Catriona Robertson

journeys at home and abroad

European faultlines

A day dedicated to identity & cultural awareness on the course, but as is often the case, it’s the private conversations afterwards which dig deeper.  How does Belgium work culturally?  Flemish, Walloons and Brussels people?

Belgium is historically a contested area and holds the line between the Slav/Frank/German/Flemish way and the Roman/Romance language/Walloon way.  Are the Flemish more direct (but also more reserved), slow to commit to a friendship or business partnership – but when committed, unlikely to withdraw?  Are Walloons, the French-speakers, more gregarious, open and friendly, able to get people together quickly for a demonstration or protest, but perhaps more easy-come, easy-go on relationships and less reliable?

We visited a Hindu Centre and were welcomed by ISKCON devotees, some converts and some second-generation.  Very interesting to hear from them how ISKCON was developing in Europe and the west within its particular strand of Hinduism since its beginnings in the USA in the 60s.

I asked how important Indian customs were within ISKON (our host was dressed in a dhoti, played the harmonium and offered us samosa and burfi on thalis).  They clearly liked Indian food, dress and music, but said they weren’t essential to the faith and things may change in coming generations.

There is a lot of contentious talk about European Islam, but European Hinduism isn’t scrutinised to the same extent.  Tariq Ramadan has brought out a new book “What I Believe” and was speaking on BBC R4’s Start the Week this morning.


This entry was posted on 23 November 2009 by in Brussels and tagged , , , .
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