Expats of Brussels – #1


Aris (40), from Indonesia, in Brussels since 2016

“When I arrived in Brussels, I spent most of my time learning French and taking a management course to start a business here. At the beginning, it took a lot of adjusting to live here. Everything is completely different from Indonesia: the languages, the culture, the people. I experienced a culture shock. Until this day, I’m still learning.

To take some distance from it all, I started looking at the city through the lens of my camera. It shows a different perspective on your surroundings, you start paying more attention and see the world with a different view. I cannot even remember the last day I didn’t take a picture. Even my other hobbies are related – I love cooking, photographing the food, then eating it. I also give online photography seminars to Indonesians. As a child in Indonesia, art is part of your everyday schooling. Dancing, singing, writing, painting, … It makes for creative adults. 

I’m curious. I want to see everything. On a day off, I travel from Liège to Ostend. While discovering Belgium, I noticed Belgians don’t really know their own country. My friends jokingly call me “a better Belgian than they are” because I’ve seen much more than them.”

“Everything has two sides in life, nothing is perfect. Every country has their problems and issues. Of course, there are issues in Brussels too, but I do love this city. I accept it and I cannot explain why I love it so much,  it’s just fit for me. Belgium is my new home. Even after all this time, this country remains interesting to me. The only thing I will never understand? The divide between language groups. I couldn’t care less if you speak French of Flemish – Indonesia has over 300 languages. 

I have two identities, two cultures, I’m a mix of everything. Sometimes I speak French, English and Indonesian in one and the same sentence. It gives me a rich culture.  

My family and friends in Indonesia are happy for me. They see that I achieve things here, I make something of my life and that makes them proud. I’m an ambassador for my country, I represent Indonesia in Belgium and introduce Belgium to Indonesians. It matters, in the end you are happy if you make others happy. I think I will stay here for a very long time to come.”

Pictured Aris Setya
Photographer Cem Ali Bas
Location La Brouette


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