My response to the Brussels Lockdown? Bah humbug!

The Brussels ‘lockdown’ with its maximum level security alert is thankfully over. So why am I quoting Ebenezer Scrooge?

Because, ‘tis the season and ’tis time to move on.

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 Interestingly, despite everything that’s happened recently, it wasn’t a terrorist that brought me to my knees. It was…

a bay leaf!

The other night I almost choked on a bay leaf that was hidden in my (delicious) dinner. Thankfully, my local restaurant owner has a hidden talent – he’s brilliant at the Heimlich manoeuvre! So all’s well that ends well and now I’m laughing about it.

While pondering the situation the morning after, it struck me that there was a lesson to take away from my experience. It’s important to live life and not worry about the nebulous events we can’t foresee or control. It looks like I’m far more likely to die of choking on a bay leaf than in a terrorist attack. And that’s reassuring. It means that I’m not going to focus on the things that could happen to me; I’m going to get on with living — and enjoying — my life!

Focusing on the future

I’m not being careless or naive; far from it. But, like most of the people I know in Brussels, I’m going to continue to wander wondrously around my beautiful city, a place that has been hit tremendously hard because of lost income from decreased tourism and fewer crowds in the centre of town. I’ll leave it to the authorities to deal with any potential threats.

Most Brussels residents want to focus on the future, returning to life as we knew it before security level 4 and convoys of tanks and military vehicles.

The world saw only the scary images

The international media did a great job of showing these surreal images, however they neglected to show that the majority of the city was not impacted. Most of us went on with our day-to-day tasks without interruption or, at the worst, with one or two days of changing our routine.

Which leads me to my learning about the terrorists vs. the bay leaf. The overwhelming majority of us who live in Brussels are happy to take on the role of cheerleader for our city in the coming weeks and months. We want to show the world that life goes on in full colour in Brussels.

We may be cautious but we are not afraid. We want people to know they should continue to visit our city and our country because there are wonderful places, people, and activities to enjoy.

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From virtual to real life

I’m personally taking action in two ways.

To celebrate life getting back to normal in Brussels, I’ve started a social group for the international community in Brussels, people who enjoy meeting other expats and/or love our adopted city (monthly meetings, with the inaugural one taking place this past weekend).

It’s a purely social get-together to meet some of the folks I was in touch with online during the security alert and anyone else who loves Brussels and hopes to see the city get back on its feet quickly. I deliberately chose a meeting spot in the centre of town because these are the businesses that have suffered since the security alert.

Canadian media (along with the rest of the world) followed our story

I also had the opportunity to tell my side of the story of our ‘lockdown’ experience when I was approached by media outlets in Canada looking for commentary from a Canadian ‘on the ground’ in Brussels.

I was interviewed by CBC television in Toronto and two radio stations in Calgary. Each time I reiterated that I personally was not afraid and was living my life pretty much as I would any other week. It turns out that was a rather calm message juxtaposed with the headline on-screen during my live TV interview (unbeknownst to me) that said: ‘Living in a State of Siege’, which was not at all a reflection of my situation.

Presenting the real Brussels to the world

Along with many other Brussels residents, I’m hoping to help people understand that the photos and footage they were seeing did not, and do not now, reflect the life of a significant segment of the Brussels population. As we go about our business, we’re posting pictures of everyday life in Brussels every chance we get!


Here’s my personal take on a week in Brussels with a level 4 security alert:

CBC television Toronto:


 660 News Calgary:

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PS: I’ve also got a couple of Wondrous Wanders scheduled for December (hint: save December 17th in your agenda).
Stay tuned for more details!























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