Belgium in Brief: To shop or not to shop, that is the question

Belgium in Brief: To shop or not to shop, that is the question
Credit: Belga/Pexels

As an international crossroads it's inevitable that Belgium blends some of the diverse cultural flavours of elsewhere with its established repertoire of traditions and dates of note. It may even happen that in catering for its foreign residents, Belgium develops a taste of its own for certain celebrations previously reserved for calendars abroad. It's literally the meaning of multiculturalism.

And in the spirit of openness and benevolence, it befalls us to look peaceably upon these happenings, though we are of course under no obligation to participate. This option to abstain is exactly what some Belgian stores are exercising with their decision to explicitly not take part in Black Friday.

In fact, they're going a bit further and closing both their physical and online shops in an effort to stir customers to consider their buying habits. The chains involved were keen to stress that this isn't just a PR stunt (though it kinda is) and preempted criticism of their moral stance by quipping that they "don't pretend to be more Catholic than the Pope".

And whilst the Black Friday phenomenon is seen by many Europeans as an American aberration that amounts to little more than a brazen consumerist binge, is the decision of these stores not a little bit noble? There is certainly money to be made by retailers and many are only too happy to forget about environmental standards or ethical considerations to make a quick killing.

Certainly it would be nice if folks over here could see the whole bonanza for what it really is and simply turn their noses up at the "deals" dangled in front of them. Much better that we show we can spend consciously and understand that not indulging speaks louder than fuelling the frenzy with our cash.

Sadly the now-annual scenes of shoppers scrabbling over discounted electrical goods paint a damning picture of "civilisation". Are we really that greedy? It's almost like a yearly test of consumer restraint, and one we woefully fail.

Sick of Black Friday before it's even arrived? Let @Orlando_tbt know.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your coffee break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

1. 'High mass of consumption': Belgian shops close on Black Friday

This year, chains such as Dille & Kamille and Xandres will not participate in Black Friday (25 November). Instead of offering extreme discounts on their products, they will keep their doors closed to encourage customers to think about their consumption habits. Read more.

2. 'Bringing back Brussels' grandeur': Ambitious redevelopment at Place de la Bourse

The long-awaited "The Dome" redevelopment project, on the corner of the Place de la Bourse and Avenue Anspach in Brussels, officially received the green light – a milestone in revitalising the Brussels city centre. Read more.

3. Is Colruyt saving consumers from rampant grocery inflation?

After sharp price increases in spring, groceries in Belgium have risen barely 2% in the past six months despite energy prices and inflation going through the roof. To understand why the cost of food isn't rising at the same rate as other goods, it is important to understand the "Colruyt effect". Read more.

4. Belgian 'child prodigy' starts doctorate at prestigious German institute

A few months after 12-year-old Laurent Simons – often nicknamed "Belgium's little Einstein" – obtained his master's degree in quantum physics, he will be starting a PhD at the prestigious German Max Planck Institute. Read more.

5. Belgian climate activists given prison sentences for glue on artwork stunt

Two Belgian climate activists from the Just Stop Oil movement have been given two months in prison, one of which is probationary, by a court in the Hague. The activists were condemned for glueing themselves to Vermeer's famous painting of the Girl with a Pearl Earring at the Mauritshuis museum last week. Read more.

6. Brussels police open investigation into officer moonlighting as sex worker

The Brussels police have opened an internal investigation into one of the members of its force who is said to have supplemented his income by working as a sex worker during his sick leave. Read more.

7. Hidden Belgium: The uninhabited peninsula that went Dutch

A narrow strip of Dutch land bordering the River Meuse near Maastricht accidentally became part of Belgium when the river changed direction in the 1960s. Read more.

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