Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cultural Differences (Part Quatre)

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a lot of college kids walking around in lab coats asking for money in the streets. I had no idea what was going on....until I read the blog of a friend here in Brussels. I am attaching her post to fill you in (I hope she does not mind!!). Here ya go....

It is hard to grasp just how different Europeans are from Americans until you live over here. Even having been here three years I am still sometimes shocked at what I hear.

For example, I take French class through a university here in Brussels. Out of the 21 students in my class, only one guy is actually also a student at the university (and not just an expat or trailing spouse). He was recently telling us about the student "baptisms" that have been taking place these past few weeks. Basically each college at the university has a co-ed fraternity (so there is one for Literature, Economics, Political Science, etc.) but only about 10-15% of the student take part in the fraternities.

The final act/hazing the pledges go through has been happening the last couple of weeks. For those reading this in Brussels, the pledges are the ones you see at intersections wearing white lab coats that are covered in blue, baseball caps with really long bills, and collecting change in beer glasses to fund their beer money. As it was explained to me by my friend, the final act is for groups of three to five pledges to put on a performance each night which lasts about two to three hours. The performance addresses current issues, makes fun of embarassing things that have happened to people, and can basically cover a wide area of topics. These are done outside at night in a big white tent in front of about 300 students. This might all seem normal enough until you hear the next part. The performers are completely sober, naked and covered in oil. The entire time they are performing, the audience throws this blue stuff at them (I saw it -- the blue stuff, not the performance -- and it basically looks like dyed blue chunky sawdust or crumbled crayon). Each audience member pays 8 euros to enter and then is provided with all the beer and pot they can consume for the whole evening. As if just being naked in front of 300 of your closest friend wasn't bad enough, remember we are in Belgium where it is currently 32 F this evening.

If that hasn't shocked you, then check out this link: (not suitable for people at work or those who are offended by nudity).

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