July 24 2006
-Where were you born?
In a hospital in Vietnam. After having lived in Asia until I was seven, I then went to boarding school in the UK - it's not what I call being 'brought up' - my parents lived abroad as diplomats and I'd get to see them during the holidays.
-Are you living alone or with your family?
Does a zoo constitute a family?
-In which country and city are you living now?
Belgium, on the outskirts of Brussels.
-How long have you been living in Belgium?
I've been living in Belgium far too long and have been living in this part of the country as long as my son has - plus three months.
-What is your age?
I'm 25 years younger than my dad and 29 years older than my daughters. If you wanted a more accurate age then it would be wise to ask my mother.
-When did you come up with the idea of living in Belgium?
Leaving Guantanamo Bay didn't need any decision-making, although getting kicked out of the place must have meant that somebody didn't like me - or I was doing something wrong.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
Hell, no. It's trying to work that's the hard part.
-How do you make your living in Belgium? Do you have any type of income generated?
I found myself a job here by looking through the small ads in the UK where someone was recruiting French/English speakers with my skills. After that, it was all via the expat magazine, “The Bulletin.”
-Do you speak the Belgian language and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
I speak one of the three official languages used in Belgium (Flemish/Dutch, French and, errr... German, which is mainly used close to the German border only). Personally speaking, anyone who doesn't speak at least French or Flemish should be shot at dawn and I'd be most happy to perform the execution.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
No and no. To combat any homesickness that may arise I get someone to send me a jar of marmite and some Branston pickle. And I drink.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
I would like to move to Africa one day with my partner once he's got rid of the nest of black mambas under his house in Tanzania. He has a house in Gambia too, but the last time he saw it, it didn't have a roof.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
I bought this pile of crap which goes under the name of a house with my ex-husband. I intend to buy what's his off him so that the kids will have something to remember me by.
When I bought my house 13 years ago, it was a bargain: 7.000.000BEF. Houses are slightly more expensive than that now :) (The house has four bedrooms, garden, cellar and garage.) Renting apartments is very costly and I have known people to rent a single-bedroom apartment for as much as 450 Euros a month.
-What is the cost of living in Belgium?
Fairly cheap. That's why I'm here. Just don't mention the taxes.
-What do you think about the Belgian people?
The locals love me. Everybody does.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Belgium?
If you enjoy good food and drink, then that's a major plus. It's a fantastic country for bike-riding and obviously, visiting nearby countries such as Holland, France, Luxembourg and Germany.
Well... it's not an ideal country if you're a mountain climber.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Belgium?
1. Learn either French or Flemish.
2. Do not stick to 'your nationality's communities' - try and mix with the Belgians.
3. Again, try and mix with the Belgians as much as possible - their festivals (whether in Flanders or Wallonia - and/or, of course, Brussels), learn their cuisine - and put up with the rain! It rains less here than in the UK.
4. The ability to eat moules and frites, drink beer and wine in vast quantities is a very Belgian tradition. If you can't do that here, then go home.
Oh, and take the chocolates with you.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Belgium?
Nooo. Wait, yes! Quickos Daily News. I'll only plug my own site and two others based in Belgium as everybody will hate me for missing them out: My Boyfriend is a Twat - Bart - Daphne Wayne-Bough
There are many more, both here and in Holland, but I have met these two bloggers several times and they are MAD. Just how I like it :)
And as for Quickos... he's my fourth (or is it fifth?) child.