People and Culture in Belgium

A country known for their love of cooking and extensive selection of beers, Belgians live a rich lifestyle. Belgium’s rich heritage makes it an artistic center of considerable importance in the fields of music, art, and literature.

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Remember how your parents used to tell you to keep your elbows off the table during meals? Or that it’s rude to slurp your soup? Well there’s good news guys, these American cultures and customs don’t always translate to other countries! While the local people you meet won’t expect you to be fluent in their language, culture and customs, it is important to familiarize yourself with them.

Do you know how kissing, snoring and other things sound in other languages? That’s right, even sound effects can be translated!

The most important thing to remember while you’re abroad is that things will be different. But, different doesn’t mean wrong. Be open, be curious, and read more about the culture you will be stepping into. Get excited about LIVING the life you’ve only dreamt and read about until now!

#CISabroadtip: Do some more research into the Belgian customs you’ll experience while abroad.

People and Culture:

The European Union, European Parliament, NATO and the United Nations (among others) are all located in Brussels drawing business people here from around Europe and the rest of the world.

Population:  11.2 million

Capital City: Brussels

Official languages: Dutch, French, German

Religions:  Roman Catholic 75%, Protestant or other 25%

Famous People: Audrey Hepburn, Jean-Claude Van Damme

Bruges is the largest and capital city of the province West Flanders in Belgium. It was popularized by the film, In Bruges. 


Manneken Pis: Created in 1619, Mannekin Pis means “little man pee” in Dutch and is one of Brussels’s landmarks. It is a small bronze fountain sculpture depicting a naked little boy urinating into the fountain’s basin.

Palais Royal:
The Belgian Royal Family’s Palace.

The Grand Place is the central market square of Brussels. It is surrounded by guild houses, the city’s Town Hall and the Bread House (Maison du Roi). The square is the most important tourist destination and most memorable landmark in Brussels.


Belgium is well known for its food and drinks. In fact, it has more distinct types of beer per capital than anywhere else in the world. Belgium is also world famous for its strange and  high percentage beers. A large number of these are brewed by monks who have taken a vow  of silence.

Belgium is famed for its high quality chocolate and houses over 2,000 chocolatiers, both small and large.

Moules-frites or mussels and fries are a strange yet loved dish in Belgium. Belgians also love to drown their fries (or chips ) in mayonnaise. In fact, fried potatoes are so popular in Belgium that it is considered their national dish.

Waffles: The original waffle makers. Sometimes eaten as a street snack and sold by ice-cream vans. Among the better-known styles are the Liege waffle, Brussels waffle and the stroopwafel.

The “101” of the local language.


● Hello-Hallo ● Thank you-Dank u ● You’re welcome- Graag gedaan ● How are you?- Hoe gaat het? ● I am well-Het gaat goed met me ● I am looking for…- Ik ben op zoek naar…● Stop- Stop● Goodbye- Vaarwel ● Go- gaan


●Hello- Bonjour ●Thank you-Merci ●You’re welcome-De rien ● How are you?-Comment ca va? ●I am well-Je vais bien  ● I am looking for-Je suis cherche ● Stop-arrete ● Goodbye-au revoir ● Go- allez

Other customs to be familiar with:

The emergency phone number in Belgium (fire, police, paramedics) is 112

Giving tips shows that you were content with the service given, but you are certainly not obliged to do so. It is sometimes done in bars and restaurants. Depending on the total, a tip of €0,50 to €2,50 is considered generous.

Tap water is drinkable everywhere in Belgium, but most restaurants do not serve it. Hot spring or some other mineral water is typically served and costs about 2 euro per bottle.

Do NOT try to speak French in Flanders, and Dutch in Wallonia! Speaking the “wrong” language can be considered very offensive in the two regions, and you will either be ignored or get an icy response with poor service.