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Meet the expat: Rhodri Thomas, chair of Brussels' Welsh Society
I’m Welsh and, apart from Wales and Belgium, I lived in England for three years as a student many years ago and in Sweden for a year directly before coming to Belgium. I moved here in 1995 after the accession of Sweden to the EU. I had been teaching English as a foreign language to adults in Sweden and carried on doing that for a while here, too. Then I got a job in the European Commission, where I still work; I’m currently in the Editing Unit of the Translation DG.
Outside work, I’m the chair of the Welsh Society of Brussels, which is a social organisation for Welsh people who live here and anyone with a connection to or an interest in Wales. We hold monthly meetings in the Wild Geese pub, near Schuman. Saint David is the patron saint of Wales, so our most important event is the Saint David’s Day dinner on or around 1 March each year. We also get together to watch Welsh rugby and football matches. We have a couple of hundred members, but more are always welcome.
Another interest of mine is beer. I have contributed to the Good Beer Guide to Belgium, a publication in English that lists the breweries, beers and places to drink them here in our host country. I’m a member of the Belgian beer consumers’ organisation Zythos, and the British group Camra Brussel/Bruxelles. I’m also interested in history and, when I had more time, I was a certified guide at the Waterloo battlefield. That there are so many interesting historical sites and places here in Belgium is one of the reasons for liking it (along with the beer).
I love Wallonia, and in particular the Ardennes, because it reminds me of Wales with the hills and the forests and the old mining culture. It really is very pretty both in the winter and the summer. I’ve visited a lot of beer festivals in Belgium and one of my favourites has to be Brassigaume in Marbehan, Luxembourg province, in October. It’s an international event in a small village with a great local atmosphere.