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Thread: Life as an expat in Brussels, Belgium

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    Post Life as an expat in Brussels, Belgium



    The BBC's Mark Mardell, who write the Europe Diary, has just published an article on living in Brussels for a Brit. In short it says that there are more similarities than differences between life in Britain and in Brussels, and Brits will be able to find about anything they are used to : food, drinks, books... The only thing people tend to miss is their family and friends, but that's part of moving to another city in general, not necessarily in another country.

    However, I am surprised that the author write :

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Mardell, BBC
    It has to be said that a lot of Belgium is boringly flat and I would miss the English countryside.
    The flat part of Belgium is Flanders, which makes only 45% of the territory, and some bits of northern or north-western Wallonia. The southern half of the country is very hilly (hence the name "Wallonia", literally "valley land") and very similar to the Downs of southern England, with more accentuated hills in central Wallonia (e.g. between Namur and Marche-en-Famenne). In fact, I sometimes feel that Wallonia (especially the Condroz and Famenne regions) and Southern England (esp. around Wiltshire and Somerset) are the same place, with green hilly landscapes and quaint stone houses. The rest of Belgium is flat with brick houses and very similar to East Anglia. Therefore, coming from a hilly or flat part of England, there is a place in Belgium almost just like it. Scotland looks so foreign in comparison...
    Last edited by Maciamo; 20-06-11 at 23:20.
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    Typical Brit, the guy has probably never left Brussels. On another hand, the Belgian government still has a lot to do to promote tourism in Belgium. I think the reputation of boredom the Belgians have is partly self-inflicted.

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    Brits... what else could we expect...:P

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    The flat part of Belgium is Flanders, which makes only 45% of the territory, and some bits of northern or north-western Wallonia. The southern half of the country is very hilly (hence the name "Wallonia", literally "valley land") and very similar to the Downs of southern England, with more accentuated hills in central Wallonia (e.g. between Namur and Marche-en-Famenne). In fact, I sometimes feel that Wallonia (especially the Confroz and Famenne regions) and Southern England (esp. around Wiltshire and Somerset) are the same place, with green hilly landscapes and quaint stone houses. The rest of Belgium is flat with brick houses and very similar to East Anglia. Therefore, coming from a hilly or flat part of England, there is a place in Belgium almost just like it. Scotland looks so foreign in comparison...
    Hmm.. Wallonia?? I don't see the meaning of "valley land"
    More with "Wales" and "Welsh"

    Probably a linguistic variation on Gaul. Gales. Gallic. Galatia.

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    A very quick search would have allowed you to trace the etymologic roots of Walloon, the same as Welsh; http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walh. The whole thread has for me little interest as it seems to me pointless to look for similarities in two different places that do not share the same culture. Oh, wait, Belgians and Brits drink beer and eat soup... What a great new thread idea...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reinaert View Post
    Hmm.. Wallonia?? I don't see the meaning of "valley land"
    More with "Wales" and "Welsh"

    Probably a linguistic variation on Gaul. Gales. Gallic. Galatia.
    Valon means "large valley" in French, and Wallon is pronounced Vallon by French people. So Wallonie in French sounds just like the land of valleys, which it surely is. In all my travels around the globe I do not know any region with more valleys than the region between Namur, Liège and Luxembourg.

    The Hainaut province is flat, like Flanders, and Walloon language isn't spoken there (except a small section near Namur). In Hainaut people speak Picard or Ch'ti. I think that only adds to the etymology of Wallonia meaning "land of the valleys". Why else would the Romance-speaking people in flat areas of Belgium not be called Walloons traditionally ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cimmerianbloke View Post
    A very quick search would have allowed you to trace the etymologic roots of Walloon, the same as Welsh; http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walh. The whole thread has for me little interest as it seems to me pointless to look for similarities in two different places that do not share the same culture. Oh, wait, Belgians and Brits drink beer and eat soup... What a great new thread idea...
    It's hard to believe considering that Wallonia was the epicentre of Frankish world in the early Middle Ages. How could Germanic people have called the people of this region Wahlla (Celtic or Romance speakers) when the Franks settled so heavily in Wallonia ? Tournai was the capital of the Merovingians until Clovis' conquest of Gaul, and Liège (well, Herstal) was the capital of the Carolingian dynasty. Why would the Franks refer to the land they inhabit as the "land of Wahlla" ? Why did this apply only to the south of Belgium and not to France ? No, I find it much more likely that Wallonia simply means "land of valleys", and originally only applied to the hilly part of Belgium (excluding French-speaking but flat Hainaut).

    Besides, the word Wallonia is not attested in the early Middle Ages. It is is fairly recent coinage (15th century) and first appears in French, not in Dutch or in German. Why would French speakers call themselves "Wahlla", a Germanic word meant to exclude, to talk about outsiders ?

    Third argument, modern Wallonia is a region that is officially both French and German speaking. If the Belgian authorities had thought a moment that "Wallonia" meant "land of those who don't speak Germanic languages", then they sure would have renamed it after annexing the German cantons after WWI, or listed the German cantons as part of Flanders. The truth is that the Prince-Bishopric or Liège and the Principality of Stavelot-Malmedy belonged to the Kingdom of Germany until the French Revolution. Why on earth would the German refer to a part of their kingdom, Liège (a.k.a. Lüttich) as "land of Wahlla" when it was 100% part of Germany ? Prince-bishops of Liège were most of the time German-speaking Germans (many from the House of Bavaria).

    Fourth argument, Until 1792, Liège/Lüttich was bilingual French-German. German isn't spoken anymore, but it used to be. As the name Wallonia dates from the 15th century, a time when German was much more widespread than now in the Principality of Liège, it is dubious that it was ever intended to mean "land of the Romance speakers", even less a deformation of "Gaul" or "land of the Celts" ! Baden-Württemberg is more Celtic in origin than Wallonia, and genetics have shown that Flemings have nearly as much Celtic lineages than Walloons. Southern Belgium only ended up being Romance because the Frankish courts of Liège and Tournai gave up Frankish language for Latin, and Latin spread in between these two cities. It is not a coincidence that the limit of French language ends up exactly at the outskirts of Tournai (i.e. Kortrijk, and previously also Lille/Rijsel) and Liège (Maastricht, Aachen, Malmedy). These two cities were hotspots of Latinised Germans in a region that became almost completely linguistically Germanised from the 3rd to the 6th century CE.

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    Usually, names are given to someone by someone else, Walloons wouldn't call them "people of the Vales" cause it would have seem so obvious to them. As for the etymology, you're welcome to discuss it Ad Vitam Aeternam, but the link I provided is the version accepted by scholars, linguists and historians. Suffice to me to know that these people, who are much better versed into linguistics and history than I am, think so. Thanks for all your details and building up your argumentation though, I do like people who can defend their point of view with intelligence.
    On another hand, I believe that by the time the name was given to the region, it didn't look quite exactly the way it does now. Agriculture and industry ravaged the land that was previously, if we read classical authors, one big forest. And wasn't Charlemagne a native German (or whatever Germanic tongue it was then called...) speaker?
    As for "Celt", this is just an ethnographic expression coined and used by the scientific community. No Celtic tribe was ever calling themselves by that name. The term didn't exist by then and is a modern invention the Romantic movement used to further their agenda. Hermann, Vercingetorix and Ambiorix are 19th century projections of romantic nationalism. They fought the same Roman colonialism and have been seen through a very specific mental prism, just as our modern perception of roughly everything is conditioned by our mental mindset.
    I won't have to remind you that the fairly messy history of that patch of land has also been heavily shaped by the numerous conquests it suffered, bringing even more foreign influence and chaos into the locals' life patterns.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cimmerianbloke View Post
    Usually, names are given to someone by someone else, Walloons wouldn't call them "people of the Vales" cause it would have seem so obvious to them.
    I don't see why not. It defines their land in contrast to the rest of the Low Countries that is flat.


    On another hand, I believe that by the time the name was given to the region, it didn't look quite exactly the way it does now. Agriculture and industry ravaged the land that was previously, if we read classical authors, one big forest.
    The Ardennes and Famenne regions are still quite woody. The Condroz and Hesbaye, on the other hand, were heavily deforested in Roman times for agriculture. So it isn't exactly recent. I have made a map of Roman villas in Belgium. Roman villas were farm-house estate, not just big houses. A villa was attached a vast expanses of agricultural land. You can see on the map that the density of villas is much higher in land that is not forested today.


    And wasn't Charlemagne a native German (or whatever Germanic tongue it was then called...) speaker?
    He was raised mostly in Latin like most Frankish noblemen. He could also speak Frankish (the language which evolved into Franconian German and Dutch/Flemish), but his first language was undeniably Latin.

    Nevertheless, it is fairly obvious from the toponymy of Walloon place names that the Franks settled in great number in Wallonia. Over half of all place names in Wallonia are Germanic in origin, and this rises to over 80% around Liège. It's hard to believe that a land so overtaken by Germanic people would be called "land of the Wahla". The case of Wales in completely different. The etymology of Wales is indeed "land of the Wahla". It is the Anglo-Saxons who named it so, about 1000 years before the name Wallonia was first attested. No Germanic speaker used the name Wahla in the 15th century. It is an ancient term that was used mostly during Roman times or in the very early Middle Ages. That's why it is simply impossible that Wallonia go its name from Wahla.

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    Need more texts?

    De benaming Wallonië (Frans: Wallonie) stamt af van het Oud-Germaanse Walh. Met dit woord, dat letterlijk vreemdeling betekent, duidden de Germanen Keltische en Romaanse bevolkingsgroepen aan. Dezelfde oorsprong heeft het begrip Welsche Schweiz, dat door Duitstaligen (al dan niet Zwitsers) vaak gebruikt wordt als ze het over het Romaanstalige deel van Zwitserland hebben. Ook de namen van Walachije (naar de stam der Vlachen) en Wales gaan op die oorspronkelijke woordstam en betekenis terug.
    http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walloni%C3%AB

    Etymology

    The term Walloon is derived from walha, a Germanic term used to refer to Celtic and Latin speakers.[4]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walloons

    The root of the word Wallonia, like the words Wales, Cornwall and Wallachia,[4] is the Germanic word Walha, meaning the strangers. Wallonia is named after the Walloons, the population of the Burgundian Netherlands speaking Romance languages. In Middle Dutch (and French), the term Walloons also included the French-speaking population of the Prince-Bishopric of Liège[5] or the whole population of the Romanic sprachraum within the medieval Low Countries.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallonia

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    I don't care what Wiki or other sites say. Some scholars obviously mistook by assuming that the similarity between the names Wales, Wallachia and Wallonia meant that the root was the same. Mistakes are easily copied and repeated. It's not because 100 websites copied the same mistake that it makes it right. I don't know any serious scholar who dug deep into the etymology of the word "Wallonia". I am possibly the first one, and I am telling you why I think the word cannot come from the ancient Germanic term Wahla.

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    Well, I don't care either, but your arguments are weak.

    For instance:

    Third argument, modern Wallonia is a region that is officially both French and German speaking. If the Belgian authorities had thought a moment that "Wallonia" meant "land of those who don't speak Germanic languages", then they sure would have renamed it after annexing the German cantons after WWI, or listed the German cantons as part of Flanders. The truth is that the Prince-Bishopric or Liège and the Principality of Stavelot-Malmedy belonged to the Kingdom of Germany until the French Revolution. Why on earth would the German refer to a part of their kingdom, Liège (a.k.a. Lüttich) as "land of Wahlla" when it was 100% part of Germany ? Prince-bishops of Liège were most of the time German-speaking Germans (many from the House of Bavaria).
    Who cares after WWI? They wouldn't have known the etymology back then.

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