Belgium is a small country, surrounded by exciting countries such as The Netherlands, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, France, and Germany. This leads to a situation where no one really pays any attention to its discreet and charming beauty, which might surprise the more skeptical ones!
As you may know, I am Belgian, and I think it’s about time to explain some fun and interesting facts and characteristics of the tiny country which made big waves at this year’s World Cup:
There are three official languages: Flemish (which is quite like Dutch but can turn into gibberish when spoken in dialect), French and German.
Voting is compulsory, and you might get a fine if you don’t vote.
There was no government for 589 days in 2010-2011; it took 541 days to form coalitions, and 48 days to finalize government positions.
Belgium is a monarchy and in 1990 the government dethroned its king Baudouin for 36 hours at his request, to pass a pro-abortion law he was against and didn’t want to sign.
The Belgian flag opposes its Constitution as according to the latter it should be red, yellow, and black but currently goes black, yellow and red.
Belgians are sarcastic, cynical, dry and second degree humor can therefore be of great help.
Belgians are extremely patient, or should I say, obedient. They can queue for hours at the supermarket or at a broken cash dispenser, do exactly what is expected from them and won’t try to change things because they’re convinced that there’s a valid reason for it.
Rules are rules; don’t try to jump the queue since it’s not appropriate; the killer looks which will be directed at you might mark your life for a long time.
Everything is so well organized that people are, for instance, shocked when they must wait an hour at the emergency room of a hospital.
Most Belgians are super cleaners who even clean the street pavement in front of their door.
You will pay between 20 cents and 1 Euro to Madame Pipi to use public toilets.
Belgians love the word early: they dine early, their shops close early as do restaurants and cafés, except on weekends.
Most Belgians rarely make a fuss about food, hotels and the service but you will never see them again if they didn’t enjoy the experience.
Belgians are genuinely modest; I guess this is why their fries turned French, and that people tend to forget that Audrey Hepburn, Dries Van Noten, Hercule Poirot, Hieronymus Bosch, Jacques Brel, James Ensor, Jan Van Eyck, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kim Clijsters, Peter Paul Rubens, René Magritte, The Smurfs, Tintin, Toots Thielemans and Victor Horta, are Belgian.
Pralines (and not bonbons or perlinim) were invented by Belgian Jean Neuhaus in 1912.
More than 1.000 beers are brewed in Belgium and served in their specific glasses.
When visiting Belgium for the first time, don’t drink as much as its inhabitants because you will quickly notice that they are professional strong beer drinkers who know how to avoid major explosive hangovers; they even own secret potions, which they might share with you if they like you!
Thanks to music festivals such as Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter, tourists actually do visit Belgium on their way to London, Paris, and Amsterdam.
S’il vous plait, alstublieft, and Bitte schön, meaning please, will get you everywhere.
Don’t point your finger to someone as it’s particularly impolite.
Belgians don’t usually kiss when meeting for the first time; they will either shake hands or greet with enchanté or aangenaam.
Belgians love art and are among the biggest collectors worldwide; most of them buy art pieces because they love them, not because it’s a worthy investment.
Belgians are open-minded but won’t reveal their salary and the political party they vote for.
Belgians can talk endlessly about the weather, food, and gardening. They might prefer to use their vacation days to work and/or fix their homes. Some of them even build their house on their own and turn it into a family project, involving their parents, siblings, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, cats, goldfish and dogs.
The sun is shy in Belgium so when it finally shows its first rays of light, its inhabitants will undress (almost) completely to get rid of their shiny white skin. They will usually drive to the Ardennes or seaside, preferably Knokke, where they will suddenly turn into posh English Lords and Countesses.
Loads of Belgians dream of an early retirement and exchange the rainy, cold and grey days for sunny ones in Portugal, Spain and the South of France. They love spending time with their fellow Belgians and will run errands in Belgian-owned shops.
The national soccer team The Red Devils is what unites Belgians and makes them stop arguing about their country as long as the match lasts.
So, what have we learned today? That visiting a small country can be interesting and fun, turn into an unforgettable (anthropological) experience and broaden your mind towards different cultures.
Remember that Belgians need time to open up and let you enter into their lives; once you’ve won their trust, the friendship and generosity they will offer will amaze you! I know they are keenly looking forward to welcoming you in their own original way!
So, what are you waiting for? Book that plane ticket and I will be very happy to suggest top Belgian hotel lobbies to you!