Belgium is the Government seat of the European Union (EU).
Always keep in mind that there are three linguistic groups in Belgium: German, French, and Flemish. The Flemish language is a variant of Dutch.
With French speakers, use courtesy titles such as “Monsieur”, “Madame”, or “Mademoiselle.”
When addressing German or Flemish speakers, use Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Miss. Never use “Madame” or “Monsieur” when addressing a Flemish speaker.
Appointments are punctual and usually, first appointments are socially oriented. Most Belgians feel that it’s necessary to get to know you before proceeding with business of any kind.
Typically, Belgians shake hands with everyone in the room or office upon meeting and departure.
When you are among the French-speaking Belgians, you may observe closer acquaintances greeting each other with alternating kisses on the cheeks. And it’s common for men who know each other particularly well to embrace.
Avoid excessive gesturing. It’s better to appear more formal and restrained.
When you are conducting a meeting, an agenda should be distributed to everyone in attendance. Businesspeople in Belgium prefer that a meeting be well-focused and will appreciate your initiative in providing an agenda.
Belgians are willing to compromise when necessary, and tend to be firm believers in practical, “common sense” approaches and solutions.
Use your whole hand when you feel the need to point at something, since using the forefinger is considered rude.
Patting someone on the back is considered unacceptable. Yawning in public is considered rude. Talking with your hands in your pockets is perceived as a sign of bad manners.
Talking too much about your education, professional experience, business success, and related achievements may be considered a boosting.
Welcome Topics of Conversation
- The area of Belgium you are currently visiting, as well as your travels in other parts of Belgium.
- The food and beer you have sampled during your stay in various areas. Comment specifically on the food and beer from French Belgium, Flanders or Wallonia when in those areas. Show appreciation of their distinctly different restaurants
- The beauty of the architecture of Belgium’s cities and local sites, as well as their historical art is always a good topic. Brugge is a well known mid-evil city that has canals similar to Venice.
- All sports, especially bicycling and soccer
- Be sure to speak in a moderate tone at all times, regardless of the topic you are discussing. Expressing too much excitement or animation is usually frowned upon
Conversation to Avoid
- Politics is best to avoid.
- Discussing a preference for the different languages spoken in Belgium
- Making jokes about the Flemish to the French or French-Speaking Walloons, and vice versa
- In general, Belgians never discuss personal subjects except with close friends. Because of their private nature, Belgians don’t usually discuss money matters outside of business.
- Make an effort not to confuse their three cultural groups and their languages.
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