It truly amazes me just how subtle manifestations of sexism in allegedly progressive societies can be. We may not even notice them unless someone points it out to us. Although as women we experience subtle and not-so-subtle sexism on a daily basis, we often take societal norms for granted without pausing to think about their frequently problematic origins.
Take France for example. 96th percentile in women’s financial inclusion. 223 female lawmakers out of the 577 new deputies elected into the French Parliament in 2017, pushing the country from 64th to 17th place in female parliamentary representation globally.
Then, there’s the ever-present stereotype of the French woman, embracing her sensuality and demanding respect. French women themselves certainly find their brand of feminism to be as (if not more) successful than the American version, less aggressive yet effective.
In 1947, describing her visit to the United States, Simone de Beauvoir wrote: “Relations between men and women in America are one of permanent war.” That perception holds true today as the French, even in casual conversations, approach American feminist initiatives such as #MeToo cautiously, wary of potential excesses.
I first arrived to France with the image of French society as somehow freer, but also better-mannered and more refined. I assumed men here would respect me, as a woman, and I found the idea charming. And for the most part, they have. Alas, the devil is in the details.
At long last, find your mini-guide to mandatory Brussels eats below. Before we begin, I will confess to the grave sin of not having tried a lot of Belgian beer due in part to dietary restrictions and in part to my general dislike of beer. So, while I can’t speak to it personally, I’d say you should probably try the beer, too. Perhaps with your frites.
First and foremost, before you even drop off your bag, have a waffle…or ten. I guarantee you that you haven’t really tasted a true waffle until you’ve had one in Belgium. Before you run off on your waffle quest, allow me to impart some waffle wisdom. Did you know that there are, in fact, two types of waffle? Yeah, me neither. You have the Brussels waffle, a larger rectangular waffle with deep holes, made of lighter batter and the Liege waffle, a round-ish waffle, made of thicker batter mixed with pearl sugar to achieve a caramelized texture. The Brussels waffle is more plain and requires a topping for a complete waffle experience, whereas the Liege waffle can act as a standalone dessert, no toppings necessary. But where’s the fun in that? Every waffle shop in Brussels offers more toppings than the eye can see, so go forth and explore! I would recommend a classic strawberry-banana-whipped cream combination. And remember: ask for the Belgian hot chocolate, NOT Nutella. Trust me, my fellow Americans, the hot chocolate is superior. But if you really can’t betray your heritage, why not have two waffles and compare the taste? 😉 In terms of cost, I’ve found it to be similar across all waffle-serving establishments, starting at 2€ for a plain waffle and going up as high as 10€ for a truly sophisticated, multi-topping experience.