Notes and observations of Belgium, Part 2
Belgian houses are solid looking, mostly brick, though without the boasting size of American McMansions. There are definite architectural tendencies and similarities between buildings, but each house is distinguishable from it‘s neighbors, though never ostentatiously so. I have seen no cookie-cutter subdivisions yet, with 350 houses of five designs.
It is an affluent country, and clean, modern, expensive cars hurl themselves through the narrow streets. I don’t remember seeing any rusty clunkers, mismatched paint jobs, or panels of primer-gray. Nearly every car is an efficient sedan or compact, there are very few SUVs (just the occasional Rover), and scooters are common. I have seen very few declaratory (compensatory?) autos, that is, the red corvette, yellow viper, or giant truck. The lack of these guzzlers could be due to the high gas prices, but I think they are outside of the Belgian character anyway. Mercedes and BMW are common, but I get the feeling they are chosen for being good cars, not for any value as status symbols.
Drivers are polite and skilled, though simultaneously reckless and aggressive in the close quarters. They drive quickly and precisely on the narrow streets, swishing closely past oncoming traffic, parked cars, pedestrians and bicyclists without slowing at all. Town streets have frequent blocks in one lane to slow the flow of traffic, but to my eye this just results in a whole lot of darting vehicles in a masterful but precarious dance of timing.
In this casual acceptance of close proximity to other objects on the road I see a reflection of the different parameters of personal space in this land of high population densities for centuries. You can also see this manifested in the nearness of tables in a café as well as the densely packed housing. I have not noticed it in direct personal proximity though; that is, Belgians are not close-talkers.