Our two largest cities, Brussels and Antwerp, are the only two Belgian cities to feature among Europe’s top 50 economic centres. Brussels is our major gateway for international finance, investment and institutions, while Antwerp is our major port city with specialisms in logistics, manufacturing, diamonds, retail and business services. Each has its own unique strengths, but how do they compete on a global scale? And what exactly is it that is it that makes a city competitive?
It’s safe to say Izat experienced culture shock when he arrived here. Many of our habits and customs are completely alien to him. When I got home after a trip to Italy, Izat had taken his desk out of his bedroom. A bit awkwardly it stood there, pushed into a corner of the living room.
First coined as a term in the seventies, over the years burnout has not just become widely recognised, but has rooted itself firmly into our society. To give you an idea of the pandemic proportions it has taken on, the Japanese and Chinese even have terms for ‘death-by-burnout’, caused by the alarming rate of suicides due to stress. It’s easy to blame the employer, but often times contributing factors are not necessarily within the company’s control. Tackling burnout instead means maintaining a careful balance between the professional and personal.
With its rousing theme ‘Social Values: Better Business’ this year’s EuRA conference promised to bring new insights into how we live and work. It will come as little surprise to you that, as a people, our standards and desires are changing. Where once we were perfectly content with the supermarket’s ‘basic’ label, we now prefer organic. We want our eggs to be free range, our vegetables to come from a local farmer and our pigs to be given the chance to frolic in the mud before becoming our breakfast bacon.
The challenges an expat’s partner faces once they’ve been packed up and moved across one or many borders are plentiful. From coping with cultural changes to starting over somewhere new, the challenges can seem never-ending. Some women are happy to postpone their career, but what if that’s not the case? Two trailing spouses share their story.
Joke van Leeuwen (1952, The Hague, NL) writes, illustrates and performs. She was City Poet of Antwerp and was appointed Poet of the Low Lands for 2015-16. Her best known book is probably ‘Eep!’, a story about a girl with wings instead of arms, who tries to follow her own destiny within the ‘normal’ world. The Dutch Van Leeuwen moved to Brussels when she was thirteen and currently resides in Antwerp. The experience of being somewhat of an outsider seeped into her work, leading to an idiosyncratic oeuvre that received numerous awards. “I’m a bit of both countries. I think that’s where I belong, on the border between two worlds.”
In October 2013 I moved to Antwerp for the second time around. The first time, in 2005, I came over for an internship and stuck to a man. The relationship ended and back to the motherland I went. My subsequent return to Belgium was because of a lover, again.
We were living in Amsterdam but never quite felt at home. It was clear to us our future lay beyond the horizon. It was too early in our lives to settle in all too familiar Utrecht, so if we were going to a new town anyway, it might as well be abroad. Off we went, to a light and spacious apartment that felt like a palace after our worn down, ready-to-be-demolished shared house in an industrial zone with frostwork on the bedroom window and just a single woodstove to keep us warm.
Every professional branch has its opportunities abroad and the arts are no exception. Not every expat, however, has a team of professionals at his or her disposal when they cross borders for a new professional challenge. Some people just venture out and make do by trial-and-error… and a lot of socialising.