The Power of Beer – I mean, Networking!

Oh, Belgian beer is a devious friend indeed! There’s a reason half of them have names like Duvel, Judas, and Lucifer!

Well. Today I woke to a Brussels blanketed in fog, which to me always makes things that much more mysterious and attractive. It definitely made the gate to the Royal Palace, guarded by two enormous stone lions with a backdrop of dead winter trees, look creepy and haunted cemetery-like.

Anyway, with the fog and gray haze lasting well into the afternoon, my plans for taking pictures of the city were put on hold. Instead, I decided to visit the Musee des Brasseurs, the Brewer’s Museum. Which was perfect, really, because the whole thing is housed in the old brewers’ guildhouse right on the Grand Place, in a stone and wood-carved basement, dark and dimly lit. I had a free entrance card, which is good, because it normally costs 5 euro and consists of one room with a video screen playing a documentary about Belgian beer. The viewing room is surrounded by models of brewing equipment, and there’s a small center room with old-fashioned tools, as the original brewers’ house may have looked 150 years ago.

It did not seem at all worth the 5-euro fee, until I realized that you get a free tasting sample of a Belgian beer. On premise, the type of beer being served changes every few days and is never, ever revealed to guests. I was given a choice of “blond” or “brune,” and I chose the darker. The sample was actually a pretty good size (especially when you remember how sneaky Belgian beer can be!). I was practically drunk after one, but the bartender gave me another, because I am a cute girl and was all by myself. Sometimes it’s really nice to be a woman. A few of the bartender’s friends were hanging around and chatting, and I listened intently, trying to pick up a few French phrases here and there. There was another museum visitor, but he was drinking coffee and doing what looked like paperwork. The bartender and friends began a conversation with this man, who I realized was Flemish, and then they got to talking about language. Eventually they turned to me, and the Flemish man explained that his English was much better than his French, and that he was actually preparing a conference which he would have to give (at the museum) to a gorup of hotel managers, all in English. That’s why he was drinking coffee, he explained, though I suggested that his English might improve if he were to have a beer or two.

His boss soon arrived, and my first thought was that he looked astonishingly like Dr. Evil, minus the cat. He was very friendly and greeted me first with an “Enchantee, Mademoiselle,” That’s another of the things I love about Belgium. I never get tired of being greeted with “Bonjour, Mademoiselle!” and “Bonsoir, Mademoiselle!” Even though it’s the common (and proper) greeting, it seems more like a relic from a lost age of chivalry and gentlemanliness. It’s definitely better than “Hey baby, how’s it hangin’?” Anyway, I soon realized that this boss was the manager of two NH Hotels in Brussels, which are a Spanish chain. Of course, after my two treacherous Belgian beers, I was feeling quite talkative and shameless, so I asked the hotel owner if they needed anyone who spoke Spanish to work at their hotels. He said that actually he’d just had to fire someone, and yes, they were looking for someone new. (Score!) He asked me a couple of questions about my abilities which I answered as positively as possible, and then he handed me his card. (Double score!) He asked me to send him my CV, and then said he would pass it on to the other managers if it seemed like he couldn’t find anything for me. (Oh my goodness, so many scores today!) The boss, as well as his Flemish employee, both seemed incredibly friendly and nice, and the employee said in confidence that if I was offered a job, I should definitely take it because this man was a wonderful boss. (Home run!) I was invited to yet another beer by the bartender, but I decided to quit while I was ahead, a phrase I politely explained to the Flemish employee as I excused myself from the group. I stumbled (really, I had lost track of time and was feeling a little lightheaded) back into the afternoon, where I stopped to buy some Belgian chocolates (my first since I arrived), and then rushed home (rather, ambled home to let the cold air clear my head) to send my CV and hope for the best. Ah, that devil, the Belgian beer!

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