Everyone knows that you don’t have to be from New York to call yourself a New Yorker. But the same goes for Brussels. “You do not have to be born in Brussels to be part of this city.”
“I do not know what people think about Brussels,” says graphic novelist Judith Vanistendael when I ask her what makes Brussels special. “I guess they think it is dirty (true), that the food is great (also true) and that there is an Atomium (certainly true). But the good thing is that anyone can become a citizen. It is up to you to decide. There is a real freedom for all who live here. The city will not claim you and there is a rich mix of people.”
I soon notice that so many inhabitants I meet, at least one in four, are foreigners. After all, as well as the capital of Belgium, Brussels is home to major institutions such as the European Union, as well as being the political headquarters of NATO.
“Brussels makes me think of New York, but on a smaller and more human scale,” says Judith, who has worked in Berlin and Seville. “There are loads of things going on, lots of nice bars and so on but, at the same time, people are less stressed than in bigger cities like London and Paris. I like the fact that you can live in a big space, even with a garden in the city center, as it is less expensive than other capitals, and you never know which language you will be talking.”