We all drive on the right side of the road.
Since my moving to Slovenia from Belgium in early 2014, I have been fortunate to observe the Slovenes as they go about their everyday lives. I’ve noticed quite some differences as well as many similarities between “us” and “them”. After all, it’s been more than a year and a half since I temporarily stationed myself here, in Ljubljana.
Some similarities between Belgians and Slovenians
I personally believe that the Belgians and the Slovenes have a lot in common. Inhabitants of both countries pay a fair share in taxes, and put an equally fair share of effort in dodging them. Janez Novak is definately on par with Jan Modaal when it comes to (not) paying their dues.
Slovenians seem to enjoy the occasional Belgian beer, of which many are widely available in the bars flaunting across the centre of Lublana. In return, I decided to like their Laško speciality beers. And I actually do. Like Belgium, microbreweries are all the hype, many of which have really good beer, like Grim Reaper. A normal pint gives you twice the Belgian volume for the same price.
Prices of commodities and in supermarkets are pretty much the same, except for veggies and fruits. At times these seem to not only be fresher, but also a tad cheaper over here in Slovenia.
Inhabitants hailing from either Belgium and Slovenia seem to suffer from the same kind of innate and undeserved self-imagery: one of being absolutely unimportant as a nation, in a historical sense, and in the grand scheme of things.
The same, but different?
Both countries are small. Last year, when I went to the U.S. accompanied by 3 Slovenians, most Americans kind of had already heard of Belgium: “Are you from the north or from the south?“
However, only one guy knew where Slovenia was to be situated. His enthousiastic “Sloveeeni’uh! Anže Kopitar, my man! You watching the game tonight?” proved to be a nice alteration from the classic “Next to Russia, right? You should be careful with Putin.“
When in Slovenia, Belgians will most certainly appreciate the attractively priced taxis and restaurants. The last time I took a night cab in Ghent about two years ago, taxi fares there started at the democratic price of €11. Nowadays, prices start in the neighbourhood of €0,90 here in Ljubljana, which is actually a bigger city than Ghent.
Aldi is called Hofer. Same logo, store lay-out and general concept though, with Hofer also selling some A-brands.
Complaining. Both nationalities like to complain, albeit about different things and people, mostly concerning events from the past. For example, some northern Belgians (Flemish) would rant about the southern Belgians (Walloons) and vice versa. The accusations being indolence vs. greed.
In Slovenia, some (descendants of) partisans aren’t all too happy with (descendants of) domobranci – and the other way round. All the while it feels as if nobody really has all facts, but mostly opinions based on whatever their parents thought to be truthful. Perhaps declassification of certain UDBA archives may bring about closure on certain issues.
Net salaries. In some sectors, for example IT, net salaries are not that different between Belgium and Slovenia. However, I’ve come to learn the hard way that proper wage negotiation, more than in Belgium, is key if you actually want to get there. In other sectors, there appears to be a bigger gap when comparing both countries in this area. For example, pensions and minimum wage are definately smaller than in Belgium. This, together with the point on rent, is a common question I get from Slovenians and Belgians alike.
Rent. A rental appartment is substantially more expensive in Belgium than in Slovenia. In LJ, for the same dwelling you would approximately pay half the rent as you would for it in Ghent. Luckely, there is no such thing as compensation for inflation on rent. Hvala Bogu.
Traffic. During his Erasmus exchange in Ghent, one Slovenian once said he thinks Belgians drive like crazy people. He’s right in the sense that the driving style in Slovenian cities and villages is quite civilized. On the other hand, highways might tell you a different story. With boot-kiss driving and headlamp-flashing seemingly acceptable to some, the same does not apply to the zipper method, unfortunately.
Public buses. An average bus ticket in Ghent damages your wallet to the extent of €1,40 per 60 minutes. In Ljubljana you get 90 minutes for your €1,20. In my humble opinion, busses deliver great service in both places. Though I always pay my fare, avoiding guys conducting fare-dodging checks is probably easier in LJ. Unlike Ghent, conductors do not each stand in front of an exit door at a stop, so there is actually time to get off the bus while these guys enter, in group, through the front door.
Environment. What happened to all the trees in the north, Belgium? Slovenia harbours astonishing marvels of nature to which Belgium, unfortunately, cannot compare.
À chacun son goût, but… Belgian guys are cuter, Slovene girls more attractive 😉
Janez Novak: the most common Slovenian name.
Jan Modaal: generic name for “the average Belgian”, commonly used in examples in Flemish school books.
Lublana: Exactly how the fine people of Ljubljana mispronounce the name of their own city.
Hvala Bogu: Thank God.
À chacun son goût: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion in matters of taste.