Home sweet home

'I love the fact that I am home for my husband and children,' Vanessa explains calmly. © Timon Hast


As a mother of two, and a house wife, Vanessa Matton (53) has been living happily in Bruges for over 13 years. Her favourite pastime? Taking a stroll in nature, doing a bit of painting and leading a quiet family life.

Her husband travelled a lot due to his job at CNH Industrial, a major company with several plants in Europe. ‘He has family nearby, in Zedelgem, and he always liked this area. So Bruges was an obvious choice,’ Vanessa points out. ‘We are close to the sea, the city centre and my family in England.’

‘I have to say I was surprised by some habits in Belgium. For instance, I was used to seeing shops open all day every day. Here they are closed for lunch and on weekends. At first, it was a complete shock. But now I understand it is more restful in town.’ On the culinary level, she often prepares typical Belgian dishes. ‘Sausage with apple sauce, red cabbage and mashed potatoes is one of my favorites. Endives wrapped in ham are also delicious.’

Distance does not define how strong you are as a family

Vanessa Matton (53)


‘I find that Belgians are quite reserved. In England you can talk to your neighbours across the fence and have a little chat. Whereas here you would make an arrangement to see them. People are not always eager to bring guests into their houses.’

In these difficult times she misses her family the most. ‘Then you suddenly realise how far apart you are from one another. Luckily, we talk on FaceTime and Skype. Distance does not define how strong you are as a family.’ Vanessa was brought up in a close-knit family. ‘I love the fact that I am home for my husband and children. For me it is the whole package. When they are home, I am home and dinner is ready.’

‘Sometimes I think people here expect me, as a non working woman, to go back to work. It is unusual for women to stay at home.’ When Vanessa settled down in Bruges, her husband was commuting to England. ‘So, to get a job at that time was not easy at all. If I had got a job immediately and took language lessons straight away, my Flemish would be better than it is now.’

Travelling helps me to see things from another perspective

Vanessa Matton (53)

City trips

During her pastime Vanessa loves walking in the woods and going for a swim every week. ‘I can keep myself busy in the house. Mother, cleaner, taxi driver: I am everything at once.’

She definitely loves going on city trips and short breaks during the summer. ‘I have been to France, Spain, Italy, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong. Oddly enough, I cannot believe we have not been to Germany yet, even though it is so close.’ (laughs) ‘I made a bucket list of places I still want to discover, because travelling helps me to see things from another perspective. Even at home I make to-do lists.’

Macy and Vanessa are two of a kind.
© Timon Hast

Vanessa was an average student in secondary school. ‘Going to university was not a thing to do, if you were not a top student. I went to an all-girls school and we had to wear uniforms. There were no differences between all the students. I find it looks smart, because you notice how well and polite people are. You can easily recognise what school they are from.’

Good friends

‘I am quite a shy person. I enjoy just having the contact with people, but it does not have to mean that we need to be in each others’ houses all the time.’ However, Vanessa stresses she does have empathy for people if they are going through struggles or a difficult time. ‘It really has an effect on me. Having good friends is the next best thing, besides my own family in England. Someone that you could just open up and talk to.’

Her biggest achievement up till now must undoubtedly be having children. ‘Simply because it was not so easy. We had to go through IVF treatment for our first child and I was already 34 years old.’

Be happy

‘Along the way I have learned that the world is bigger than my country. Old school friends of mine did not venture out of where we grew up. They married, settled down and had children.’ But Vanessa finds her friends there are now kind of stuck. ‘As a foreigner I feel as if I am able to do more of what makes me happy. That also happens to be my motto: be happy. Especially if you are not satisfied with how certain things are going, you have to change them.’

Social media are the only thing she has trouble with. ‘Apart from connecting me with my sister in the United States, it has downsides for children these days.’ She feels that kids should go outside more often and socialise in real life, instead of behind their computers. ‘I remember having a happy childhood. We were used to going out with our friends and enjoying ourselves at a young age. Therefore I sometimes wish my kids still had that innocence and wonder.’

De auteur

Timon Hast

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"Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air." — Henry Anatole Grunwald