In any given week there are numerous activities taking place in the SHAPE community. There are sports, a movie, a theater production being performed or prepared for, trips, and many kinds of classes. People get together for book groups, church, to craft, to raise money or the favorite hobby of Europeans - drinking beer.
In addition to the numerous office and administrative buildings on SHAPE, there is a library, a couple of gyms, the schools, a language center, a chapel, bowling lanes, a theater and an arts and crafts center.
If one wanted to ignore the Belgian community all around us, it would be fairly easy to just shut it out and live on the SHAPE compound. This would be especially easy for those who live on base.
While it might be comfortable to not have to contend with living in a foreign culture, it is limiting. The community is not so large and there is a fish bowl quality to it. Imagine if the people you worked with were the exact same people you saw at the grocery store, at the gym where you work out, were the parents of your kids' friends, were the people you saw at the library, the post office and at church. All the time - they would know what you eat, your work out routine, what you are reading and how many packages you received this week...
Living off the SHAPE compound provides a nice balance. We can enjoy the benefits of a small community and choose activities of interest to us. We also can explore the broader community, learn to live in another culture and get away every now and again.