Want to feel like a local in Ghent? Act like a local! Are you curious to know what exactly this means? In 2014 an organization for young tourists called USE-IT Europe put together 10 golden tips for you. A couple of years later, their advice still stands, but as in 2014, don’t take it too seriously!
Adore the Ghent Festival (Gentse Feesten). Each year, in the second half of July, real life just stops in Ghent. Everybody stops working and the city turns into a giant playground: free concerts everywhere, street theatre, lots of alcohol and over a million people. Hardcore Gentenaars try to party ten days and nights till sunrise. The secret is not to arrive too early and to have your Irish coffee at the right moment between late night and early morning.
Complain about the Ghent Festival: ‘Too big! Too commercial! Too many hamburgers!’ and say you prefer the more cosy Patersholfeesten in August. There’s also Oudburgfeesten, Prinsenhoffeesten, Burgespoort feesten, Bomfestival, …)
Have a party, any reason is a good reason. In 2010 we celebrated being world champions in having no government. In 2013 we buried the word ‘allochtoon’ (Belgian for ‘from foreign origin’) with a big party.
Thursday? Don’t eat meat! The local vegetarian organisation EVA has succeeded in making schools and city service meatfree on Thursday. Ghent even has the most veggie restaurants per inhabitant in Europe.
Make a joke about our football team AA Gent. After one of the worst seasons last year, they did even worse than worst this year. But at least we got a really big and beautiful new stadium last year. And the stadium immediately won a beauty contest. Hey, if the team can’t win a thing, at least the stadium can…
One kiss = hello. Three kisses = happy new year, Grandma. Two kisses = I’m a tourist and I don’t have a clue. A long kiss on the moth = I love you till tomorrow morning.
Have an opinion on Stadshal. It was built in 2012 and everybody had an opinion on it, even before it was finished. Even the boring World Heritage Foundation UNESCO was critical about it too. Anyway, it’s finished now and we’re learning to love it.
Cyclists are the king of Ghent, so watch out pedestrians! Cars will stop when you cross the street, but if you hear a ‘ringring’, better move or you might get hit by a bicycle. Pay attention to the trams as well – they are faster than you think.
All newspapers and guides seem to discover us by now. ‘Best kept secret’ here, ‘unknown pearl’ there. We used to be okay with tourists, but last year it started to feel like we’re constantly walking through people’s holiday pictures. So do us a favour and keep your camera in your pocket, especially in the historic center.
Take it easy. People in Ghent (Gentenaars) are amazingly relaxed, thank you very much. In Antwerp you can win a debate with the loudest voice, in Ghent we just ignore you. Especially waiters don’t like loud and impatient people. A popular saying goes ‘nie neute’, which means ‘don’t complain’. Indeed.