After a series of apartments and hotels with no room to run, we decided we would book a vacation cottage for our time exploring Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
When we arrived, after driving through four countries in one day, the owner of the “holiday village” would not let us through the gate until we paid him cash. With three exhausted kids, we drove around a little corner of Belgium, looking for a kind ATM that would accept our foreign card.
We finally had the cash in hand and were told, when we returned, we also needed to give him a 200 euro damage deposit in cash, before we could check in. Trying really hard to keep our cool, we set out again in search of more cash just to get us through the gate. It was too late to find another place to rest so we persevered and eventually, after handing over all the euros, we were allowed entry.
We had never been to Belgium and we are much better than we used to be about forming judgments around first impressions. We have learned repeatedly this past year, how often our first impressions were not accurate due to cultural differences.
We tried not to judge this situation. Maybe this is how they do business in Belgium and we just need to follow suit. As the gentleman holding all our cash explained the many rules of this holiday park, wearing plastic bracelets to enter the pool, the hours you can drive in and out, we nodded sleepily and went to bed.
The next morning we wandered into sporting goods store to get the boys some new shoes. Upon entering, the kids spotted skateboards, bikes and scooters on every corner. “Are those for us to ride around the store?” they asked. “They can’t be. There are no helmets.” I replied.
Just then, a group of kids came beaming around the corner on their selected wheels and locked eyes with my trio, as if to say, “hop on!” The wheels were all for customers to ride around the store. There were no speed limits or safety precautions. The employees stocking shelves would yield to wobbly bikes and getaway longboards. There was so much laughter and energy in this store that you could not leave empty handed.
It became strikingly clear that our first experience in Belgium was not, in fact, an accurate reflection of how things are done at all. As the days flew by, strangers helped us find our way, the kids were given treats all over Brussels and Antwerp and people, overall, seemed fairly trusting and relaxed.
As we prepared to depart from our rental cottage, the gentleman came to count every plate and spoon and share stories about all the times he has been wronged. As he was complaining, I could not help but think that he has been wronged so often because he expects to be. His very approach to our arrival made me want to bury all his forks in the garden! In contrast, if my kids had broken their arm riding rollerblades in the sporting goods store, I would have accepted full responsibility for their injury.
Trust brings out the best in people. No matter what has happened in the past, or what may happen in the future, to have faith in others, or to doubt them, is simply a decision.