by Christine Neumann //
So many different cultures living together in one place – it must be fascinating – these were my first thoughts, when I moved to Brussels a few years ago. I could not imagine how this was actually possible or working in practice, but I was curious to find out more. Cultural diversity offers so many different opportunities.
Now, I am living in Mannheim – geographically embedded in the beautiful region Rhine-Neckar, close to Heidelberg and Frankfurt, having a very multi-cultural image, surrounded by lots of nature and a highly innovative and industrial eco-system. But in certain moments, I am still thinking of Brussels – a very vibrant and international city, full of expats, exciting and dangerous from time to time, sometimes superficial, and most importantly full of diversity.
In terms of mobility, both cities have different approaches to public transport. If you think, there are traffic jams in Mannheim, you have not seen Brussels. Car traffic is often so bad, that public transport is a must. Now, public transport is never a real pleasure, but I immediately realized a major difference: While German culture puts punctuality first (and a two-minute delay of a tram is considered a nightmare), in Brussels it’s openness and tolerance for diversity that come first. It is simply much more accepted, that some things can go wrong, that all the other people also want to travel like you and so on. Many more open-minded people.
Brussels found a way to host all different cultures in one place. There is an EU quarter, an African, an Asian, an Arabic and even a German quarter. People try to bring in their own ways of living and moving, their cultural traits, but at the same time, they are also trying to adjust to their new surroundings. There is so much history in Brussels, not just because of the EU institutions, but also because of all the different people who migrated to the European capital in the hope of a better future. Brussels is one of the major melting pots in Europe and people accept this diversity, which makes urban transport much easier (well mostly, not always…). Sometimes, the different systems also showed you that the grass is not always greener on the other side, i. e. it could also be a way to appreciate your home country more again.
Overall, Brussels citizens are more open to the unknown and unforeseen, not afraid to learn something new from different cultures, and just all bringing different styles of moving to a city. It was a wonderful experience!
Author: Christine Neumann