From John, Belgium, September 2017

01 September 2017

John, Brussels, Belgium

This isn’t exactly where I live, but it’s a big part of my life here in Belgium. This is the International Chorale of Brussels, an amateur choir of about 50 singers, which I direct. We have at least 15 nationalities who sing regularly, mostly European but a few Americans as well. Being part of an international community was an unexpected benefit of living close to Brussels, and one which I very much enjoy. Some people seem to think that internationalism means a loss of national character, but I find the opposite. People here are proud of their nationality, and national differences often become emphasised in such an international environment. We acknowledge the differences, even the stereotypes, and learn from them. People are interested to know about other countries’ customs and food, for example, but also differing attitudes to international events or political figures. People are of course happy to sing in their native language, but equally happy to learn how to pronounce someone else’s language (Danish was a challenge for most of us!). The reaction to Brexit of everyone I have spoken to in the choir is one of shock and disbelief. But then I suppose it’s a group of people who have an open, international mindset: no surprise that they find it difficult to comprehend why a country would choose to leave such a powerful group of nations.


Related Testimony
John in Belgium