Slovaks are much more worried about money than Flemish people. Flemish people seem to have no problem spending money on restaurants, gifts, etc. My Slovak wife says that Flemish people give gifts to get rid of people. She claims Slovaks give their presence, not expensive gifts. Like my students only ever give small gifts, like a piece of chocolate or something. Sometimes something handmade, like just a drawing. In Belgium we give things that cost more. Except for the western part of Flanders Flemish work to live, they don’t live to work. In Slovakia it seems people have little else going on aside from work, studying to get more money and family. They also cook more often, both meals and all kinds of cookies. Personally I don’t like the cookies so much, but I don’t like cookies in general. Belgian pastry totally beats Slovak pastry, home-baked or not.

Family is way more important in Slovakia. Family is everything in Slovakia. In Belgium people care about their family of course, but the family atmosphere is definitely less warm than in Slovakia. Slovak families can be very tight-knit. Family traditions are actively kept alive. Friends are less important than family. In Belgium friends are more important than family. You hang out with friends, not so much with family. What both countries have in common is that emotional issues are swept under the rug. Flemish and Slovak people are introverts. But that doesn’t make them the same people. There are many ways to be introvert.

Different taste buds. It seems Slovaks like sour and bitter tastes more than Belgians. I can’t remember where I read it but it could be soft drinks are deliberately made less sweet in Slovakia, because the populace doesn’t like drinks that are too sweet. Slovaks also have a lot of ideas about what healthy food looks like, but they are wrong about most of it. They eat really a lot of flour which is a disaster for your pancreas and insuline levels. They prefer instant coffee over drip coffee. Instant coffee is a little less healthy. Coffee isn’t healthy either way of course, since caffeine is a poison that puts your body in fight or flight mode, messes up your kidneys, restricts blood to your brain. Slovaks prefer the most basic beer, the classic Pilsner. I am Slovak in this and also prefer totally basic beer, but Belgians prefer their heavy beers of which there are many. Slovaks find these beers too sweet and they aren’t used to the heavy alcohol content. Slovaks eat massive amounts of pork. They put pork in everything. I don’t like it, so my options are limited in restaurants. Luckily they also have a lot of dishes with chicken. The concept of vegetarianism, let alone, veganism, is relatively unknown here. And if you are a vegetarian they will think you’re being weird. What I don’t get is that some Slovaks think eating meat is some sort of accomplishment. If you didn’t hunt it and killed it with your own hands to feed your family I don’t see the accomplishment. At least in Belgium more and more people, even people who really like meat, are aware that perhaps it’s not such a great idea. Meat consumption is the number one cause of global warning, erodes the soil, it’s also an industry that sees the most horrible accidents. Amputations are very common among meat factory workers. Lots of Slovaks like to have home-made spirits. These are very pungent, and according to me, just taste like rotten fruit that’s on fire. When it comes to garden parties Belgians like to barbecue and Slovaks like to make gulash. I personally prefer the gulash, even though it contains pork. Slovak gulash is excellent, better than the charred, fatty stuff that comes off a Belgian barbecue.

Slovak drivers think they are Formula 1 drivers. It’s one of the things that really annoys me in Slovakia. Slovak drivers have zero patience, aren’t used to cyclists or pedestrians. They quickly start yelling and gesturing. My taxi driver told me once a guy got out of his car and pulled a gun on him just because they had an argument over traffic. Slovak drivers, especially the men, but the women too, turn into nagging children behind the wheel of a car. They don’t want to stop, they only know forward, forward, forward. It’s hell to drive in Bratislava. As a cyclist I don’t feel safe here, and as a pedestrian I notice I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I cross streets with cars dashing towards me. They don’t slow down, they just assume you will make it to the other side. It’s crazy.

Religion. Slovaks are catholics. Even the ones who are not religious carry the restrictive and guilt-ridden morality of the institution of the Church around. A morality that is very different from most of what the figure of Jesus is said to have preached. Belgians are usually religiously ambivalent. They believe in everything and nothing. They have ecclectic beliefs cobbled together from religions and esoteric traditions. They don’t take these beliefs too seriously and rarely try to force them on others. Religious Slovaks are often convinced that they have seen the light and are totally convinced they have the right beliefs and convictions and that non-believers are wrong and ‘in the dark.’ This is a two-edged sword. On the one hand it’s interesting and also healthy to see people guided by very clear principles. On the other hand Slovaks are very predictable and conservative, which gets annoying if you like it when people surprise you. On the other hand, if you like predictable behavior then Slovakia is the country for you. If you like being able to rely on people then Belgium must be hell to you. Belgians are fickle, do not have clear values, are quite twisted in their values, and like to mock things, Flemish culture is cynical. Slovak culture keeps a sort of gullible, naive, fresh spirit alive. Am convinced that on the whole Slovaks are happier people, especially the women. Slovak guys seem very burdened down by pressure, Belgian guys are more relaxed and they are also spoilt, less reliable and weaker than Slovak guys. But they communicate more, are less macho, and are more fun in conversations.

Slovakia has a coconut culture. Flanders, the west in general, and the Netherlands especially, have a peach culture. This means that in public life Flemish people are friendly, opener, easier to approach, and seemingly easy to make friends with. If you get to known them better however you will find out that there’s little there. They don’t really care about you and will invest far less in a relationship than Slovaks. Flemish people make friends easily, but they also ditch you very easily and replace you with someone else. Slovaks are harder to befriend, but you can expect more loyalty. In public life Slovaks are much ruder than in the west, but in their private lives they are very sweet. In Flanders it can be the opposite. All smiles in public, and full of anger in private. This coconut culture in Slovakia is becoming a part of me. I’m becoming more and more formal and distant in random encounters during the day and warmer towards family and people I have to work with.

In Belgium I got into all sorts of really fun situations with total strangers. I can’t imagine that in Slovakia. Slovaks are afraid of the unknown, whereas Flemish people, especially the younger generation, are hooked on variety, new experiences, new frontiers, but they don’t go deep. I think Flemish people are more superficial and more arrogant than Slovak people.

So, Slovaks are like coconuts, hard on the outside, soft and juicy on in the inside, Belgians are soft on the outside and hard inside.

The women. I’m going to say it one more time. In Belgium one in fifty women you see on the street makes you go: ok, I would love to have sex with that one.

In Slovakia the ratio is not one in fifty, it’s one in four.

That’s a big, big difference.

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