We arrived in Brussels on the 7th of August, starting our trip in Europe’s multicultural center.
The city, informally known as the “European Capital” holds many cultural secrets which we got to discover. From the European institutions over the Grote Markt to the House of European History, Brussels is culturally as diverse as its population. We enjoyed walking across different parts of the city and seeing first hand all the different ethnic communities that occupy its inner city. Each neighbourhood had its own unique flavour, representing the people within it. For example, our hostel was located near Dailly, a predominantly Turkish area. We tried the traditional lamb stir-fried wrap called ‘Tantuni’ with a cold Ayran yoghurt drink which was homemade by the local family that owned the restaurant. However, this experience of diversity also left us feeling somewhat bittersweet due to the clustered nature of the neighbourhoods – this comes with its own set of problems, for instance representation and inclusivity of minorities. A topic we discussed with Mathilde, a French medical student living there. Aspects of our talk were ethnic communities and the need for more inclusive neighborhoods.
We enjoyed hanging out with our friend Floraine, who showed us around the Grote Markt, taught us the French word for lobster: ‘homard’, as well as discussing the unapparent nature of the EU in daily life. Floraine expressed her concerns about the EU over some Belgian Fritz. Although she was raised in Brussels, she has travelled Europe widely and told us that to many young and older people alike, the EU’s presence isn’t really felt on the ground-level. She talked to us about how an emphasis on our shared culture around Europe could bring us more together to feel more ‘European’.
It was interesting to learn about Belgium’s voting system. It is, for example, mandatory to vote in the elections. We found this an interesting way to encourage people to vote. On the other hand this comes as an expense of their liberty of choosing not to vote.
We continued to keep our schedule busy with discussions about Northern Ireland, Social Democracy and Brexit. Our discussion partners were members of the TUI office in Brussels and a wide range of young Europeans we got to meet.
Overall, our visit to Brussels acted as a good foundation to kickstart our trip and to learn about Europe at its multicultural centre. We’re excited for our next destination: Amsterdam.
For more, follow our journey via instagram @tuistiftung