Special post: Leandro Targon @ Hardrock Cafe Antwerp.

 

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Leandro Targon

 

Where are you from and what brings you to Antwerp?

I’m from Mendoza, in western Argentina. My city is the proud wine capital of South America and lays at the feet of the Andes.

I first came to Belgium in June 2016 for holidays and during that trip met my spouse, who is from the Netherlands. Ten months later we were married in Antwerp!

Tell us about your job.

I’m the Sales & Marketing Manager at Hard Rock Cafe Antwerp. I simply love my job: I’m responsible for the 100% of the sales figures of our cafe (groups, leisure, corporate and individuals) and contracting with business partners. Being the spokesman and image of the brand in the Flemish region, I plan, budget and execute the yearly event calendar. I’m also responsible for the marketing communication of our cafe.

You are right at the heart of an area very popular with tourists. What’s that like and how is the tourism business faring in Antwerp at the moment?

We are indeed at the core of everything that happens in Antwerp. Tourism figures are growing considerably every year in the city, but at the moment there is a big focus on the business traveler, weekdays and weekend visitors from neighbouring areas who come mainly for shopping, people interested in the cultural aspects of the city, and plenty of foodies. Like many in the hospitality industry, we’re aiming for major growth in the long-stay leisure traveler segment, mainly the international one. That is certainly one big area of opportunity compared to other destinations in the Benelux, and hopefully with the increasing number of cruise ships calling at the port of Antwerp, there will be much better results.

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Leandro with Santa at the kids’ Christmas Breakfast

Can a place like Hard Rock be something that is both for locals and tourists, or do you think of them as being very separate demographics?

Combining the two of them is the exact key for what an authentically genuine Hard Rock Cafe must be. We are a worldwide well-known reference for tourists, and as such our cafes are an attraction. But the strength of our business resides in the local community; both Flemish and expats. Therefore our events and initiatives welcome everybody, without putting our guests into boxes. Hard Rock Cafe Antwerp is our house, and that’s how we like to be seen.

What are you looking forward to in 2019?

2019 is a year full of ambitions for us as a cafe. In March we will have been open for two years and that is something we’re immensely happy about. My personal and professional goal is to enhance our fans’ experience, and create genuine experiences that rock. Undoubtedly it will be an amazing year!

What do you like best about living in Antwerp, and what do you miss about your home country?

I totally love that Antwerp is such an international city; a hub for business, its also offers plenty of heritage and culture, as well as amazing shops and museums to visit, and I love the fact that is so beautiful. I’ve lived in many countries before coming here, and been out of Argentina for more than seven years… I wouldn’t say I really  “miss” something about my country because I receive visits from friends and family at least once a month, and I go to Argentina twice a year. The nature over there is breathtaking, so I try to reconnect with that every time I’m back.

Hard Rock Cafe is on Groenplaats, Antwerp.

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10 things you shouldn’t forget when becoming an Expat in Antwerp: a special post by Laura Soave, aka Nonnative blog

10 top tips you might find handy if you are new (or newish!) to the City of Antwerp.

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1. Don’t forget to ask for help.   
In Antwerp you’ll find so many communities for each nationality that you can easily reach on different social networks. Use these tools when you need help. Ask politely for info: you’ll find better allies here, than anywhere else.
See: Expats in Antwerp group on Facebook or go to Language café events like at
2. Keep in contact with friends and family.  
This might sound cheesy, but life doesn’t stop for them just because we’re away. They get old, have babies, they move on. You might want to ensure that you hear from them regularly. It’s just a little more effort that you have to make, than if you still lived close to them.
Try: apps like  Skype
3. Learn the local language. 
This might sound silly when living in a English-friendly country, but learning some Flemish might give you advantages you didn’t consider before…. and don’t forget that leaving a shop or the post office with a smile, is also a positive way of connecting with your new neighbours.
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4. Keep your mind open.  
Not everything you’re used to is better than the Belgian culture that is hosting you. Keep your mind open to new ideas and new ways of doing everyday things.
Find out about family support on Kind en Gezin
Get out and about with a Velo citybike
5. Make local friends too.  
Explore the international community in the city you’re living, but don’t forget to make friends with Antwerpenaars too. They don’t have to become your best friends yet, you need them to help you better understand the society, to feel less misplaced. when someone explains a local joke to you, it can help you feel more included.
Visit a local library
Join a local sports activity.
6. Learn about history. cathedral 
History is what makes a city big or small. It’s number one evaluation element to figure out whether a city is interesting or not. Never ignore this important aspect while being part of Antwerp community. It could be finding a local guide, going to a museum and reading the little guide book or reading some history books at the library, etc. History is what makes everything start.
See: Visit Antwerp website and check out the page about Antwerp Museums
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7.  Sharing is caring.  
Some people might seem less interested in you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share the traditions of your own culture. If you listen and respect Belgian culture, locals will appreciate every once in a while being introduced to an aspect of your culture too. It doesn’t have to be big; it could be something small like baking something typical for your office.
8. Avoid negative comparisons.   
If you are about to start a new journey in Antwerp, try to be positive about your new environment, and avoid negative comparisons. People around you should accept you for who you are, where you come from and what you stand for. In return, give the host culture a real chance to introduce itself.
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9. Never miss an opportunity to have new encounters. 
You are never really alone if you surround yourself with new friends. If people you don’t know well invite you for an activity or an event in the city where you live, try to attend. Even if you’re not going to have the time of your life every time, it’s important to participate in as many events as possible and meet as many people as possible.
See Uit in Vlaanderen website  for “what’s on” info, or join Internations, or a community group in Hoplr.
10. Never settle down.
Keep exploring Antwerp; never give up the chance of finding something new you weren’t aware of. Be amazed, like a child that sees everything everyday as if it’s the first time.

 

About the blogger

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Laura Soave (nonnative blog)

Laura Soave is an Antwerp blogger and designer from Italy. Check out her blog: nonnative and find her on InstagramFacebook and Twitter  

Would you like to write a guest post about your experiences (or knowledge) of Antwerp? contact me on nessascityblog@gmail.com. I’d like to hear your Antwerp story.

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Guest Post: Laura Soave, designer and blogger from Italy writes about how there is no place like home …

Laura Soave is an Antwerp blogger and designer from Italy. Check out her blog: nonnative and find her on InstagramFacebook and Twitter  Read her story here:-

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No Place Like Home …

Breathless, I’m completely breathless, not because I’m admiring a beautiful view from a fancy skyscraper in some fancy big city like New York. No, the reason why my ex-smoker lungs are loudly screaming is because I have just ascended 65 stairs (yes, I counted) just so I could reach the top floor of a building in Kipdorpvest, a street in the heart of this small city. And all of this effort just so I could visit the last apartment available te huur (to rent). That day I made my first big decision in a foreign country: quit smoking! This is one of the first memories I have of moving to Antwerp and one of the first time I saw Leopold de Waelplaats. I thought it was one of the most charming places I had ever seen: foggy, a little grey, but incredibly charming. I remember I was sitting in this café while waiting to check the last apartment for the day. It has been a long time since I’ve thought of that first day in this strange, new land.

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Leopold de Waelplaats

My name is Laura and I am an Italian from Napoli living in Antwerp since 2011. When I moved here with my Italian husband we did it to get a better life, sure. But we weren’t running away from La Bella Italia; we were homesick everyday, and we still are. Were we leaving everything behind – family, friends, our apartment – in order to try this new experience that might get us a better job and a better future? The hope for better opportunities fused with a curiosity to explore a new culture won the battle between “shall we go?” and “we’d  better stay”.  

So the answer was yes. Even though during my first days of Belgian-life I perceived some kind of hostility, I wanted to feel part of the culture and understand the everyday mechanisms of a society that I could not yet comprehend. While observing people crossing the street I couldn’t help but wonder how could they go around with just a light t-shirt or shorts while an unstoppable rain was coming down! And as soon as a timid ray of sunlight emerged, everybody was sitting outside, no matter what temperature: that was a complete mystery to me. But yes, I now forgot cars and traffic and rode around Antwerp on my purple bike, crossing streets of a city so diverse that it can make your head spin. I noticed there is less queuing at the bank or at the post office, and less stress caused by things like late buses, however, you’ll feel the need to take advantage of enjoying a day outdoor in the sun, because it might be the last you’ll see in a long time. Due to this and many other reasons, I became passionate about this place. I started working as designer, began to attend Dutch classes and discover more of this new culture. I made both Belgian and international friends.

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When you live abroad for a while, you realise your life will always be split into two perfect halves. Half of me is still in my hometown; and then there is other half that has tuned out of my own culture a little, and has adjusted to a new way of life and new rules. At first, this new feeling created a sense of non-belonging, not belonging to Antwerp but also not to Napoli, because not living my culture for so long made me forget what’s it like to live there. A dawning awareness enabled me to at last realise that I do belong to both places at the same time, so to make a better record of my life here and experiences, I recently started a blog about Antwerp (nonnative.blog), which is a collective of expat voices. Nonnative is a place where people can write about this city from the expat point of view; it’s like an online home.

Sometimes I think of what Dorothy says “There is no place like home” right before clicking her heels for three times to go home. Home can be in two different places at the same time: in one place you have your heart, and in the other your have your soul. One cannot live without the other.

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Inspired to write a guest blog post telling your Antwerp story? Please get in touch via nessascityblog@gmail.com -I’d love to hear from you.

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