Beer: Also should be the subject of its own post. Whenever we go to Champaign, we stop at the Esquire for beers and marvel at how cheap they are compared to Chicago. $3 for a Blue Moon? I’ll take it! Beer here is like that, except that we’re drinking world class beers for a couple of euros.
Bedding: The pillows in Belgium are fine if you want a fluffy square but not if you want actual neck support. On the other hand, some duvet covers have a thing that you tuck in (instead of buttons or snaps) in which can also be used to tuck the duvet itself under the mattress, thus solving two persistent problems in our sleeping situation: the tucked in vs not complex, and rampant blanket displacement/theft.
Fancy ice cream desserts: Something of an edge to Belgium for having a suite of ice cream desserts like the Dame Blanche. Sure, it’s just vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream, but they’re all the real thing, or you’re not really eating a Dame Blanche. Also all ice cream trucks sell ice cream by the scoop, not just the prepackaged novelties.
After hours health care: We all got food poisoning during the second week of our trip. When the toddler hadn’t kept anything but breastmilk and coconut water down for 2 days, we were encouraged to go to the doctor. At 7pm. On a Friday night. In the States, and with my insurance, that would have meant driving 7 miles to Hyde Park to pay a $75 copay to be seen at the ER. The last time we did this, we waited 3 hours and left without being seen. In Antwerp, we walked 10 minutes to a neighborhood clinic. We were seen by a kind and professional doctor who spoke both English and Dutch, and were on our way home in under an hour. With no insurance, and as non-residents, and after hours on a weekend, we paid €29, or less than half of what we would have paid in the States. No healthcare system is perfect, but this was dramatically better than most of our recent experiences back home.
Parks (pt 2): We miss the sponges surface from playgrounds in Chicago – the sand from Antwerp’s speelpleinen gets EVERYWHERE. And while I’ve enjoyed running the trails in the wooded parks, I miss the many drinking fountains on the lakefront path.
Bottled water: OH GOD THIS IS A TOUGH ONE. Bottled water is a thing here. No one drinks tap water, even though the tap water is clean and good. If you want water when you go out to eat, a small bottle of Spa or Chaudfontaine will cost you at least €2. While I agree that bottled water sometimes tastes better than water from the tap, and while I love me some fizzy water, I loathe buying bottled water and am frustrated by the unnecessary waste generated so that we can avoid drinking the perfectly fine water from the tap. We’re not in Flint. We’re not even in Chicago, where I agreed to buy and install a reverse osmosis system because of the old infrastructure delivering water to our home. While there are many, many, many examples of American excess, the bottled water habit in Belgium is its own kind of excess.
Things falling from trees: In Chicago, we have acorns. Antwerp has chestnuts that fall with an audible thud. They’re more dangerous, but also more delicious. Advantage: Antwerp.