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    Moderator VJ's Avatar
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    Mar 2001

    Default national differences on various issues

    Ok, So I've lived in three different countries long enough to teach me that there are some things we take for granted, that are actually quite different. I'll list a few, before I get to my question.

    1. guest presents when hosting a dinner party
    In Belgium, when the guest bring a present (e.g. a bottle of wine), the host thanks the guest and puts the bottle away.
    In Poland, when the guest brings a present, the host offers to open the bottle of wine (unless it really would not fit, in which case he apologizes for not opening it).
    (exception in Belgium are chocolates, which the host tends to present with the coffee)

    2. wedding party
    In Belgium, the married couple with their parents are first at the party venue and receive/welcome the guests as they arrive.
    In Poland, the guests arrive first at the venue and welcome the married couple.

    3. ambulances
    In Belgium, an ambulance is dispatched from a hospital, and has to take you to that hospital (this implies that that hospital has the capacity and ability to help/admit you). They have to take you there EVEN if there is a closer hospital.
    In Poland, an ambulance is not connected to a hospital, and when it has a patient, it has to look for a hospital that can take him. In pandemic times, this resulted in queues of ambulances at some hospitals due to ambulances simultaneously going to the same hospital.

    4. administrative documents
    In Belgium, you hand in paper documents in city hall or wherever that document has to go; you have no proof that you gave it.
    In Poland, you hand in the document and a copy; the copy is date-stamped and returned to you as proof that you gave that document.

    5. labour unions
    In Belgium, unions are very well connected (cross-sector) in a hierarchy, so when the union in a sector (or even company) wants to go on strike, it is very possible that the strike goes to the whole sector or even cross-sector and paralyses the country (as in: no public transport, no mail, no factories, ..., combined with barricades on major roads). They also pay for the members' salaries, which makes a strike not a financial loss for the worker. Strikes are usually organized on a Friday: many people stay home (long weekend, no financial loss) while the union presents what a success it was using the data of how many people stayed at home as reflecting how many were on strike. The unions are financed by the government and the members, and as such are rich: they have the reserves to paralyse the country for months, which makes them very (too?) powerful in persuading the government: paralyse the country for a few days and the government will cave.
    In Poland, unions are very isolated in their sector and company, a strike in one sector rarely affects other sectors (quite often it just results of a strike in one company rather than the sector). Days on which people strike are days with limited or even no salary. Unions are not rich, so their power is much more limited.

    6. voting
    In Belgium:
    Voting offices are determined by population density (denser areas get more offices).
    Eligible voters receive a voting card on which it says in which voting office you have to go (this is the closest one to your official address, 3 months before the election - it is always at walking distance from that address). You have to take your id (which every 18+ person mandatory has to have) and go to the office. If you did not receive your voting card, you have to report this to city hall but still have to go voting (voting in Belgium is mandatory). You cannot change your voting office (you get free public transport to get to your voting office), and there is no early voting or mail voting, everyone votes on election day.
    In Poland:
    Very similar in concept, only difference is that is not mandatory. There are options to change the voting office (has to be done beforehand) which do not exist in Belgium; and there is some form of early voting in embassies (for people who are abroad).

    Basically, I started this thread due to the voting in the US: it seems like such a chaos. There is early voting, drop-in ballots, mail voting, situations where there is one voting office for over a million people, a lot of talk about voter intimidation, ... It just seems so chaotically done and the chaos seems to get bigger with every next election (weird to us is for example that some people do not have an ID card and that driver licenses are used as ID).

    But I just thought it would be interesting to list such differences: we are quite an international group, and some concepts we think we know may not carry the same interpretation. These are things you only discover when you live long enough at a place.
    Last edited by VJ; 16th October 2020 at 06:55.
    Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die tomorrow. (James Dean)

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