Some of you asked this spring how it felt to be working again, and I wanted to write a post about it on the 10th June – exactly 8 years after I had my first working day in Brussels. However, motivation was lacking and all of a sudden I wasn’t working anymore…
Then I started working again in September, in the same place as in May-June, and ever since I have been meaning to finish this post that I started drafting back in June. I think that it is high time to explain how it all started!
When, in June 2002, I moved to Brussels from Geneva, I had no idea where I was going or what I was getting myself into. I had never been to Brussels before, Belgium yes* but the Belgian capital never. But I moved with the conviction that I wouldn’t leave for a long time! Since September 2000 I had lived in Venice, Padova, Skåne, Stockholm and Geneva so in June 2002 I was definitely ready to settle down.
My first working days in Brussels were so confusing. Everything was in French – my boss was Spanish and didn’t speak English. My three closest colleagues were French, Spanish and Greek and all the rest were other French-speaking people (except for one Flemish guy). Some of them, French girls S, C and C and Spanish guy M, are now my best friends in Brussels.
However, at the time I was just intimidated by all the French (language, people, culture)! And then trying to navigate the actual work tasks; it was a blur of EU acronyms and strange legal French words like “mise en demeure” (formal notice). I had just spent 5 months in Geneva where I was “fluent” in UN-lingo (in English) and it was quite frustrating to land in the EU administration.
That first Friday in Brussels, my French colleague with whom I shared the office, asked me if I had been yet to the centre of the city. No, I answered and she decided that it was time for me to see the Grand’ Place, the main square in Brussels which is absolutely stunning and Place St Gèry, an area full of bars and restaurants.
Just like this summer, eight years ago it was the World Cup and when we arrived to the centre it was jam-packed with cars beeping, people cheering and holding Turkish flags… Turkey had won a football game!
During those first weeks in the office there would be a TV in the Press lounge cafeteria where we used to have coffee every morning. When there was an important game people would gather around to watch it – all the different nationalities cheering for different teams. I loved that international feeling and even though I didn’t care about football, I realised that I had found my place in Europe!
*) Passing on the motorway to France, and once, in June 2000 attending the big music festival in Werchter outside Leuven