Belgium in Brief: Brussels in the eye of the beholder

Belgium in Brief: Brussels in the eye of the beholder
Credit: Belga/The Brussels Times

Cities are by nature transient environments, a conglomeration of communities interspersed with commercial districts, public administration, and infrastructure wending its way between neighbourhoods. For all the efforts of urban planners to impose order, the diversity of human activity packed into a small space often escapes reason or regulation.

With our surroundings in a perpetual state of flux, it will come as no surprise that the perspectives of the city are anything but consistent. A study into how Brussels is perceived as a place to live highlights the strength of opinion. Speaking to residents and those who have moved away from Belgium's capital, researchers found that the city both inspires and irritates, depending on who you ask.

In itself, this finding is not astounding. Like anywhere, you have folks who can't stand city life and others that feel energised by the buzz. Ask me and I would give varying answers depending on the weather and time of day. More insightful was the apparent ease with which residents tired of Brussels leave the city.

Coming from London, it can take a herculean effort to pull yourself away from the capital. A large chunk of residents simply accept the city's shortcomings and unwillingly stay. Brussels is different. It may not have showstopping landscapes on its doorstep but the surrounding provinces are generally pleasant in a pastoral sense.

This surely adds to the appeal of leaving the city. And getting back to the heart of the action is relatively uncomplicated. London on the other hand dwarfs the Belgian capital and is orbited by objectively disagreeable periphery towns, no doubt once pretty but now serving largely as uninviting residential outposts.

Also notable were the media portrayals of the city: rarely is Brussels presented as a congenial place to live with attention more commonly being paid to its economic and multicultural characteristics, and sometimes highlighting crime. These representations are often lacking in contextual nuance and create a skewed impression of what living in the city is like now and how that could evolve, hopefully for the better.

Does living in Brussels appeal to you? 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:

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