Maxine: Why I Am Not Skinny
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Brussels, etc.
I am Maxine of WhyIamNotSkinny, a South African who has been living in Brussels, Belgium for the last 5 years – and believes that everything revolves around food! Living with HIM (my amazing Portuguese fiancé) and Trouble (my crazy black cat)… I am happiest in the kitchen testing out a recipe, trying out a new restaurant or feeding my friends (all of which normally involve a glass of wine).
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started my blog in March 2012, in Brussels, as I found myself talking about food on a regular basis, sharing recipes or highlighting my favorite places to eat! And this little hobby turned into my passion.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I am very proud of the UK Buttles Bake Off challenge that was recently hosted in Brussels (and am looking forward to the ones that I will be hosting in September & October as well!)
Tell us about the ways your new life in Brussels differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I definitely eat out a lot more!!! There is wide array of different restaurants (especially since I live in Ixelles) all within walking distance (something that I would never have even considered doing in South Africa… walking to or from a restaurant!)
Culture shocks included not *having* to pay service charge (or tip the waitron staff) in Belgium…. Although I probably still leave a little something. Some (or most) restaurants only opening their doors at 7pm (but why can’t I just sit outside and have a drink before – plus I like to eat earlier on weekdays).
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Brussels? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Not sure that anything really prepares you for moving half way across the world to another continent… but I would definitely have signed up for French classes well before I ever considered moving here (thankfully – I speak Afrikaans which is a bit like a farmers version of Flemish/Dutch… so that gets me by… “sometimes”)
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Arriving in Brussels – I was told that I had to “present” myself to the Police station – so off I went. Stood in a queue – eventually got to the counter and basically told them that “I was here”… much to their amusement – they explained that I needed to go to the commune to “present” myself – not the police station.
So, the next day – I sourced the communes address, and arrived. After waiting about 20minutes, and completely bewildered by the lack of queues – just seeing people sitting and standing all over the place, I finally figured out that there was a *ticket* system. But a different ticket machine for different counters with different colors… “oh vie”
Another half hour passed (or possibly more) before I got to a counter… explained my story and said “I am here”… to which the woman laughed, shook her head and told me to go to the Aliens office.
It took a while – but I figured out that she meant the “foreigners” office… so another address was sourced and located … another queue (this time without the ticket process) only to get to the counter to be asked if I had an appointment.
At this point – I had two choices… Laugh or Cry… so I made an appointment, went back to the office and told them all about my “Welcome to Brussels” adventure!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Brussels?
- Join or enroll in something to meet new people – I signed up for Netball at the BSB and I joined InterNations – and met loads of new and interesting people that way.
- Don’t expect things to be the same way that they are at home – processes, people, groceries, etc are going to be different – give them a proper chance before you starting wishing for home! (And you might just find that you like them)
- c is a gateway to European travel – make the most of it! You are a speed train away from Paris, Amsterdam and London… plus loads of shorthaul flights to other major (and not so major) destinations… but also make sure that you make the most of what Brussels has to offer!
How is the expat community in Brussels? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community in Brussels is transient – always changing and moving – but don’t let that stop you from trying to make friends! In fact – the transient state of affairs means that most expats are very open to welcoming a new face and there is ALWAYS something interesting happening (From EAT! Brussels to eatcolor.be to Culinaria to Brussels Beer Festival… and those are just the foodie related events).
There are also lots of expat blogs and websites that will provide details on what’s happening and how to meet-n-greet fellow expats (example: InterNations drinks events)
I found that it was pretty easy settling in and meeting new people – however the group has changed a few times over the last 5years.
How would you summarize your expat life in Brussels in a single, catchy sentence?
Food exploration in Brussels explains WhyIamNotSkinny…