Tuesday, November 19, 2013

At a Canteen in Brussels...

The other day when I went to have lunch in one of the work canteens I was a few minutes early, as I arrived directly from a meeting.  It was 11:55 and the canteens normally open at 12 noon.  I arrived at the same time as two other colleagues (whom I don't know but I call them colleagues here) and we start picking up trays and cutlery by the entrance. 

Canteen lady 1 [calling out]: "Midi, midi" (she means "we open at 12 noon")
Colleagues: "Yes, we know." [muttering about the service and rigid time-keeping]

[Female colleague goes up to the self-service sallad buffet]
Canteen lady 1: "Madame, madame, midi!"
Female colleague: "Yes, I know, I'm just looking."
[Canteen lady 1 says something more in French, presumably again about the time, resulting in female colleague returning to the entrance (5 metres away)]

Meanwhile more colleagues have arrived and started to queue up behind us.

Canteen lady 2: "Midi, midi!"
[Colleagues mutter]

Canteen guy 1: "Bon appétit!" [making welcoming gestures with hands]

I can understand that they don't want people to make a habit of arriving 10-15 minutes early, but a few minutes early??  3 minutes??  They were all ready by the looks of it, already manning their respective food stations.  And even if they would still be getting the last bits ready (removing lids from pots or what have you), they could at least let colleagues start taking from the sallad buffet, as it is self-service anyway.  Or at least let people enter the room for god's sake.

I don't know if it's due to work regulations or a very high time consciousness, or the usual lack of service-mindedness in this country (sorry, but it is true), but whatever the reason, they could at least have been a bit friendly instead of yelling at us.  If someone says "very sorry, you're a bit early and we're not completely ready, but bear with us a few minutes..." I would gladly wait until they are ready to open.

Anyway, a glimpse of working life in Brussels :)


  1. interesting!! is it just in that canteen or everywhere else in Brussells as well i wonder...hmm

  2. Edina - I suspect it could be the same at other places since the Belgians are not known for their service-mindedness...