You do this when you travel, right? After a few days in a nice place, you start wondering whether you could happily live there, whether your vacation destination is actually Your Place in ways that your home isn’t.
As we’ve walked around over the last week, we’ve found ourselves constantly comparing aspects of Antwerp to Chicago, of a potential life here to our very real life there. It’s a fun exercise, especially when we set aside the economic realities of an international move.
Parks: Antwerp’s city parks are lush and wild. Chicago’s parks have safer playground equipment which is a serious consideration for us right now.
Cleanliness: While some Chicago neighborhoods (like ours) are littered with dog poop and broken glass, Chicago is on the whole cleaner than Antwerp, and not just because we put our trash bags in cans instead of on the street.
Shower curtains: Belgium has a lot going for it, but it has far to go to catch up with the States on quality shower curtains.
Vending machines: Many bakeries have bread vending machines so that you don’t have to wait until the morning for fresh bread. Bread. Vending. Machines.
You can also buy things like croquettes and spaghetti bolognese from vending machines. Advantage: Antwerp.
Windows: Many (most?) windows don’t have screens. I used to think that was great because it meant that there weren’t many bugs. I was wrong. This is one area where the US comes out way ahead. However, some windows open in two directions, which is also cool, especially with a small person in the house.
Biking: There’s no question about this one. If we lived in Antwerp, we wouldn’t own a car, and that would be amazing, and not just because we wouldn’t have a car payment. The bike situation will be its own post, but check out (some of) the bike parking at Berchem station:
Trains: On Sunday, we took the train to Holland. It took less than an hour and cost about the same as going to Champaign by train. Oh, how I wish travel by train was more feasible in the States, or that our stations looked more like this:
Laundry: I went to the laundromat the other day and had my choice of regular detergent, extra white detergent, or black detergent. (I can think of more than a few friends who could use black detergent exclusively.) I also had my choice of 5 different wash temperatures, but no attendant to help me make sense of them.
Coffee: While Chicago has more nice coffee shops, you can get a decent, fresh cup of coffee pretty much anywhere in Antwerp. Let’s call this one a draw.
Veggie burgers: The incredibly wide variety of veggie burgers has come as a complete surprise on this trip. Even the small neighborhood versions of Delhaize, the main grocery store chain, have multiple types of fresh veggie burgers: butternut squash with Emmentaler cheese, broccoli quinoa, hazelnut, etc. We stopped at a cafe for a coffee the other day and they had four veggie burgers on the menu. It’s really impressive and makes the frozen options back home look pathetic.
Toilets: While there are a few different toilet options at home, none are as confounding as those encountered here.