28#comment13 Mark, many thanks for your (mostly) enjoyable Brussels blog - I also enjoyed the (serious attempts at) even-handedness of them! Fri 31 Jul 2009 12:17:27 GMT+1 karl-f http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=26#comment12 Goodbye Mark and thanks for all your blog sprouts, always a fine praline and no waffle.Bon voyage to the USA and keep us posted...! Fri 31 Jul 2009 11:47:16 GMT+1 ikonos44 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=24#comment11 I love Brussels. Its the sort of place you have to make an effort to seek out its charms like the wonderful Bar Greenwich which feels like you've stepped back into the 1890s. It's also got a great gay scene which is a lot more fun than London's (come to think of it or Rome or Paris too).In fact, the whole of Belgium gets an unfair rap - Antwerp, for instance, is stunning. Fri 31 Jul 2009 11:31:40 GMT+1 gingermanchild http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=22#comment10 Coincidentally, today is also my last day in Brussels after an expat stay. I think your assessment of the place is spot on - living in such a small city has fantastic advantages, and the restaurant and bar scene is much better than you would expect for a city of this size. You're also spot on about the draw backs - dog poo for one, and the comment my mother made when she came to visit: "Brussels smells a bit...odd". But no mention of the administrative nightmares of a visit to the commune? And I certainly won't miss the grime and traffic of Rue de la Loi! Fri 31 Jul 2009 11:11:23 GMT+1 Godzirra http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=20#comment9 Brussels must be great if you relocate there from a city like London, but for those of us who come from The Rest of Britain find it to be a repulsive, dirty city full of, mostly, very rude people. I will never understand why people who relocate to Belgium choose to live there over the smaller cities on the outskirts of Brussels, such as Leuven or Ghent. Both share the quirky Belgian customs as mentioned above, but without the overcrowding, constant heavy traffic, rude people or filth. Both are a very short train ride from Brussels Central. Brussels is particularly dangerous for women. I have several friends who are astonished when visiting my girlfriend and I in Leuven that they are simply left to their own devices and not hounded by men everywhere they go. Fri 31 Jul 2009 10:25:58 GMT+1 Freeborn John http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=17#comment8 He lives! :o)------------------"It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found". Luke 15.32 Fri 31 Jul 2009 10:22:56 GMT+1 Zzaba69 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=15#comment7 I lived in Brussels for 9 years, just that little bit too long.. The place began to get to me.. but...Brussels is made of 2 worlds the Expat/Eurocrat world, where people stay in Brussels 2-4 yr, and the Local Belgian world. The two worlds very rarely meet so most Expats think that Brussels is all about who you know and what connections you have. I was lucky enough to cross the divide and get involved with the local Belgians, I enjoyed that world a lot more, felt at home, they accepted me for me rather than what connections or strings I could pull. Brussels is mis-understood because non-Belgian don't tend to cross the great divide and take everything they can from the city for the short time they are there. Being part of the local community is exactly the same as in the UK, maybe better because Belgians enjoy learning about other cultures and want to know about you especially if you take the time to learn a little Dutch. Mark is right about the Saturday workers, taxes are so high that it does not encourage companies to give people jobs and once in a work place the regulations are so complicated any form of entrepreneurship is immediately stifled and forced to assimilate to the norms of slow, bureaucratic lethargy. I'm not sure if I would return, I like the Belgians and the pace of life but I'm not sure if I can live under so much administratively imposed day-to-day red tape. Belgium administration is like 'The Twelve Tasks of Asterix - Find Permit A 38 in "The Place That Sends You Mad" so you think you can survive that part the rest is a walk in the park.The country needs a serious overhaul and I was hoping that the lack of a government would kick start that process but instead more regulation and control stepped in and is holding back the country even more. Fri 31 Jul 2009 09:38:13 GMT+1 Axel3175 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=13#comment6 Mark, as a typical English fellow most of your views on the world were full of inanities and prejudices. Your vision was and probably still is corrupted by the English pride prism. I will miss your euroblog in some ways because it shows how different approaches we can have between "Continental Europeans" (as proud English people love to call us) and you, islanders. So, Brussels is a great city and everyone on the Continent knows that. Only an English man can have doubts about it... so only an English man can be surprised to discover how nice it is. Finally, and this is my view only, Europe's most overrated city is clearly London: I could write pages and pages to explain why I feel this city is years and years late and under developped compare to Brussels, Paris or Berlin. Fri 31 Jul 2009 09:34:38 GMT+1 yasinko http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=11#comment5 Dear Mark,I am so sorry to hear that you are leaving Brussels and Euroblog. Those were such insightful pieces you prepared. And with such genuine style. We will definitely miss your euro-blabs and, god I envy those Americans now! It was your departing that made me sing-up for a membership at BBCblogs. Perhaps, I should have done it much earlier. Regrets.So long.(P.S. to BBC web team: Please do not discontinue this one of a kind Euroblog) Fri 31 Jul 2009 09:21:13 GMT+1 dynamicLilibet http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=8#comment4 I agree completely with Mark. We enjoyed two years in Tervuren, Brussels and found it a wonderfully easy place to live. Delicious food in restuarants, fresh produce at the markets and interesting individual shops. The parks and the forests were great for walking and easily accessible. I miss my walks around the lakes in Tervuren park. Leuven, the university town nearby also one of our favourite places. The pace of life was slower than in London, time to linger in one of the many squares drinking delicious hot chocolate and a chocolate or biscuit all beautifully, if slowly, presented. Time to watch the world go by. I would happily live there again. Fri 31 Jul 2009 09:13:44 GMT+1 Gheryando http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=6#comment3 Aww..you're back..for the last time...sniff..I hope you wont miss us too much, I certainly will. Fri 31 Jul 2009 09:11:17 GMT+1 gulfstreamblues http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=4#comment2 take care Mark, I will miss your euroblog very much. I always found it very fair and even-handed. I also appreciate your defense of Brussels, as I am shortly making a move from London to Brussels and have heard enough commentary from Londoners of "Why would you want to do THAT?" Still I have some anxiety about moving to a city that, let's face it, doesn't exactly have a stellar reputation in Europe. So it's good to hear some kind words for this much-derided city! Fri 31 Jul 2009 09:01:10 GMT+1 Maltesecitizen http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=2#comment1 "Brussels, Brussels, poor old Brussels. When a city becomes a synonym you know it's got problems. In English mouths the name of the place that has been a good home to me for the last four years is usually spat out, as if a distaste for what is perceived as European imposition has somehow blended with school day memories of being force-fed a pungent vegetable."Well Mr Mardell, you can rest assured that it is not only in English mouths that Brussels is usually spat out, but in most member countries whose people have found out what the eu is all about after being deceived by the eu lackeys and quislings. Malta is one of the member countries where Brussels and the eu are hated and spoken of with contempt by all those who want back our freedom and independence from the colonialist eu dictatorship and its impositions. Fri 31 Jul 2009 08:48:00 GMT+1 kiwiandrew http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2009/07/s_27.html?page=0#comment0 Having recently moved on after nearly 4 years in Brussels I have to agree with Mark , while the charms of Brussels are elusive to the casual visitor , those who live there for a while and take the time to explore the city usually delight in the quirkiness and friendliness and general 'livability' of the city even as they despair about the total lack of customer service . I miss my morning walks with my dogs ( always armed with my 'pooper-scooper' bags , of course ) . I miss walking out of my apartment on Toison d'Or turning left and walking a few paces to my 'local' for impeccable filet americain with frites , I even miss my smelly street people , all of whom seemed capable , in true Brussels fashion , of trying to cadge a cigarette or some money in at least 3 or 4 languages . I certainly miss my 10 minute morning commute from Porte de Namur Metro to my office near Place Rogier .Brussels , grubby , gritty and all too often unloved , I salute you . Fri 31 Jul 2009 08:32:04 GMT+1