The Belgian coast: my article in The Bulletin Magazine Summer 2017

The Belgian coast 

The Belgian coast does not seem to ‘inspire’ a lot of people. I often hear comments about how ‘ugly’ the Belgian coast is, about the concrete buildings (we often use the description ‘the concrete coast’) etc etc

With those remarks often comes a comparison with the French ‘Opal coast’ or with the seemingly untouched dunes at the Dutch resort of Cadzand. Both the French and Dutch North Sea resorts seem to be a better alternative to that unattractive Belgian coast. 

Those remarks may ring true in some aspects, but they are also based on prejudice, not on experience. There are large stretches of Belgian coast, with those typical generous golden beaches, that are absolutely beautiful.

 If you want to know why Belgians insist on flocking to their own coast, you have to understand a bit more about how tourism started in the first place.

Belgian coast_The beach near Ostend, Belgium
The beach near Ostend, Belgium

The Bulletin Summer 2017

So when the editor of The Bulletin asked me to write something about the history of coastal tourism in Belgium for their Summer issue, I jumped at the opportunity. The Bulletin Magazine Summer 2017 issue was published a few weeks ago, and my article about the Belgian coast can now also be read online here. 

However you feel about our coast, you can’t deny it’s typically Belgian. Belgians don’t like to sit around all day at the beach. Kids don’t just spend their time swimming, usually they are bit more industrious. Have you ever seen children digging canals at the beach? Sand castles are only complete when a functioning moat surrounds them. Others spend their afternoons making paper flowers and ‘selling’ them for sea shells. That particular tradition has existed for decades. You can eat and drink everywhere, which is why a day at the coast usually ends either in a restaurant or in the ‘frituur’ (guess what the kids prefer).  

And no day at the coast can go by without a ride on the cuistax (a sort of go-cart) with the whole family.

Belgian coast_The port of Ostend
The port of Ostend

Try a Belgian day at the coast 

When I talk to expat parents about their life in Belgium, they often tell me they don’t know what to do with the kids. Well, next time you don’t know what to do, take the train to Ostend.

Stay away in the weekends, try to choose a weekday if you can. Take the coastal tram to just outside of the city, say for instance to Raversijde, where the beach is a lot less crowdy than in Ostend or in Blankenberge.  

Make sure to take spades with you and everything else you need to spend the day digging and building. Raversijde doesn’t have lots of shops or brasseries to buy drinks and food, so it’s best to take enough water and snacks with you. After a few hours, take the tram back to Ostend. Hire a cuistax and explore the promenade along the dijk/digue. After that, stroll along the promenade a bit more, look around in the tourist shops and think about what you want for lunch or dinner. 

If you have time, visit Fort Napoleon in Ostend for an exposition or make time to see the Raversyde Atlantikwall open-air museum. If you prefer going to Knokke, consider taking a walk in the Zwin. On the blog This Must Be Belgium you can find great tips to visit Koksijde. Whatever you do, your kids will love it. 

And whatever you do, relax and don’t over plan your day. Enjoy your day with the family, enjoy the sun when you can, leave time for some spontaneous activities or visits, and don’t forget to have a nice meal. And repeat that as many times as you can over the summer. There is always something new to explore at the coast 

If you do all that, you will be doing what hundreds of thousands of Belgians do each year and what Belgian kids never seem to get enough off. Nothing boring about that is it? 

So tell me, what do you like to do at the beach?

History of Belgium Integration course

History of Belgium Integration course

Finally, our third new program: the History of Belgium Integration course.

“It was so tempting to limit my connections to the other expats already there… it’s a welcoming community. But after a while, it feels strange: as if I lived in a parallel world from my neighbours.”
Sara Reyniers, Freelance Translator, Language Specialist and Journalist specialized in EU policy, about her own expat experience(s)

If you are an expat in Belgium, you might feel the same way. Maybe you never expected Belgium to be as complicated as it is. You feel puzzled by the country, your Belgian colleagues and friends, and you don’t really understand what all these problems about languages are about. 

Maybe you work in an international organisation or in diplomacy, maybe you work in an international company and most of your colleagues are expats. Maybe it’s the opposite: you work in a Belgian company, and you don’t connect to the Belgians. Or you don’t work, but you came here with your partner. And while your partner can connect to people through work, it’s a lot harder for you.

So you stay in your expat bubble, only to discover that this can be isolating as well. You tried to make Belgian friends, you tried to get information, you tried to read up on Belgium, but there is not enough information in your language or there is too much information to take in on your own. Integration is difficult. Besides, where should you start?

Slowly you start feeling disconnected, or even downright frustrated and you definitely don’t feel at home.

Do you recognise any of those feelings?

Read more!

New program: the History of Congo before, during and after colonisation

The next completely new program, starting Autumn 2017 is:


Congo_ Belgian_Academy_Culture_History

Following the succes of the masterclass about Congo Freestate which Bastiaan De Roo gave a few weeks ago, and because of the many e-mails and requests I received for a follow-up, I have decided to offer a unique new course.

The History of Congo course is a 3-month program, in which experts from Belgian universities will share insights from their research. This is your rare chance to follow university studies about a subject that – even among Belgian historians – remains relatively unknown. The best thing is that with this academic program you don’t have to bother with daytime classes, homework or exams.

Find out more about this exclusive opportunity here or contact me directly for details. 

New programs to help you integrate and acculturate better in Belgium

Starting this summer 2017, three new programs will start at the Belgian Academy of Culture and History that will help you feel more at home.

Each one of these new programs is unique, which means you will find them nowhere else in Belgium!

All three of these programs are especially designed to help you feel better and integrate faster in Belgium. In short, the activities of the Academy will help you feel more at home.

Why? Because everyone needs to feel connected to their cultural surroundings. Because I know what it feels like when you don’t feel at home. Because being an international and enjoying meeting new people, doesn’t mean you don’t want to feel at home in your host country.

These next few days, I will introduce these three new programs one by one.

The first new program is:

History coaching: in search of your personal history

This is a 4-month coaching program designed to help you deal with your ‘Third Culture’ family. Read more here!
History coaching by Mirella Marini
History coaching by Mirella Marini

Over the next few days, I will introduce the other two new programs. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you believe I can help you!

Tips for what to do when warm weather hits Belgium

Feeling a bit hot? Then read on for an unusual tip on where you can go!

The beach near Ostend, Belgium
The beach near Ostend, Belgium

When it’s this hot outside (while I’m writing this, it’s 35°C…), people understandably flock to the Belgian coast or to the nearest swimming pool.

Bruzz recently listed the nearest outdoor swimming pools for those of you dying to flee the city heat.

But if you can’t stand the bustle of crowds of people trying to get a bit of refreshment in or near the water, than it might be a good idea to do the exact opposite.

Although taking a walk in a park will not be high on your list in these temperatures, there are parks or gardens that will perfectly satisfy your need to cool down a bit!

The Japanse Garden in Hasselt, Belgium
The Japanse Garden in Hasselt, Belgium

This weekend, I visited the Japanese Garden in Hasselt. It’s not too big, meaning you’re not completely exhausted at the end of the day. It has a family atmosphere and is perfect for a day out.

The Japanse Garden in Hasselt, Belgium
The Japanse Garden in Hasselt, Belgium

And thanks to the water feature (including waterfalls!), it’s wonderfully cool to stroll among the beautiful trees.

The Japanese Garden in Hasselt, Belgium
The Japanese Garden in Hasselt, Belgium

The Garden is open from April to September, Tuesday till Sunday, from 10h to 17h. Japanese holidays are frequently celebrated in the garden (check the website for details) and they also host Japanese Tea Ceremonies each month!

The Japanese Garden in Hasselt, Belgium
The Japanese Garden in Hasselt, Belgium

Your children will particularly like the fact that you can buy fish feed for just €0.50 to feed the many (slightly overfed) Koi’s.

The Japanse Garden in Hasselt, Belgium
The Japanse Garden in Hasselt, Belgium

楽しんで ! (Tanoshinde=enjoy!)

I have big news!

Mirella Marini
Mirella Marini

This past year has gone by so quickly! I’ve learned so much from the experience of teaching history to expats, it has actually helped to put my own expat experiences in context. Because I was still ‘experimenting’ with the course – both the course material and the didactic method changed a bit over the year – I deliberately kept the registration fees at a lower level.

However, the Academy can’t grow if I keep on operating with these start-up fees. They don’t reflect the correct value of the history products of the Academy and they don’t reflect your benefit, your value, your advantages when you feel more at ease, more at home and more comfortable in Belgium.

This is why I have decided to significantly raise the prices to a level that correctly reflects the value of what I do for you.

I understand you, because I’ve been an expat myself. So I know what kind of information you need to feel more at home. I assist you in your ‘homecoming’ process and help you burst that expat bubble. Finding your way in a foreign country is tough and finding information about Belgium in English (or in your own language) is not easy. Especially not because that information is fragmentary at best, difficult to locate to say the least, or too often limited in its scope.

I create a story for you that helps with your cultural integration and I do so without resorting to platitudes or limiting myself to a regional view. With me, you have a safe environment to learn, to ask your questions, to share your doubts or your criticisms. Through me, you access a world of information, years of studying and research – and all that in just a few weeks – with the luxury of a personal approach and lessons that have both the benefits of private tutoring AND the comfort of group dynamics.

So this Spring 2017, you can book our History of Belgium course for the very last time in this format, and for these prices! I have decided to transform this course, so the familiar 4-evening format will disappear.

For all those people that contacted me over the past year and weren’t sure about the dates or about the venue: this course will not come back in this format and will not be available for this fee any more! Make time. Come to Brussels. This is your final chance to take advantage of my start-up prices.

The same is true for the masterclasses. The masterclasses will also not come back in this format and will not be offered for these fees anymore. This is your final chance to participate in our Congo masterclass or our masterclass about the regional politics in Belgium! If you did not register on time, you will miss it.

And when I say ‘final’, I mean ‘final’ 😉

You have just a week left to register and help yourself feel better in Belgium.

Free Launch Event at Muntpunt 17-01-2017: History and Culture in Belgium

Next Tuesday, 17 January 2017 the Belgian Academy will host a free launch event!

Free Launch Event Belgian Academy of Culture and History

We felt that it was high time to officially introduce the Belgian Academy of Culture and History and to explain why we believe history is so important for every human being.

Continue reading “Free Launch Event at Muntpunt 17-01-2017: History and Culture in Belgium”

Topics in Belgian History masterclasses: migration and identities



Starting February 2017, 9 experts will be hosting 8 exclusive masterclasses at the Academy.

These masterclasses will take place on the following dates: 1-2-2017, 15-2-2017, 8-3-2017, 22-3-2017, 29-3-2017, 19-4-2017, 3-5-2017 and 17-5-2017. All masterclasses will be taking place at Muntpunt, from 19h until 21h30.

Last week I already announced that Hadewijch Masure, Eline Van Onacker, Bastiaan De Roo and Jeffrey Tyssens would be giving masterclasses in these series.

The next names in the series are those of:

Continue reading “Topics in Belgian History masterclasses: migration and identities”

Topics in Belgian History masterclasses: freemasonry in Belgium



As I announced a few days ago, starting February 2017, 9 experts will be hosting 8 exclusive masterclasses at the Academy.

These masterclasses will take place on the following dates: 1-2-2017, 15-2-2017, 8-3-2017, 22-3-2017, 29-3-2017, 19-4-2017, 3-5-2017 and 17-5-2017. All masterclasses will be taking place at Muntpunt, from 19h until 21h30.

Next to Hadewijch Masure (UA), Eline Van Onacker (UA) and Bastiaan De Roo (UGent), our very first masterclass will be taught by professor Jeffrey Tyssens from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Professor Tyssens is an expert in among other things political history, international politics, and freemasonry and secular humanism in Belgium. It is this last topic that he will be discussing for us in his masterclass, which will take place on 1 February 2017 at Muntpunt.

If you are tired of hearing about freemason conspiracy theories or if you are curious to know just how important secular humanism is in Belgium, then professor Tyssens will be able to provide you with all the answers.

See you there!