Disclaimer: Vu is on travels in Europe with the Marshall Memorial Fellowship and writing quality, general coherence, and spelling and grammar, may be affected by Belgian beer.
Day 5: I just returned to my hotel in Brussels after a fun and intense day that spanned from 8am this morning to 11:30pm. So far, Brussels has been an impressive city with beautiful architecture, friendly people, environmental conscientiousness, and a vibrant energy. Really, the only thing I can complain about is the toilet paper. Due to the city’s green-focus, the toilet paper at this very nice hotel is like no other, combining the softness of sawdust with the smoothness of sandpaper.
I’ll talk more about Brussels in a minute, but first I wanted to recapture the intense last few days. Day 2, DC, had us and the European fellows visit American University for a lecture on American culture from an amazing professor, who basically said that we in the US are rallied around the verb “to do.” We focus on actions. This is why when we first meet someone, we ask them right away what they do. We focus on individual accomplishments and earned status. We hate asking for charity, and that’s why we say things like “Can I borrow a cigarette?” On the opposite end of the spectrum are cultures rallied around the verb “to be,” where relationships, group accomplishments, and ascribed status take precedence over the individuals’ actions and merits. Europe, with its long history of royal families, fall further along on that end.