When analyzing the social media sphere in Belgium I always find it hard to differentiate the Eurobubble from the “real” Belgian environment.
Belgium has a very active and engaged online population, with users from many segments of society. In addition to politicians and journalists, many entrepreneurs, consultants and professors active on social media.
Enough about what we think we know about him. Let the monster talk
Let’s start from the basis. How can we define you? even though you label yourself as a monster you don’t look that scary.
(*strokes chin fluff*) The “Monster” as a construct – for indeed it is a construct – is how we, individually or collectively, embody, explain, or warn of that which we are or should be scared of, or that which we distrust, or should distrust. It is not that which we are scared of or distrust itself. It is born from within the individual or the collective, from a need to anthropomorphise the neuroses, including fears, self-doubt and self-loathing, that grumble in the dark recesses of our lobes. The Monster is therefore a creation of and select partial reflection of the EU self, straddling its id and super-ego in such a stance as to have a vantage point from which to occasionally piss upon the ego.
I think there are about 20 people who know my secret identity – and a few more who know both me and my alter ego but haven’t yet made the link.
What does Captain Europe fight for?
I fight for the usual superhero causes: truth and justice. In an EU context, that means a number of things. Truth can mean busting the many myths about the EU, or teasing and provoking the powerful to keep them honest. It can mean informing citizens about the rights and benefits they enjoy thanks to the EU. Justice can mean standing up for consumers against powerful corporations (something the EU does rather well), or stimulating police cooperation to fight serious and organised crime, or defending intergenerational justice by protecting the environment. All these things are policies the EU covers; I merely symbolise, and sometimes stimulate, the EU’s action in these areas. Continue reading “Interview with captain Europe”→
This letter from the European Youth Forum has been widely circulated around various business in Brussels. The tragic death of Moritz Erhardt, a German student who was working at Bank of America as part of a summer internship programme, has sparked huge debate over the exploitation of young graduates in Europe especially as a consequence of the economic crisis.
I republish this letter as a symbol of sympathy and understanding towards those who are discussing the issue on a multinational level and investing their efforts in raising awareness about the hard life of young job seekers in time of crisis.
Many young people across Europe are undertaking internships in order to acquire new skills. Internships provide young people with a great opportunity to get first hand experience of the world of work. For students in particular, internships can provide the crucial stepping stone between education and employment.
However, there is evidence that the quality of internships varies across the EU in terms of learning outcomes, involvement of the intern, access to social benefits and remuneration. It is deeply concerning to see extreme cases as the one reported in the article mentioned above. The death of this young person after having been exploited and abused while completing his internship in a big company is totally unacceptable.
A colleague of mine recently flagged me a great Irish movie called the The Guard. It’s an Irish comedy about a police officer in the West of the country playing subtly with stereotypes and prejudices about the Irish society. This movie made me think about security guards in the Eurobubble. All EU institutions have a security team and somehow, many of them all fall into some “guards models.” As I hinted to in a previous post, most guards in the bubble are actually locals, so they’re technically in the bubble but don’t really live the bubble (if you see what I mean).
The Ben Chang
Those of you who are familiar with the TV show Community definetely know the character of Ben Chang. He is a very unbalanced man whose growing mania becomes worse over the course of his time at the school. Often delusional, he once gave himself the nickname “El Tigre Chino” claiming that his “knowledge will bite your face off.” At a certain point of the series he becomes a security guard paid with food and shelter and tries to transform his school into a dictatorship. He’s simply mental
For those living, working and jogging in the realm of European public affairs, it is well known how Eurobubblers basically create their own dimension and try to differentiate themselves from the outer world (the actual Bruxellois). Everyone here in BXL is super qualified with Masters Degrees or PhDs, everyone speaks 5-6 languages (apart from the Brits and the French) and everyone has a fairly similar background around politics, economics and law etc…The profile that Lisa displays in one the episode of the Eurobubble actually sums it up quite nicely: ” Half German, half French. Born in Indonesia. Politics at Sciences Po, LSE Master, internship at the European Commission and 1 year in Bruges”
Brussels is a place where people don’t go to to live. People go to Brussels to work. People from all over Europe, and the rest of the world, would move to London, Paris, Barcelona or Rome because these are awesome places to be in and expats in this cities would do whatever job in order to stay there.
Brussels is exactly the opposite. People, especially young people, don’t move to the Belgian capital because they are in love with Art Nouveau and mussels with fries. They move to Brussels because of work and almost always their work is related to European affairs. You go out for a beer and end up talking about the euro crisis. You go for a jog in the park and meet policy-makers talking about treaty reforms. You go play football in Parc du Cinquentanaire and you meet EC stagiares. See what happens for instance when you go to Place du Luxembourg
Let’s get this straight. I don’t expect this post to be funny. If you don’t usually go to the gym you will find this tedious. Anyway, since I’m in Brussels I have been to quite a few gyms, mainly to exploit the “essais gratuits” that most of them offer to then never come back.
This gym-crawling gave me a great perspective on the stereotypical Eurobubble gym-goers. That’s right. Because, going to the gym gives you exposure and the way you expose yourself in Brussels makes a big difference in your networking. Going to an expensive luxurious fitness centres in the Place Lux/Schuman/Arts Loi area is not like going to a gym/garage/suspicious sub-basement in St. Josse. Fitness centres are in fact very much like clubs, not gyms. You pay to be part of the club, not to work out.
So, let me introduce you to some of the recurring profiles you can come across when going the gym in the Eurobubble.
The real trainer
This is somebody that actually goes to the gym to work out. They go, they train, they sweat it out and go home. No questions asked and they get great result. Nobody in the Eurobubble, and I mean nobody, matches this profile. To find this rare specimen you have venture yourself out of Brussels 1000 (the post code obviously).
They haven’t started training yet, but their phone is ready on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram simultaneously. They look for likes and comments as a reward for their workout (that they don’t really do). The self-portraitor belongs to thos
e categories of professionals that you can’t really tell what they actually do. All that is based on “being visible” rather than “do something”
The Gazza Gascoigne of bodybuiding
In a previous post I explained the Gazza-type Eurobubble footballer. This profile also exists in Brussels’ gyms. They couldn’t care less about their body and fitness but will go every time a “superior” colleague invites them to try their gym. They usually end up like the picture below but they will for sure have a great career in local politics
The phone booth
In short, they are those who talk about going to the gym, meaning “transporting themselves to a place called gym” not necessarily to workout. They are constantly on the phone and after a 53 minutes call, they say “wow I have been here for almost an hour. I’ll jog 5 minutes and then I’m off to Place Lux.” They have a gym subscription for 8 years and strangely they physically look the same way they used to when they joined.
The exercises updater
When you start going to a gym, usually an instructor gives a schedule to follow in order to break the ice and get familiar with you training programme. Many people here taking this programme really seriously. Some guys come to the gym with squared notebooks and every time they finish an exercise they note down the weights, the numbers of reps and the breaks’ duration. No space for flexibility. These guys don’ t last. They take workout as a job rather than an entertainment. They wear ties every day to work and are out of the office at 17:31. Typical skinny bureaucrats that think they can become Schwarzenegger in 2 months. Fooooooooooooooools.
The “I can lift more than you and I want you to know that”
Living in the Bubble is also a competition. You compete with your colleague at who works until the latest, who got the best EPSO score, who has the worst boss or which level of fonctionnaire you are. This is not healthy.
The same thing happens in the gym. There’s always that one guy that trains to be the best of his small circle of gym mates. The guy that can always bench-press 2kg more than you, that can run longer than you and that “you know, before coming to Brussels I was stronger and fitter.” If you run into someone like this in the gym you can be 100% they are lying. These people always lie. They are usually lobbyists for evil corporations and play the big shots. They are good at their job. Very good.
The one that in says “I will seriously start working out for the summer”
They usually work for the helpdesk of EU institutions and distance from any sort of screen is equivalent to missing a insuline shot for a diabetic.
The Personal Trainer you didn’t ask for
Honestly, going to the gym is not that hard. Pay your subscription, go there with your gym bag twice a week and get a trainer to help you out at the beginning.
Nevertheless, some people feel almost the imperative moral obligation to provide a second trainer for you. This improvised gym consultants are actually consultants in real life. They think they know better than you and their job experience justifies them providing you with some spam advice on how to do your workout.
They stare at you silently, they figure out your current business model ehm… sorry, I meant body shape, and start thinking what could be your business need ehm… sorry again I meant physical need. They approach the unexperienced gym goer by saying “Hi, could I provide you with some advice on your workout?” Very typical of public affairs staff of small consultancies that still need loads of clients.
Those who blame the machines.
Even though you have to be careful when managing weights in the gym, this is certainly not rocket science. Still, you will always find some who can’t manage to do a specific exercise but not because they’re just bad at it. It’s because “the machine is broken.”.Unless you are going to a 1940s gym with rusty dumbells and iron benches that’s probably not true. These guys will even approach some other people they don’t know in order to justify themselves ” You know, that machine doesn’t work. I can’t finish my workout then.” They have all done the EPSO 5 times and, according to them, they always didn’t make it all the way by 1 point.
Those wearing leggins or cyclist-like tight short
I just wish they didn’t wear leggings or cyclist-like tight shorts in the gym. Please, if your friends do that, talk to them out of it. They can be cured.
As I explained in an earlier post, futsall in the Eurobubble is a matter of life and death. Participating in a Eurobubble futsall game reaches the same level of PR skills required to attend drinks afert a Commission’s cabinet meeting. Like in every networking event, you can always identify some profiles that usually go around these ones:
The David Beckham model
Super expensive brand new Nike shoes (110€), latest FC Barcelona shirt (90€) (they all support Barcelona of course) Puma socks of their national team (30€) with Adidas lacets to keep them tight (10€) and hair holding string (price unknown/depending on the area).
The David Beckhams are those who spend as much as a PSG player in clothing (for a futsall game). They come to the game in a suit on a Sunday pretending they just had a business lunch while they actually wore it to get people to ask them “Why are you dressed like that?” For them, every accessory is fundamental: from the bag, to the shower slippers to…SHIN GUARD??? Seriously, shin guards???
They bring girlfriends to the games cause they need somebody to look at them but unfortunately they pretty much all suck at football. Typicallly they have moderately paid jobs in leadership and business management consultancies.
The pitch is booked for one hour, not two. Nevertheless, every team has its latecomers, those for whom the bus is always late, the metro is always on fire and the traffic light is always red. They always make you start playing 4 vs 5 and if you get angry at them they lift their shirts saying “Why always me?”
They gather hatred from everyone and they know that a Pepe-like tackle is about to come onto their ankles. They work for the European Associations of Whatever or the European Think Tank of Nobody Cares About it. Badly paid. Couldn’t care less about you.
These are the best. Eurobubble football games are usually during the weekend and whether it is on a Saturday or a Sunday, you will always have someone coming to the pitch at 5.30PM smelling of Bacardi and Coke.
For early hours games, these guys are likely to come directly from St. Gery or Spirito Martini. They usually display incredible skills, dribblings, amazing passes…for about 4 and half minutes when they collapse to ground asking for a durum with Samurai sauce. They are stagiares with a bright future ahead of them in politics.
95% of the times, teams don’t have a goalie. In this case you either rotate the goalie or the fattest dude has to pay his toll unless he starts getting on salads. However, you always have an Ibra in the team. Somebody that doesn’t give a damn about it and, strangely, his shifts between the posts always last between 15 and 30 seconds after which they shout “Hey I’ve been in the goal for an hour!”. They tackle to the limit and push you like in a Taekwondo match.
I remember when I was in university how easy it was to organize a football tournament. You ask people to make teams, someone brings a ball and the winners get to troll the losers for the rest of the academic year. As simple as that.
Well, things sort of change when you play football (mostly futsal) in the Eurobubble. In the Eurobubble, 5 a side football is a matter of life and death. It’s a strict religion. It’s not just a game among friends on a Saturday afternoon. It’s something that will have a significant impact in your career and winning will open new opportunities in front of you (FALSE!!)
People get seriously mental about this tournaments. First of all, a committee (yes, a committee) is set up for the organization. Basically, these are the Platter and Platini of the Schuman/Arts-Loi area. Then, these great masters decide the “rules and regulations” of the tournament and once these are public, there is no coming back. When I talk about rules and regulations I literally mean a document which is sent out to all teams. THIS IS NOT A JOKE. See below
When Eurobubblers talk about their futsal tournaments it sounds like they’ve played a Champions league Final. I remember a friend of mine telling me about the strategy they put up to win the touranment of an institution: “We put a tall German girl in defense. She just finished her stage but she could still play. Then, we controlled the game with our wingers. Two great Belgians accountants (one Francophone and one Flemish) with experience in policy making and we focussed our attack on an accurate Swedish forward with a PhD in European maritime transports law. So many good memories…”
The truth is that pretty much everyone in the Eurobubble really, really suck at football (including myself). The fun fact is that most of them play like they work: HR managers, are the safe defenders. The Zanetti and Puyol like. Those who always make the safest pass and never risk going forwards. Lobbysts play forward and make up a lot of stories about their skills but wouldn’t score even if a 5 year old was defending the goal. Policy officers play hard. They get the job done and don’t celebrate after scoring. It’s their job after all.
Coming back from holidays spent in warm, welcoming, good-food-rich exotic places, experts have remarked the fast spreading of a new disease which is promptly and dramatically afflicting a copious amount of the young neo-Bruxellois population.
The 1-year-in-Brussels disease strikes mainly young professionals employed in the third sector in both private and public sphere. The first alarming symptom results in waking up one day and thinking: “Is the human being made to sit in front of a screen for 10-12 hours a day?”. The pathology can then degenerate into depression, continuous inexplicable malcontent, weight gain, unstoppable farting, acne, intense desire for quick, unhealthy, microwave-heated meals and loss of personal hygiene.
It seems the syndrome is highly contagious and has already affected a vast majority of the under 32 population in the Schuman, Madou, Place Lux and Maelbeek area.