The taxi driver that takes me to one of the companies where I teach asks:

‘What’s the weather like in Belgium?’

Only an introduction to ask the real mothership of all questions:

Is life in Belgium expensive?’

I give my usual speech on how services are more expensive in Belgium, but that lots of products in supermarkets are cheaper and that salaries are higher.

If you have an average salary in Belgium I’m sure you can afford more things than if you have an average in Slovakia. Slovaks are not happy to hear this. What they want to hear is: salaries in Belgium are higher, but everything is more expensive, so it’s not better there.

They think both salaries and prices are astronomically higher in Belgium than in Slovakia, but that’s not the case.

You never get the question: ‘Are Belgians happier than Slovaks?’

The question you always get is related to purchasing power.

It gets very tedious and predictable.

I meet way more people who are asking themselves questions on how to make more money (usually they are clueless), but I rarely meet people who ask themselves the question: ‘What can I do to be happier?’

I have exactly ONE student like that, and she doesn’t know the answer to the question. She’d like to do something to make the world a better place and would like to have a job she actually cares about, but she’s so comfortable in her present position that there’s not a big enough incentive to make changes. At the same time she’s eager to learn new things about almost any subject.

An other daily event in Bratislava is to hear people say that in Slovakia you don’t have opportunities, that education sucks, that it’s only possible to be succesful in business if you have political friends in high places. Yet Slovakia is booming, it’s full of activity. It’s kind of a paradox. You hear people say nothing is possible here, but everywhere around you see evidence of entrepreneurship, of innovation, of activity.

What’s true about human life is the truth you choose to believe. We humans are wonderfully capable of perceiving reality the way we want.

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