Posts tagged ‘United States’

An American in Brussels

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when the populace of the EU Quarter abandons Brussels like rats from a sinking ship and those few of us left on board are trying to wrap up all of the ‘admin’ tasks that we’ve put on hold for the several previous, hair-raisingly busy months.

It’s also the time of year when I, as an American, have to go through the annual bureaucratic rigmarole that is renewing my Belgian work permit. This is now my third time down the path of renewal and every year it’s the same somewhat maddening procedure (though the first time is always the worst!). This year, however, I’ve found myself pondering  the question that I always find myself answering for curious Europeans who say something like ‘But, it’s normal for Europeans to want to go to the States, but you’re an American, how did you find yourself here, in Brussels?!’, and so I decided to take a little poll around the FH Brussels office to see why the other Americans (there are 5 of us in total!) are here.

Carey Evans, from Los Angeles, California

“I came for the weather… clearly.”

Jessica Henderson, from the Twin Cities area (Minneapolis/St. Paul), Minnesota

“Because I couldn’t afford London, Paris, or Geneva.”

Tatiana Hulko, from Evergreen, Colorado

“I blame the Brit in my life for trading in sunshine for rain.”

Katie Wolicki, from Asheville, North Carolina

“Belgian chocolate, frites, waffles, and the little boy peeing….what more could you ask for? ”

That leaves me. So why am I here? Well, I can’t say I came for the weather and I, too, am probably unable to afford the luxury of life in London, Paris, or Geneva. Nor can I claim that it was the infamous beer, waffles, or chocolate that lured me here – though they didn’t hurt. And although my colleagues have all provided (what I like to assume are) tongue-in-cheek responses to my query, I have to say that I originally landed in Brussels sort of through happenstance and, like most Europeans here who are not natives to this fair(ish) city, I guess I got sucked in. It started innocently enough, with an internship here during my undergrad studies, but living in Brussels piqued my interest in EU affairs and the policy making scene. I returned after graduating to do a Masters’ in Leuven, got a job in a public affairs consulting firm in Brussels, then another job, et voila, little by little, before I really realized, the exciting world of the EU had gripped me and the slightly more laid-back lifestyle of the Brussels-scene kept me close. Despite the rain and the endless red tape, the lack of friendly service, and the inconvenience of much of everyday life (I’m sorry, but it makes NO sense that all of the shops and stores close on bank holidays when people actually have time to spend their money!) I find myself willfully going through this renewal process that keeps me here for at least another year.

And so, as much as this writer likes to complain about the above mentioned issues (and more!) I have to accept that actually, we do have it pretty good here. The international work environment that I’m lucky enough to be  a part of is a unique one. The friends I’ve made who live here and who depart to the far reaches of the globe are largely friends and contacts I’ve made in Brussels. The proximity to the heart of European policy making and the opportunity to have interesting interactions with policymakers means that my job is interesting every day – not something that can necessarily be said even for my counterparts who live and work in America’s version of Brussels, Washington DC. These are the things that brought me here and which keep me here still.

That said, for now I’ve had about as much of Brussels as I can take for 7 months at a time without ‘escaping’ and I’m off on hols back to New England as of Monday. So ‘bonnes vacances’ everyone! See you in a few weeks when I’m back – refreshed by the warm weather, sunny, blue skies, and ocean breezes of the Maine and Massachusetts coasts and ready to face the gray skies and Bruxellois lifestyle that we have all come to, err, know and love.

Lindsay Hammes, from Augusta, Maine

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July 20, 2011 at 7:32 pm 5 comments

Twongressions to lose Democrats seats? Study on Twitter in Congress

"Republican Party Elephant" logo
Image via Wikipedia

Our colleague Mark Senak’s study on the use of Twitter by members of the US Congress has been making some waves in the media across the Atlantic in recent days. The main headline being that the Republicans are beating the Democrats in their use of the tool. We shall have to see what this means when it comes to the mid-terms.

James

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January 15, 2010 at 1:36 pm Leave a comment

Polling and its impact on public policy

An interesting piece on the impact of polling on public policy in the US from my colleague Jeff Weintraub on our Public Affairs blog that is worth checking out here.

In contrast, I am not sure we need an online poll to establish whether polling has a big impact on the outcomes of public policy decisions at an EU level. I’ve discussed the fact it isn’t used more in previous posts.

In any case, it is an interesting debate in an EU context. Should advocates and policymakers in this town be making more use of polling both in advocacy and in making their policy decisions?

I’d be interested in your views and indeed examples of where it has proved valuable/not valuable.

James

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October 21, 2009 at 12:37 pm 1 comment

Public affairs views from around the world

As part of our recent global public affairs practice meeting here at Fleishman-Hillard, we managed to catch a minute or two to camera from some of our colleagues from around the world. Struggling for a place to put the clips, we created a YouTube channel all of our own here.

Amongst those contributing to our discussions on the challenges facing companies around the world was former European Commissioner and current member of our International Advisory Board David Byrne.

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July 9, 2009 at 3:38 pm 2 comments

What is Public Affairs? Some thoughts from a global perspective

English: Illuminatable Earth globe, Columbus, ...

Image via Wikipedia

This last week saw our latest Global Public Affairs Leadership meeting here in Brussels. In attendance were public affairs practitioners from global centres like Beijing and DC, major European capitals such as London, Berlin and Paris and a host of other places from Latin America to Canada. It just goes to show that wherever you are,  the public policy agenda is likely to have an impact on your business.

It was great to participate in some informed debate on hot issues; the regulation of financial service markets, energy security and climate change and consumer product safety amongst them. It would appear that increasingly issues are global and markets interconnected, even if the issues play out locally.

Much the same observation can be said for public affairs itself. While the objective may be the same the world over, the tactics used may change depending on the market, the regulation in place (in terms of direct contact between stakeholders and government) and the issue and its lifecycle.  The discussions led me to the observation that it was worth putting down somewhere my own understanding of some of the terms discussed – from communications to public affairs and finally government relations.

I’ve tried to do so in the attached file below.

Public affairs and government relations diagram

I’d be interested in people’s reaction especially in Brussels where the terms government relations and public affairs tend to be used interchangeably. At the same time communications tends to be looked down upon by those who only do the strict lobbying piece, as if decision-makers are only informed by views expressed in one-on-one meetings. Our recent digital MEP survey suggest otherwise.

One final thought. Our session on this subject matter appeared to me to suggest that the conditioning of the environment in which decisions are taken (i.e. the public affairs as opposed to government relations piece) is increasingly important for actors irrespective of the market they are in. It is in this context of course that digital tools fit in…

James

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June 28, 2009 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

To Twitter or not to Twitter?

Can Twitter be used for advocacy? Well Pat Cleary, our resident digital public affairs guru at Fleishman-Hillard Washington D.C. has been converted to the cause following a recent legislative campaign for one of his clients. In the article attached he speaks to the National  Journal about his experience of how the tool can help in advocacy towards legislatures.

James

National Journal Twitter Story

May 14, 2009 at 5:03 pm 1 comment

Twitter, the US elections and Brussels

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Check out the coverage of the use of Twitter in the US elections today referenced over at the Guardian but picked up widely elsewhere, here and here. As Americans are going to the polls they have been able to report their experiences at the booths using Twitter by adding the hashtag #votereport to their tweets.

Lots of long queues and dodgy machines as I am reading but hopefully not too many hanging chads by the end of the night. The site also includes a cool mash up that sees the reports coming in plotted on a Google Map.

Whilst we’re on Twitter, some interesting thoughts on the use of Twitter in a Brussels context on Steffen’s blog late last week over here. Worth a read.

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November 5, 2008 at 12:30 am Leave a comment

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A blog on politics, policy, public affairs and communications in Brussels and the European Union. The blog is written by the team at Fleishman-Hillard in Brussels. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect those of the company or its clients. You will find the contact details of our team at www.fleishman-hillard.eu

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