This time around we interviewed Kwinten Lambrecht, one of our Spotters for the Brussels city blog. He’s been living in Brussels most of his life and really loves the expat life in his city. Working in EU communications and continuously exploring his own city!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I have been living and studying in Brussels for almost my entire life. As a kiddo I lived near probably the ugliest Basilique of Europe (in Koekelberg) and now live in the magnificent and green commune of Forest. I work in EU communications, often referred to as the Brussels Bubble, because nobody really understands what you are doing and a lot of expats flock together on one square kilometre. I am trying to burst the bubble via social media by communicating ‘the European Union’ together with a team across Europe. I love the cultural scene in Brussels, photography, basketball and cooking.
Which prejudices about Brussels are true? Which ones are not?
Hard to tell what the prejudices exactly are but some say it’s too small or that there is only the Manneken Pis, the Grand Place and the Atomium. Frankly I must absolutely concur with that argument. To me Brussels can’t be seen as one city, it’s a broad mixture of different cultures but more importantly, different neighbourhoods.
When you go three metro stops away from the centre you’re suddenly breathing fresh air in a park, eating Asian noodles or you’re in the middle of a market. That makes it so easy and always interesting to live here, the city often reinvents itself. In the years I lived here a lot has changed, the gentrification process is really clear in some areas. Brussels is from a tourist point of view a closed box, but once you dare to open it you might be surprised by the most delicious chocolates ever.
What do you know about Brussels that no tourist will know?
Brussels inhabitants are called Zinnekes, a name that was given to the street dogs that hung around the river ‘Zenne’. The city was built on the Zenne, only a small part is still visible on Place Saint Géry. So relatively seen we are all Zinnekes-street dogs wandering around in the city looking for the best food, playing opportunities and shelter. I like that, life shouldn’t be too static in Brussels otherwise you miss out on a lot of things..
Another fact, and that’s the political geek in myself talking, is that the Brussels region has 19 different Mayors, with their own Aldermen College and Town Councils. Crazy right? Compared to for example New York where there is only one Mayor.
What is the most popular neighbourhood to live in Brussels at this moment?
I would definitely say Forest (in Dutch called Vorst). The city has cut itself loose from its industrial image and bad reputation due to the Midi station area. There are two beautiful parks, where you can have beautiful walks or join bike tours, they are magnificent during every season.
It’s nice to live in an area that is super close to the ‘city centre’ (by bike 10 minutes and by public transport 15 minutes), and still feels more residential than any other part of city. Forest is gaining a lot of credibility thanks to its cultural richness. Art centre ‘Wiels’ has been the magnet for other institutions such as the photography museum ‘Fondation A Stichting’, art house Komplot, the Art Loft (actually our neighbours) and many other cultural hotspots. There’s always something to do in the area, but if you don’t want to you can just relax in nature and that makes city life so great. Forest also has some trendy bars and an authentic city centre.
Is there anything else you want to share?
Don’t believe the written guides, crowdsourcing and ‘word-of-mouth’ are the most powerful solutions when it comes to discovering new places. Try to reach further than people who stop at a street that is not visible on their map. But you need to plunge into cities, live real and feel the real living, by jumping over the wall and looking around the corner.
In case you need more tips or a chat feel free to contact me via Twitter @kwinlambrecht