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It's not just beer that dominates in Belgian pubs, men also seem to have the upper hand Swapping the grey skies of London for the even greyer and...

It's not just beer that dominates in Belgian pubs, men also seem to have the upper hand

Swapping the grey skies of London for the even greyer and rainier ones of Brussels, was just one of the discernable differences that emerged after a short Eurostar journey.

In the heart of the city sits Le Roi D'Espagne bar where the other half of the exchange, Marie Jansen, has been working.

Danish-born Jansen is the general manager of a cocktail bar called the Social, a close neighbour of the Jerusalem in London.

She wastes little time in putting the Belgian system to rights. "I haven't seen another woman working in a bar here yet," she says. "It is all male dominated and quite chauvinistic. They need more women."

She may have a point. Certainly she is the only woman at the Roi D'Espagne. Jansen is astounded and amazed at the idea that her co-workers here have all achieved a diploma in serving beer. "I don't know what they expected when I turned up but apparently in Belgium you have to sit an exam. I'm sorry, but it's just pouring a beer. I can learn how to do it in five minutes. There is no need to do it in England. I know how to pull a pint. I know how to get a big head on a beer."

It is probably a good thing, given her views on the diploma, that Jansen and Langers are separated by the English Channel. That debate could last long into the night.

Jansen is used to a busy bar with customers queuing four or five deep most of the night, so the Belgian way of doing things has brought its own challenges. "Here, with the waiters you have to wait for when they are ready. Perhaps you will have 15 orders to get ready at a time and you will have to remember whose is whose when they come back. It is much more difficult in that way."

There is also the challenge of remembering which glass goes with which beer as each of the 30 or so beers has its own individually branded one. "There are so many different types of beer and they are all Belgian," says Jansen. "You just wouldn't get that in England. The customers admire the way the beer is served in its own glass and I can see the benefits of it. But my bar is too small to make room for each drink to have its own glass."

Jansen cannot help but be impressed with the range of beers and thinks that some of them, especially the fruit beers, could go down well with her cocktail customers at the Social. However, she foresees a problem in serving them up with the statutory Belgian two fingers of head. "I can just hear it now ­ Oi mate, fill that up to the top' or Could you fill that up'. I just don't think it would work."

The different backgrounds of Langers "the perfect beer" Belgian and Jansen the "cocktail queen" is becoming increasingly evident. "They only have Campari and two other spirits here," says Jansen. "You can't make a cocktail from that. They need more spirits. I would like to teach them how to make cocktails."

But, despite her strong views on what is wrong with the Belgian way, Jansen is thankful for the opportunity to work in a Brussels bar and appreciates the range and style of beers on offer. She has a very amicable character and her co-workers have really taken a shine to her. They will probably be sad to see her leave, but Jansen is keen to get home. "I wouldn't be happy doing this full time. Just pouring beer. I like serving cocktails."

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