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Bridging cultural differences just across the border

Bridging cultural differences just across the border

Students’ research

MAASTRICHT. When Maastricht was still in the running for European Capital of Culture 2018, there was a great deal of talk about Euregional co-operation. But how much cultural interaction is there in fact between Liège and Maastricht? European Studies alumna Célia Hanssen did research on this topic for her thesis.

“In the prospectus that the city of Maastricht had drawn up, it said that there was considerable co-operation between the two cities,” says Hanssen. “I wanted to verify that.” She mainly looked at what people in Liège thought about this co-operation. For this purpose, she interviewed leaders of music organisations, such as the opera, the philharmonic orchestra, but also the owner of a jazz cafe. “It was completely different from getting your information from books, it was great fun to do.”

Hanssen discovered that despite the enthusiasm, Liège is still not really connected to the rest of the Euregion. “On an economic level it is, but not culturally.” The main reason: in practice transnational connections appear to be rather complicated. “Each country has its own rules. The Via2018 organisation wanted to organise a festival with performers from different countries, for example, but the participants from Liège would need an insurance that didn’t exist in the Netherlands, and so on.”

The language barrier is still a problem too. “In the French-speaking part of Belgium most people don’t speak Dutch or German and have only a small amount of English.” Then there are also the cultural differences. “Some clichés are so true. For example, the contact person for Via2018 in Liège said that the people from Liège are not so strictly organised as the Dutch. They are mainly good at organising things at the last minute.” Lastly, the Liège members, but also people in general, had trouble planning that far ahead – 2018. “Certainly the smaller organisations. They wondered if they would even still exist by then.”

Hanssen’s research was good for something extra as well. “I am now doing a work placement at the University of Liège, for someone I met while working on the Marble project. We are studying new methods for maintaining parks. This kind of maintenance costs a great deal of money, but it is important to have small green areas in a city. In the Sint Pietersberg nature reserve, which is quite sizeable, they use volunteers who each have their own route which they check regularly and make a note of what needs to be done.”



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