mei 13, 2011 at 10:18 am 8 reacties

by Richard Hill

One of my first errors on arriving in Belgium was to mistake a resident of Lier for an Antwerpenaar. Lier, a mini-Bruges which is worth an intercontinental roundtrip for a visit, is just 15 kilometres from Antwerp city centre and divided from the Antwerp agglomeration by only a kilometre or so of greenish field. Yet, both physically and culturally, it is another world (it may also help that it has a very succesful football club).

The people of Lier, along with many of their Flemish cousins, claim to find the Antwerpenaars brash and overbearing: the big city has a lot to be proud of, but so does Lier!  In fact, this hostility, mild as it is, is another historical hangover in a country which has seen so much history.

Similar enmities, or jealousies, exist between most regions and cities of Flanders. It is difficult to think that the politically fuelled pride of Flemishness will ever entirely extinguish these ultimately rather charming human quirks. Different dialects often reinforce this spirit of localism.

I know a young Flemish man who claims there are different cultures between streets in his native town of Zonhoven.

The coup de grâce to my never-to-be book on ‘Belgium’s cultures’ came when I met a man from the Flemisch village of Zaventem (which also happens to be the home of Brussels National Airport) and he told me he had married a girl from the area of Erps-Kwerps (I lie not!) some five kilometres away. He finds the two cultures so different that he goes back to his parent’s home in Zaventem as often as he can.

I never did work out whether the issue was the difference between Zaventem and Erps-Kwerps or his relationships with his mother and his mother-in-law, but I decided that, after thirty years, it was time to give up. My determination was reinforced by the inadvertent comments of a native Erps-Kwerpsian who made me understand that there were even differences between he culture of Erps and the culture of Kwerps.

Once again, as often applies to things Belgian, the only appropriate way to describe the spirit of localism is as charming but surreal.

Richard Hill is a British national who has been living in Brussels for more than 30 years. He is an expert in cultural relations, negotation and communication techniques. Among his clients were e.g. Alcatel, Eurocheque International and the European Commission. Hill wrote several books on Belgium and on Europe. The above text is taken from ‘The Art of being Belgian’, (2005, Europublic). (jc)

NOTE: Lier as a touristic ‘mini-Bruges’ is a joke. Even the real Bruges is for the greater part fake. If you want to see a real city with real history, go to Ghent. Or Liège, in Wallonia, for that matter. (jc)

Entry filed under: boeken, Europa, Politiek Belgie, Samenleving. Tags: , , , , , .


8 reacties Add your own

  • 1. jef lambrecht  |  mei 13, 2011 om 11:06 am

    I fully agree here. The only real nationalism in this country of old city-states is a local small town chauvinism. That’s why ‘flemish’ nationalism is artificial and a fiction. On the other hand, it is within the grasp of the Belgians to see their country ultimately as a city-state, which morphologically it already is.

  • 2. Luk Kennis  |  mei 13, 2011 om 2:03 pm

    En dan?Wat een zeverartikel zeg!
    Als het zoveel beter, zoveel multicultureler,zoveel kosmopolitischer is in Londen , Parijs of New York is dan in Lier: blijf dan weg uit Lier en, zeker uit Erps- Kwerps, Schakkebroek en uit Sint Jan in Eremo!!

    Trouwens de Lierenaars hebben als eersten het begrip tolerantie en bijhorende multiculturaliteit uitgevonden: half vorige eeuw mochten die van de Karthuizersvest-nochtans een rood bastion van voetbalclub Lierse- al komen trainen op de terreinen van de Lyra- een CVP burcht-mits betaling uiteraard…

  • 4. Hugo Raspoet  |  mei 14, 2011 om 7:46 pm

    Toch vreemd wat groepsgevoel met een mens kan doen.
    Volgens de nieuwsdienst van de VRT heeft “onze” Vincent Kompany al de Cup Final gewonnen. Joepie !

  • 5. Jan van Horebeek  |  mei 14, 2011 om 7:57 pm

    Ik heb de wereld afgereisd en overal diezelfde mentaliteit ervaren.
    Alors ?

  • 6. pheirman  |  mei 16, 2011 om 7:42 am

    Unfortunately Flemish localism isn’t always that charming. Look at the growing intolerance towards migrants en French speaking citizens.

  • 7. Willem  |  mei 16, 2011 om 1:34 pm

    @pheirman – which growing intolerance?
    1) The only thing the largest part of the Flemish people voted for was to get the same respect as they have/ give to the French speeking part of the country. And then to have/ get a more efficient state.
    2) There is no growing intolerance towards migrants. The people who come here are not to blame. It is the legaslation (one of the weakest of Europe) which has to be changed. And finally it is changing.
    And Regarding the article…. I wonder with which people the writer spoke. Of course everybody may and can be proud on his hometown/ village but this is the same all over the world.

  • 8. hgad@ssasa.com  |  maart 19, 2012 om 6:37 pm

    I have a theory that the way culture works is that distance seperates and creates different characteristics. It starts with the indivdual. Then the family. then the neighborhood, then the town, then the state , then the country, then the region. Cultural differences are noticeable between neighboring families but compared to the country they live in the differences are very small. That’s why a visitor to Lier will find everything the same as in Antwerp,. Yet to the natives the differences are quite large.


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