The Belgian BBQ

There is so much to love about Belgium! 
After a year in the land of chocolate, waffles and exceptional beer, we've come to realize that there's so much more to this country than one reads about in travel publications. Chris and I are so happy with our decision to live in Roeselare, because we were quickly embraced in this small, not-at-all-touristy, city. We are happy here, and we've met amazing people who have included us and made us feel at home. Aside from the obvious Belgian delicacies, here are a few things that we have come to appreciate about our second European home: 

{The work/life balance}
If you work on a Belgian contract, it is actually illegal to work more than 38.5 hours a week. Illegal! For all of our friends working 60+ hour weeks in America, this must seem like a vacation every day of the week! Of course there are people in Belgium who do work overtime, but in general, people value their time away from the office. On work evenings, young professionals meet up for a drink on a terrace, families stroll through the park, and in the summer there are fairs on the Market Square and events to fill every evening. It just seems that Belgian families spend more quality time together than in America. That's just my observation.  

{The bike culture}
Of course there are European cities (like Amsterdam) that have a more vibrant biking culture, but in Belgium, it's also acceptable for young and old people to scoot around on bikes. There are no school busses in Roeselare, so kids ride to school on bikes. I remember being jealous when high school friends received Mercedes or Hummers (seriously?!) for their 16th birthday. I think I am going to send our kids to a school where everyone rides bikes. Even the mail man delivers the mail on a bike! It just seems healthy to get to where you're going on a bike. 


The Grand Canal Party in Roeselare

The Grand Canal beach party in Roeselare, Belgium. Photo credits here
Several weekends ago, Chris and I experienced The Grand Canal beach party in our land-locked, Belgian home of Roeselare. It initially sounded suspect, but naturally, the McCoy's are always up for new adventures. Niekie (my first Belgian friend), rallied her posse to come out, enjoy the sand, dance the night away and support a great local DJ who just happened to be her hubby, Tim. It didn't take that much convincing to get Chris and I there. 

On the other side of the tracks, in the tired, industrial area of Roeselare, we walked through an arch built entirely out of wooden pallets and we completely forgot where we were. The set up was brilliant! Belgians are really great at capitalizing on their summers, and The Grand Canal beach party was a perfect example of just that. A wall of several thousand wooden pallets encompassed the make shift beach, restaurant, bar and DJ area. For two months in the summer, parties and events take place here when the weather is favorable. 

I love those moments when you blindly walk into a new place and feel immediately at ease. It didn't hurt that we were enjoying the balmy, Belgian evening with a big group of friends. What a difference a year can make! I remember walking through Roeselare as a complete stranger; watching people greet each other on the street, and stop at sidewalk cafes to kiss each other on the cheek. I wanted so badly to walk past someone familiar, to be recognized, to feel valued, to be known. A year later, I am being greeted everywhere I go, I am being kissed on the cheek and I am no longer a stranger.