Belgium! Oh, Belgium...

The new Belgian government

Belgium is a very strange country indeed!

Did you know that Belgium boasts a new government since the 6th of December.

I am not kidding. After about eighteen months of governmental vacuum... well not absolute vacuum considering all the bickering, false hopes and a lot of hatred than went on and on... until King Albert said that enough is enough... which he was not even supposed to say and probably never said.

Belgium being on the brink of going bankrupt desperately needed a government... The basic problem being Flemish, the new Prime Minister is Walloon (for the first time in more than 30 years). It does not make sense. This is Belgium.

Today, it looks like Belgians loved being without a government even though they were heading straight for disaster. Now they have a government and Belgium is totally paralyzed because of a general strike (civil service, of course)... This is Belgium.

Don’t take me wrong. I do not hate Belgium. France loves general strikes and even better, general strikes in its civil service. Job security obviously allows you to disrupt the economy and even worse the everyday life of people who are not civil servants.

I have been living in Belgium for quite a few years now but Belgium never stops surprising me... which would be a great thing if I were in love with this small kingdom.

Let me tell you my last experience...

I am going to be chauvinistic of course but you all know how prejudiced I can be.

It all started because I needed a new mobile subscription and a new phone. No need for details.

When this happens in France, you go get a new subscription from a phone company and they give you a very, very nice discount on your new phone. Very, very nice!

But I am living in Belgium where there are 3 mobile phone companies - A, B and C.

I go to the first store I find - A, of course.

“I’d like to get a subscription from your company. What’s your best offer?”

“None. Very sorry. We do not have the same system you have in France.” (I do have a very strong French accent, don’t I?)

“Ok. Too bad...” (Bye, bye, new subscription and new phone... New phone and new subscription...)

“Wait a minute,” says the A company guy. “I may have a solution for you, though. It is Christmas time and we offer you a 100€ rebate if you buy a phone from us and... and only if you are a customer from company B or C, hence opening a new account in our A company and switching from them to us.”

Great! Very interesting proposal indeed. Stealing customers for 100€... Amazing!

Except that I do not have a current account in B nor C.

“This is not a problem. Not at all. You have a B store downstairs. Go there and buy a “Pay&Go card” from them. This will provide you with a B call number. Enough for us. Then we open an account for you and you get your 100€ rebate... as soon as your form gets approved. A matter of a few hours, really.”

One look at Popeye who looks as flabbergasted as me.

All right. This is Belgium, right?

I go to the B store. 

A very nice guy smiles at me and... shame on me!

“Hello. I just got to Brussels and my French phone does not work here. (Stupid French phone companies, really!) I desperately need a Pay&Go card. Can you sell one to me?”

And yes, I feel very bad.

“No problem. How long will you be staying?”

“Two days so a 10€ card should be fine.”

“There it is, Madam. How do you like Brussels?”

“Oh splendid, splendid. I love Brussels. I do.”

And no, I do not drop dead.

Besides I've had enough time to look around and there is no special offer for Christmas.

I go back to the A store with my B Pay&Go card... They need my id. I give them my id. They need my credit card... This is getting serious.

To make the story short, this is how I now have a brand new phone with a 100€ rebate and a brand new contract with the A company with a B phone number from a 10€ Pay&Go card.

I tried to tell the story to a couple of French friends, not used to life in Belgium. They looked so appalled... at my behavior maybe. I did not dare ask them...

Well, this is Belgium after all.

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