Monday, March 16, 2009


Brussels-based expat mag The Bulletin caused a big uproar recently with an article entitled "Single, but not safe, in the city." According to the article, which cites an attempted strangulation in January and testimonials from a number of the author's friends, verbal and physical attacks on women are rampant in Brussels. Which is terrible, obviously, but not something I was really aware of. After the article was published, J's secretary asked him to tell me she thought the article was a bunch of baloney, but one of J's colleagues countered that his Scandinavian partner gets harassed all the time.

All this talk about the article made me realize something: whereas I had become used to the highly annoying and offensive catcalls most women receive on a routine basis in New York, I have not been subject to verbal harassment a single time since moving to Brussels. (Unless you're counting all the ni haos, that is.) When I told one of my friends in New York about the contrast, she responded matter-of-factly, "Of course not, you're an oddity to them." By which she meant that my Asian- and other-ness has unexpectedly rendered me immune to harassment. Which is just fine by me - I'll happily take it.    

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can tell you that this is a problem for sure. I can't walk anywhere by myself without having some van full of city workers slow-roll past me (at the same speed I am walking) shouting who knows what at me in French. I also read this article in The Bulletin and showed my husband- I had been complaining about the same exact behaviors mentioned in the article! People stop me to tell me all the time that I stand out here, and even our relocation expert told me that maybe I should cut or color my hair. I came from one of the worst areas in Cincinnati but I can honestly say Brussels is so much worse!