• Dilli

The 'real' world of work

Updated: May 27, 2019

Yesterday was my first day as a stagaire in Brussels. I didn't really know what to expect and how much work they would want me to do, so I brought my laptop and prepared for a long day. Interestingly enough, yesterday was what the Belgian people call a 'bridge' day, because it was preceded by a weekend and was followed by a national holiday, though in this case two holidays. As a result, there were very few people in the office so it was quite a relaxed atmosphere - I ended up getting over an hour for lunch.

My internship will consist of redesigning and translating parts of the new company website, and helping out various team members with tasks for which they need my help. The office is very informal - a fair few people even wear jeans! It's also, I am told, one of the only workplaces that is genuinely bilingual. My mentor told me that at meetings everyone, whether Flemish or francophone, speaks in their mother tongue and there's no need for translation.

​​I've made quite a few linguistic discoveries since coming here. ​​One of them is most certainly do not call a Belgian français, but rather refer to them as francophone. ​​I discovered a new phrase on my walk to work in the form of a café name: Ah! non peut-etre. It means "of course", of course. To someone who learned French in France, the wording is somewhat alien to my ear. Another bizarre turn of phrase, which I discovered while ordering a drink at Café des Halles, was s'il vous plait being used to mean "here you go" or "thank you" as the waitress handed me my change. On top of this, baise is used very similarly to bise to mean "a light kiss", rather than "a fuck", as the slang of France would have it.


Linguistic clashes are proving evermore interesting, and, although my mentor did try to reassure me that the rivalry between the Flemish and the francophones was virtually non-existant, he did let slip a story about the Flemish spraying over the French street names (in Brussels the street signs are in both French and Flemish). Partly out of fear of offending a Flemish speaker by speaking French to them and partly out of simple linguistic curiosity, I've decided to take it upon myself to take some Dutch classes. I've heard they're free.

On Sunday I had another first: Zumba. It was really fun, especially given that the instructor was from Chile and played a lot of the music I had been listening to over the summer in Barcelona, including a few Enrique Iglesias cheesy classics. I love Latino music, and the class was great fun. There were times when my inner British self manifested itself - notably when we were asked to wiggle our hips or body pop. I felt like my body was doing something closer to the robot than the sensual fluid movements the teacher was trying to get me to do. I may not have learned how to dance, but I will never forget the numbers 1 to 4 in French.

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