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Favorites from “Only in Belgium”

May 19, 2009

One of the (many) drawbacks of being unable to speak French or Flemish in Belgium is that I never get to hear the local news. Sure, I am able to keep apraised of the important stuff – the Prime Minister resigning, Fortis being sold, etc. – in the international press but the truly interesting stuff – the “Wait. What?!” moments that happen to people other than myself and my friends – those never seem to make it onto my Google News – Belgium feed.

Fortunately, The Bulletin (Belgium’s weekly English magazine) came to the rescue by posting their column “Only in Belgium” online. With the tagline “If surreal had a nationality, it would be Belgian”… it appropriately covers all of the quirky (and yes, surreal) happenings around Belgium.

Below are a few of my favorite:

"Nation ist eine illusion" - found on a wall in Germany.

"Nation ist eine illusion" - found on a wall in Germany.

Return to Germany

A family living on a small plot of Belgium stuck in Germany has asked to have the land officially declared German. The land is a leftover from the World War One peace treaty when the land surrounding a German railway line to the Ruhr was handed to Belgium. The plot is 18 kilometres inside Germany and the Belgian postman has to make a 40km detour on his daily route to deliver to the single house.

Me on the walls of a castle in Germany, looking for Belgium.

Me on the walls of a castle in Germany, looking for Belgium.

From May 11:

You’re (Not) Fired

A Finance Ministry employee found guilty in 2006 of blackmailing tax payers is back at work after the ministry took too long to fire him. The manager responsible for collecting VAT duties got an eight month suspended sentence, but the disciplinary procedure meant to fire him dragged on for so long that the country’s highest court deemed it abusive. Finance Minister Didier Reynders said that the man is on sick leave anyway and has been given secretarial work.

From May 9:

Robin Hood convicted

A local bank manager was given a three year suspended sentence for taking money from rich customers and distributing it to the poor. The manager of a Centea branch in Ghent stole almost €1 million from customers’ accounts and used it to give loans to people with financial difficulties, sometimes even digging into his own savings. “I was naive,” said the modern day Robin Hood. “They abused my trust.” He was also fined €500 and ordered to pay €250,000 in compensation.

From Spring 09

(Pigeons in the park. Bet you could get them for the bargain price of $1.)

An April fools joke?:

No joke, really

Pigeon fanciers can sleep better at night knowing that their prize birds can now be insured against theft. The insurance company Marsh also insures against fire, predators, during transport and electric shock for €20 a year. Last week also saw a pigeon called Jonge Supercrack sold for a record breaking €110,000 in an online auction. Ludo Claessens from Putte sold 72 pigeons at the auction, averaging €10,000 per bird.From

From March 17 – (I could do this one…)

Rent a granny

From July it will be possible to drop of your grandparents at a foster family for a couple of hours or even overnight. The service will cost €2.50 an hour or €25 a night but is only available in Flanders. There’s also an option for the host family to take fulltime care of up to three elderly people at a time for a flat-rate €30 a day. The Flemish Region will provide a service to match families.

From January 3:

Jumbled evidence

A Belgian-Tunisian couple accused of an arranged marriage were let off after police submitted evidence from an unannounced visit that the pair’s laundry basket contained jumbled clothes belonging to both the husband and wife.

Over Easter, my laundry was inspected by this little agent:


Did Agent J find evidence of an arranged marriage??

Is there something in here for me?

No… just lots and lots of smelly socks!


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