FAQs about being Black in Belgium

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Abridged Answers

“How is Europe treating you? Are people super racist?”

  • Y’all…this ain’t nothing new. I’m a scientist with an advanced degree and a Black woman.
       adsaf
  • America has racism too and there’s nothing particularly exacerbated by my moving to Europe.
      adsaf
  • No, I haven’t experienced racism here.
    adsaf
    Mmmmmmm…well Milan was kind of a place I have no desire to return to ever again in life. I think it was a mixture of: rudeness (not racism), classism (because Milan got monnnneeeeyyyuuhhh), and staring, (because 99.9% of the Black people I saw were service staff), and maybe a splash of racism but who knows.

“Girl… how is it out there? Are there Black people?”

  • I love it here. Honestly, truly. It’s been challenging making friends and building a community but I don’t feel that’s Europe specific.
    adsaf
  • Yes, there are a lot of Black people here.

“What’s your life like over there?”

  • In many ways it’s the same as it would be in the U.S. I feel like a graduate student with adult responsibilities, but I’m also in a vibrant city with endless opportunities to travel the world. And the way my funding is set up, it’s an upgrade. Ya girl got cable now.

Extended Answers

“How is Europe treating you…#becauseRacism” and “are people super racist?”

If anything I feel safer abroad because #policebrutalityinAmerica #becausemassshootings #becauseadministration.

It’s funny because a few of my friends were all like “Yo…terrorism…be careful.” And I’m like… “ehl oh ehl … mass shootings happen more frequently in the U.S. than terrorist attacks here, I’ll be fine.”

I can only speak for myself but I actually haven’t experienced much racism in my life, period. The first passive racism (that I was aware of) that I experienced was in Ann Arbor (of all places LOL), but to be quite frank, I don’t care. I’m always gon’ be Black and be damn proud.

Also, I will not allow cowards or bullies dictate where I will and will not go, otherwise they win. I’ve wanted to live in Europe for years and I’m not going to let some foolish goats here, or anywhere in the world, stop me from pursuing my dreams.

“Girl… how is it out there? Are there Black people?”

There are wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy more Black people here than in Ann Arbor. The caveat is that they’re mostly African. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a unique experience as a first-generation Nigerian-American because I feel more connected to Africans abroad. I can’t say that would be my experiences if I were Black and not immediately connected to my Ancestry in Nigeria.

Relatedly, I am currently on the hunt to find an afrobeats spot. I miss my (Nigerian) people and haven’t made that afrobeats connection yet. I need some African/Carribean parties in my life; I miss them severely.

I got plantains, Egusi seeds, eco styler gel with castor oil, YOU NAME IT. In hindsight, I am extremely grateful that I applied for a Fulbright to Belgium. I’m in the perfect place as a Black woman. I had considered applying to France, but ultimately the lab I wanted to join was in Belgium and I am so so so happy. (Plus, Paris is 2 hours by train so I can visit whenever I want).

I love how Europeans are so cultured, how they can literally hop on a flight and be in several different countries within a couple of hours. They all speak a bajillion languages and have lived in multiple countries. Keep in mind, Belgium is the size of MARYLAND. To fly from New Jersey to Michigan is a 2-2.5 hour flight. The flight from Brussels to Milan was 1 hour and 15 minutes, cost me 90 euro (100 and something dollars) andwe bought the ticket 2 weeks before our trip. This kind of lifestyle is absolutely intoxicating. To be honest, I wish I could have one more year here before moving back to Michigan (but let me be careful what I wish for…lol)

I love Brussels, the city is absolutely beautiful. What’s particularly wonderful about Brussels is that it’s a hub for internationals as it’s the headquarters of the European Union. Brussels is a perfect fit for me because I love diverse communities.

On the other hand, it’s challenging making friends and building a community here, but that’s not Europe specific. I faced the same challenges when I moved from New Jersey to Georgia for college and from Georgia to Michigan for graduate school. I did not know one single soul in Atlanta and only two people in Ann Arbor, both of whom graduated when I arrived. It’s much easier to make friends in college because of the social structure. Graduate school is more isolating and I feel it took me several months to make friends. Even so, there were times during my second year in Michigan where I felt like I didn’t have “a squad” to go out with.

So that’s where I’m at now. I really started making friends once I started working in the lab. My labmates are amazing 🙂 They’re so kind and they truly make an effort to make me feel welcome and included.

I may have to write a separate post about networking, but this experience has helped me to practice my networking skills – and not just professionally. Being alone in a new country, I recognize that I have to be even more outgoing than I was before. I need to strike up conversations, stalk people on Instagram (that’s how I met Kristie 🙂 click here to read about our adventures in a previous post), send e-mails to my fellow fellows to meet up, and really be willing to put myself out there. It’s been unsettling to say the least but it’s a great life skill to have. These are the kinds of experiences we talk about on paper “submerging yourself in a new culture.” That takes action and isn’t something that “just happens.”

Last week I went to the Ethno Tendance Fashion Show in Brussels which was hella dope but I felt pretty bummed going by myself. I saw all of these beautiful people, especially the African women, bonding and enjoying with their friends. While I enjoyed the shows and even participated in discussions about Afrofeminism, I didn’t make any friends on site. And then it hit me; no one has any reason to come up and talk to me. People aren’t going to read my mind and magically become my friend. I realized that it was unrealistic for me to go to an event alone and expect to magically leave with 10 friends. I have to speak, I have to make conversation. To be fair, an added challenge was the language barrier. The event was hosted mainly in French and I’m pretty stubborn about learning French and refused to speak English. Naturally, because I’m not fluent in French, I didn’t speak much lol.

On the bright side, I met a designer and some people from the show found me on Instagram so I made a few friends through social media. FAM. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA. Seriously, I’ve made some great friends in real life starting through online platforms.

Anyway, making new friends is great training. It’s a skill that will help me thrive no matter what I’m doing: whether I’m a backup dancer for Beyonce, running my own lab, ruling the world, etc.

What’s your life like over there?

I’ve officially been living in Brussels for 3 months. I’d say after the first month, you become desensitized to the shock of “Oh sh–, I just moved to another country.”

I used to ask my Uncle “how was *insert country*” (because he was very well traveled) and he’d always jokingly respond, “It’s the same as any other place: people, places, and things.” At a certain point you realize that while we’re all different, we have more things in common; we cook, eat, laugh, love, joke, work, etc. The way we do these things may be different but the foundation is the same. So really, living here is like living anywhere else. I cook, I clean, buy groceries, go to lab, present my work, etc. I’m just in a new and fascinating place with more things to explore.

let me share a list of my pet peeves:

  • I can’t find Cheeto Puffs here!
  • Everything is closed on Sundays. Like… it’s a thing
  • Everything closes by 7 or 8 … also a thing
  • MAC lipsticks are like 24 euro in the mall…that’s like 30+ dollars

In theory it’s like…GOOD FOR YOUR BELIGUM! Not allowing people to run around 24/7 and forcing a day of rest, but it does get annoying when I get home from lab at 7 and my favorite pastry store is closed (#first world problems).

  • Also…bulk shopping is NOT A THING. Stores are not set up for shopping for weeks or months at a time. Most people here grocery shop multiple times a week and cook fresh meals multiple times a week if not daily.

THAT SH-T is a struggle for me. But let’s be real, I’m meant to be rich so I can hire a personal chef 🙂

If you have other questions let me know! I enjoy answering them. Also, stay tuned for my next YouTube video. I’ll be doing a 3 month update about living abroad.

With Love,
Chi-Chi

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. erinhooker says:

    Omg I love this so much!! Your writing is amazing/hilarious/all around good vibes. Can’t wait to read more! https://hardshellblog.com/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Elesia says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! This experience was so valuable because I’m moving to Belgium this month and I couldn’t find any posts about being a black American woman there. I’ll be living in Mons. I was wondering if they have good public transportation. I will not own a vehicle while I’m there and I’m a little concerned about getting around. Also, did you end up finding any carribbean people in the areas?

    Like

    1. YouGoChi says:

      So glad you found this helpful. There is a huge dancehall and afrobeats scene in Brussels. Follow bombastic party on Instagram and Facebook, they have huge parties and that’s a great place to meet people who love dancehall and afrobeats and get plugged into the black community.

      There’s also theoldschoolparty on instagram and they are based in Brussels and throw 90s parties pretty frequently.

      Anywhere in Matonge (it is a metro stop in Brussels called port de namur) – you’ll find the Congolese community (hair products for black women, braiding shops, international foods, etc.)

      Public transportation is FANTASTIC in Brussels. I am not sure about Pons. You can use apps like blabla car to get around for cheap (similar to uber but for further distances).

      I mostly met Congolese people but I’m sure there are Carribeans, too!

      Like

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