Cultural Clues, Communication Guidelines for BELGIUM

Cultural Tips for Belgium – including some valuable business travel tips for Belgium!

Belgium is the Government seat of the European Union (EU).

It’s best if doing business in Belgium to avoid discussing politics.

Keep in mind that there are three linguistic groups in Belgium: German, French, and Flemish. The Flemish language is a variant of Dutch.

Make an effort not to confuse their three cultural groups and their languages.

It’s best not to discuss your preference for one of the three languages spoken in Belgium. English is widely spoken, however if you speak one of the three languages they may invite you to do so.

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, however this usually consist of asking general questions about your business, travels, experience etc.

Talking too much about your education, professional experience, business success, and related achievements may be considered boasting.

In general, Belgians don’t discuss their personal family lives except with close friends.

Because of their private nature, Belgians also don’t usually discuss money matters outside of business. 

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.

It’s not uncommon for men who know each other particularly well to embrace.

Avoid excessive gesturing because most Belgians are more reserved and less expressive with their body language.

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.  

The business protocol is more formal and restrained than in some other countries, so follow their example.

When you are conducting a meeting, an agenda should be distributed to everyone in attendance.

Business people in Belgium prefer that a meeting be focused on the topic at hand, and appreciate it being well organized and informative.

Belgians are willing to compromise when necessary, however need full justification and reasons for doing so. They tend to be firm believers in practical, “common sense” approaches and solutions, and are less open to speculative approaches.

5 Key Conversation or Cultural Gesture Tips

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. Show appreciation of their distinctly different restaurants

Comment specifically on the food and beer from French Belgium, Flanders or Wallonia when in those areas

The beauty of the architecture of Belgium’s cities and local sites, as well as their historical art is always a good topic. Bruges is a well-known mid-evil city built around canals that they would advise you to see if you have the time

All sports, especially bicycling and soccer are food topics to discuss

5 Key Conversation or Cultural Gesture Taboos

Making jokes about the Flemish to the French or French-Speaking Walloons, and vice versa

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

Use your whole hand when you feel the need to point at something, since using the forefinger is considered rude

Bon Voyage!

Join us in the future for Do’s and Taboos for BRAZIL!

Cultural Tips for Belgium – including some valuable business travel tips for Belgium!

To learn more about the Dos and Taboos for different cultures, and the cultural communication styles for Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East – order Gayle Cotton’s bestselling book available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book

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The CROSS of Cross-Cultural

Cultural Tips for Countries from A to Z

Cultural Tips for Belgium – including some valuable business travel tips for Belgium

This article on cultural differences in Belgium and cultural travel tips for Belgium is a brief snapshot of conversation guidelines for Belgium, tips for communicating in Belgium, and business strategies for Belgium to help with understanding the culture in Belgium. It’s important to keep in mind that as we homogenize as a ‘global culture,’ cultural tendencies change and evolve as well. Awareness is the first step when it comes to cultural Do’s and Taboos for Belgium and tips for intercultural communication!

It’s easy for business travelers to think that even when they travel, business is going to be done pretty much the same way it is at home. But that’s not always the case. Cultural differences can have a significant impact on global business etiquette. That’s why it’s important for business travelers to make sure that they understand the culture of the country that they’re doing business in.

Emmy Award Winner, Gayle Cotton, is the author of this blog and of the bestselling cross-cultural communication book ‘SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’, which is available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book. She is President of Circles Of Excellence Inc. and a Professional Keynote Speaker. Contact Gayle if you need professional speakers for events, speakers on cultural diversity, conference speakers for events, or keynote speakers that specialize in cross-cultural training. She is a leader in the field of public speakers, motivational speakers, and international keynote speakers. She is among the best of female keynote speakers and women motivational speakers and is a ‘first choice’ request for international audiences!

Circles Of Excellence provides Corporate Training, Leadership Coaching, and Professional Keynote Speakers for companies of all sizes and in all industries, including over 50 Fortune 500 companies. Contact us about our custom training programs for Communication Skills, Cross-Cultural Communication, Cultural Diversity, Customer Service, Leadership Coaching, Presentation Skills, Sales Negotiations, Stress Management, Team building, and Time Management Training.

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