Alright, day 5 in Louvain-la-Neuve, and I am bored.
Louvain-la-Neuve reminds me very much of Waterloo. Or shall I say, the University of Waterloo. The entire place gave me the feeling of a gigantic campus, and I suppose technically that’s what it really is. To give you Waterlooians (I refuse to use the term Waterloosers) an idea of this little place, the distance from home to work is approximately the same as the distance from MKV to DWE. The only difference is that everything you need is en route – restaurants, a shopping mall, grocery stores, cinemas…you get the idea. There are no cars or buses or vehicles within the campus/city – it is literally made for walking.
And I like that, except the part where I have to carry my laptop in my backpack to and from work, but that’s only about half an hour of the entire day combined. One thing I expected even before coming here is the cost of living. I’ve heard that Belgium is on the high end even in Europe, and to be in a place where 99% of the population is university students who are stuck within a one kilometre radius, it makes sense that prices are jacked up. That means I have to make wise choices in terms of spending…thank God for research stipends.
In Belgium, there are a couple of interesting things I noted that are a little different from France:
(1) The numbers – I’ve been warned of this before, so it wasn’t particularly shocking. It became apparent when I was ordering food for the first time. In France, 70 in French is “soixante-dix” (literally “sixty-ten”) and 90 is “quatre-vingt-dix” (literally “four-twenty-ten”…four times twenty plus ten, such rationality). In Belgium, however, 70 is “septante” and 90 is “nonante”, but 80 is still “quatre-vingts”. Well I just gotta say…THAT MAKES SO MUCH MORE SENSE! Now, why didn’t they just make 80 “huitante” as well?
(2) Les bises – In other words, kisses on the cheeks. In France, generally it’s one on the right cheek and one on the left cheek for acquaintances. I was told by a colleague here, after trying the right-left bise, that it’s just one on the right cheek and that’s it. Alright, I said to myself, time to adjust to the local customs. However, I’ve gotten the right-left bise several times and even one that was right-left-right…so, I am confused. Someone explain!?
(3) Lots of English – That’s right, people generally speak English here. Unlike Bordeaux, Louvain-la-Neuve is the host to lots and lots and lots of international students, so it is more or less an expectation for people in the lab to speak English, and it is no surprise that an entire office-full of people converse daily in English. This felt a little strange for me, ironically, because I had gotten used to speaking French in the office and it just doesn’t feel so right anymore when I switched back to English. So now, I speak to my supervisor in French (he asked me to choose between English and French, and I chose French for the sake of practice) and the colleagues in my office in English…or French, or Frenglish, or whatever comes out of my mouth. You get the point.
Out of extreme boredom this weekend – and that is not an understatement – I went out to take some pictures, as I do in any new city. Here is a more pictorial introduction to the city, and if you’re still interested in why I have been so bored, please continue to read on after the pictures.
Train station of Louvain-la-Neuve. This is the terminus, which means I HAVE to take the train if I want to go ANYWHERE outside of this city – unless I have a car, which I don’t. The great thing, though, is that the train station is right in the centre of the city, and walking from either my house or my workplace takes literally less than 10 minutes. This shall be very convenient for future out-of-town explorations.