When I left Lyon, one of my colleagues gave me the highest compliment - "We would accept working with you. C'est OK." Then when I got to Brussels, a colleague here said that "Being Belgian is not a nationality but a vocation." When I asked him what being American meant, he said, "a fatality." Gee, thanks - to both those remarks!
Some more observations:
* Somehow Firefox on my work laptop is configured so that wherever I go, Google defaults to the the host country. That is, it automatically changed from Google.com to Google.fr to Google.be.
* The bilingual signs in Brussels are throwing me off, and I'm surprised how much is in English.
* The office is located in an elegant old house in a working-class, immigrant neighborhood close to the European Union and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Also, it not at all disabled accessible.
* I haven't seen anyone who validates their metro tickets so everyone rides for free - there aren't any entrance gates and I haven't seen any conductors.
* There are lots of veiled women, and most of them seem to be Turkish.
* The Brussels airport is annoying in that there were lots of ups and downs to the main exit, but the route was well-signed, so that arriving passengers followed each other like lemmings.
* In the local grocery store, if you use a plastic bag you're charged for it. (0.10 euros)
* I haven't seen Mannekin Pis yet.
* Hard to believe just walking around that there's a serious constitutional crisis afoot:
Belgium Still Can't Form Government
Belgium Split over Language, Economy
Regarding Google, that's happened to me the world over as well. I have no clue why.
About being American, I have actually been told to my face that it's a good thing that you have dual nationality passports, coz carrying an American passport can get you into trouble in many parts of the world. *sigh*
I'm glad I've not had the chance to travel abroad during the last 7 years. I think it would suck compared to my previous time abroad.
I would imagine that google changes not because of firefox, but because google is cool like that. They do a lot of sensing of where you're coming from and optimizing your experience based on that (i.e. they try to find their data center nearest to where you appear to be coming from and make sure you deal with that because it's faster) so I imagine that's what they're doing when you use their site.
Lastly, I think it's funny that you want to see Mannekin Pis, terribly interesting that most of the veiled women are from Turkey (isn't that a more liberal Muslim state?) and they charge for plastic bags in Italy, too, and they also charge for them at Ikea in the US, I think. A nice tiny little economic incentive to not be über wasteful, I suppose.
I think I'd feel differently if I were here for fun instead of work. :/ Re the veiled Turkey ladies, I didn't really figure it out until I realized that I was passing by all these little old ladies weren't speaking any sort of Arabic I'd recognized!
I called the mission office today and got directions to one of the wards but I think I'll visit Bruges instead.