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Home » Country Etiquette » Belgium

Belgian Etiquette Tips

Family is one of the most important things in a Belgian's life. So, if you want to make a good impression, then always remember to include children in what you do. When entering a room, shake everyone's hand, including the children. If visiting a Belgian's home, you should not only bring your hosts a gift, but you should also bring a little gift for their children, such as some candy.

Belgian culture is very unique in that different regions have different cultures and customs. Northern Belgium is primarily Dutch influenced, Southern Belgium is mostly influenced by France, and the Northeast is mostly influenced by Germany. Below are some general etiquette tips that are applicable to all of Belgium.

1. Dress Attire

  1. DO dress conservatively.
  2. DO wear dark, conservative suits with white shirts and silk ties to a business function, if you are a man. Men should wear laced-up shoes, not loafers. Business suits or a blouse and skirt are acceptable for women. Shoes should always be polished.

2. Table Manners

  1. DON'T put your elbows on the table, but do keep your hands on the table and not in your lap.
  2. DO allow the host to give the first toast. The guest of honor is expected to give a toast later.
  3. DO finish all the food on your plate. Not doing so is considered wasteful and impolite.
  4. DO place your knife and fork at the 5:25 position once you are full to indicate that you are done eating.

3. Tipping

  1. DON'T feel obligated to tip. A service charge is usually included. However, if the service was very good, you may round up your tip or leave a few extra Euros, but no more than 10%.

4. Gift Giving and Accepting Gifts

  1. DO open your gift upon receiving it.
  2. DON'T give expensive gifts.
  3. DON'T give chrysanthemums. They are associated with death.
  4. DON'T give alcohol unless you are giving it to a close friend.
  5. DO give flowers in odd numbers, except for unlucky number 13.

5. Body Gestures

  1. DON'T snap your fingers.
  2. DON'T slap someone on the back. It's considered offensive.
  3. DO remember that the "OK" sign means zero in Belgium.

6. Greetings

  1. DO shake hands with all who are present, including children.
  2. DO shake hands again when leaving.
  3. DO exchange cheek kisses with a friend you know well. Start with the left cheek, then kiss the right, then back to the left. However, men don't kiss other men. They always just exchange handshakes.

7. Language Etiquette

  1. DO understand that German, Dutch, and French are all widely spoken in Belgium.<?
  2. DO speak English if you are unsure of which language is spoken in the region you are in.

8. Visitors Etiquette

  1. DON'T ask your hosts for a tour of their house.
  2. DO bring flowers or nice chocolate for the hosts, and bring something for your host's children, such as candy.
  3. DO arrive on time. It shows respect.

9. Business Meeting

  1. DON'T remove your jacket during a meeting.
  2. DO be punctual! If you are running late, call immediately with an explanation. Lateness sends a message of unreliability.
  3. DO expect the first meeting to primarily be for getting acquainted and developing a trusting relationship. However, don't forget that business meetings are still very formal affairs.
  4. DON'T call a Belgian businessperson at home, unless there is an emergency.
  5. DON'T bring a gift. It's not customary to exchange gifts at business meetings in Belgium.
  6. DON'T try to schedule a meeting in July and August, which is when many Belgians take vacations. The week before Easter and the time between Christmas and New Year's should also be avoided.
  7. DON'T be confrontational. Belgians appreciate subtlety.
Although the above list of etiquette may seem daunting at first, bear in mind that many parts of Belgium, particularly in large cities, are used to tourists. Nevertheless, respect the country you are in and its people. Blend in a bit by following their customs, and have a wonderful trip to Belgium!
 
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