What’s to know? They eat fries all day long, have beer running through their veins and love to watch cycling on the weekends. Well, there’s more to it than meets the eye. When living in Belgium, it’s helpful to keep these 6 things in mind.
Belgian people are notoriously known for being reserved and formal. Depending on who you ask, foreigners will rate them anywhere between chilly and ice-cold. Chances are that you will have to do most of the talking when meeting Belgians for the first time. A word of advice: don’t give up on them. They are not as distant and disinterested as they may appear to be. On the contrary, if you put enough time and effort into building a relationship, they’ll be the best friends you ever have. They are extremely loyal and will value your trust by slowly letting you into their lives and opening up completely.
It’s typical for Belgians to have busy schedules and tons of commitments, meaning you’ll hardly find anyone without a personal agenda. Organization is key in their professional as well as social lives. If you plan a last-minute barbecue on a summer night and want to invite your Belgian friends a couple of hours before, you’ll probably end up eating alone. In other words: go with the flow, plan ahead and you’ll get the hang of it very quickly. On the upside, these schedule-loving people will never make you wait if you have an appointment or date.
Belgium may well be one of the least nationalistic countries in the world. People have no problem publicly ridiculing their government, national symbols and culture. What is sacred though, are their liberal values, such as freedom of speech, freedom of thought and gender equality. On a personal level, that means no Belgian will ever tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. Each to their own. For foreigners, that’s often a big relief. Nobody will judge you for having distinctive habits, speaking another language or thinking differently. The only rule you should live by is: live and let live.
With one federal government, three communities and three regions, political power in Belgium is very fragmented for such a small country. Having three official languages doesn’t make things easier. Therefore, the national sport is: compromise – not only within the walls of government buildings, but also in everyday life. Being confrontational won’t be appreciated. Belgians always try to find the middle ground in discussions and feel comfortable adjusting their original viewpoints. If you can also learn the art of compromising, you’ll blend in perfectly.
Over the past few centuries, Belgium has been conquered by several nations, including France, Spain, the Netherlands and Austria. This had led to a unique mix of cultures and – more importantly – an outward-looking mindset. Belgians love to explore the world and are used to seeing a wide variety of nationalities on their own streets. So, don’t be afraid to start living from day one. Feel right at home and show what you have to offer. Belgian people expect you to do so.
No list about Belgians would be complete without mentioning their love for living the good life. Once you’ve settled in, you’ll notice that eating well is unavoidable, from their delicious street food to Michelin star-winning restaurants. Even at their many music and culture festivals, food and drinks are top of the line. And one of the best things about it all: they have options for every budget. No wonder Belgium consistently scores well in all the main indicators of good living. It’s just a great place to work and live.
Make your expat life one to remember – not just for you, but for the entire family. Prepare yourself in advance to ensure that everyone feels right at home. Here at Link2Europe, we are happy to help you and your family settle in. Get in touch!