I arrived in Brussels yesterday in advance of some meetings with my European counterparts beginning today (Monday), and never having been here, took a long, and very chilly, stroll around the city upon my arrival.
For those who are not as familiar with major European cities as they might like to be, Brussels has been a key center for international politics since the second world war, and is the headquarters of NATO, as well as one of two meeting places for the European Parliament (the other being Strasbourg, France).
Though Brussels has historically been Dutch-speaking, more and more it has become a nation of French speakers, and certainly that's mostly what I heard in my walk around the city yesterday afternoon.
Belgium has not been immune from the economic and financial crisis that struck last year around the globe, with two of its largest banks, Fortis and Dexia, having been severely impacted and Fortis later split into two.
On the technology front, as of December 2007, Belgium had 5.5M Internet users (according to Internet World Stats), which was around 52.8% of the population.
In examining Internet growth stats, I like to look at both the absolute number and the Internet "penetration" of a population, which I believe is a better barometer of the upside yet to come in terms of growth.In any case, I expect to learn more about the Benelux market over the next couple of days.
And while on the subject of business travel, whenever I head overseas I'm always paranoid I'm going to leave behind (or outright lose) a key asset: my passport, my Blackberry, my mind.
This time, I left nothing behind (at least, not so far), but I did think something was terribly amiss with my Lotus Notes email, because a whole bunch of emails suddenly seemed to disappear from my inbox.
Turns out I had accidentally hit the "View Unread" button.
Duh. Major user error.
Just in case it ever happens to you and you start to freak out. Just breathe and click the button again, and everything should be just fine.
Finally, speaking of technology hiccups, this is my first overseas trip since acquiring my Blackberry Bold. So far, it has worked like a charm.
As soon as the plane landed, it discovered the Belgium Proximus network, and it has been great for both Twittering and Facebooking as well as serving as a nice portable music box.