61 Mind-Blowing Belgian Culture Facts You Should Know

Aryan Khanna
Jan 27, 2023 By Aryan Khanna
Originally Published on Jan 30, 2022
Fact-checked by Pratiti Nath
But the Belgian culture has a lot to offer of its own too such as fine food

Belgium is a country located in western Europe whose capital city and largest city is Brussels.

Belgium shares its land borders with Germany, Netherlands, Luxemburg and France, which has played a pivotal role in influencing the country's culture. Contrary to most other countries in the world, Belgium does not have its own native language.

People in Belgium speak three languages: Dutch, French and German, depending upon the part of the country they live in.

The country considers these three languages as its official languages but its capital city, Brussels, considers only Dutch and French as its official languages as the German-speaking population of the country is limited to only 1% of the entire country's population.

The Belgian population largely comprises people belonging to two principal ethnic groups. The first group is known as Flemish, referring to Belgians who speak Dutch and comprise around 60% of the country's entire population belonging to the northern part of the country.

The other ethnic group is that of French-speaking Belgium referred to as Walloons with around 33% of Belgium's population belonging to this ethnic group.

Owing to the geographical location of Belgium in Europe, it has been influenced heavily by the cultural and artistic movements of Europe.

But the Belgian culture has a lot to offer of its own too such as fine food, the world-renowned Belgian chocolate, and introducing the world to the culture of electronic music.

Introduction To The Belgian Culture

The country of Belgium has grown over the years and has spread its wings of culture in various directions. The Belgian people belong to varying ethnic groups use different languages for communication.

Many of them aren't native to the country of Belgium which has helped the country in being culturally diverse. Let's take a look at some amazing and little known facts about the Belgian culture.

  • Art is an indispensable part of the Belgian culture, with a number of Belgian comics being well renowned not only in Europe but all over the world.
  • Did you know that the famous cartoonist Georges Prosper Remi, who is generally identified by his pen name 'Herge' and is especially renowned for being the creator of the series 'The Adventures of Tintin,' was born in Belgium?
  • The Smurfs are a famous comic franchise very well liked by children all across the world and the creator of The Smurfs is a Belgian by nationality.
  • Pierre 'Peyo' Culliford is the creator of The Smurfs who, throughout his career as a comic writer, also created Johan and Peewit.
  • Some of the other comics and series developed by Belgians include the likes of Lucky Luke, Marsupilami, Jommeke, The Adventures of Nero, Spirou et Fantasio, Blake and Mortimer, and Spike and Suzy.
  • In recent years as well, comic authors such as Raoul Cauvin, Benoît Peeters, Jean Van Hamme and François Schuiten have maintained the same writing standards which were previously set by many of the Belgian comic writers.
  • Belgium is home to some of the best museums in the world such as The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, a group of six museums located in the city of Brussels; and The Royal Museum of Fine Arts located in Antwerp.
  • One of The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium features a collection of the famous Belgian artist, René Magritte.
  • If your bucket list features visiting a world heritage site and you are a fan of the arts, Belgium might just be the perfect country for you to visit. The Plantin-Moretus Museum located in the city of Antwerp has been recognized as a world heritage site since 2005.
  • Belgium also has a rich cinema culture with many of its creations being heavily lauded at the highest stages such as the Cannes Film Festival.
  • One of the most interesting facts about the Belgian society is the way they greet each other. Like in many other countries, people shake hands to greet each other but the altercation is very formally conducted.
  • Interestingly, once some time has passed and the people have developed a bond, they greet each other with a set of three kisses on the cheek instead of the formal handshake.
  • However, these kisses are not exactly on the person's cheeks but in the air next to the person's cheeks.
  • Another interesting fact about Belgian's culture is that flowers such as white chrysanthemums are given at funerals. They signify death and thus must not be given while greeting someone.
  • The Belgian culture is different from others in many ways and one difference is about opening gifts. People in Belgium open gifts as soon as they receive them.
  • If, for some reason, you receive a written invitation from a Belgian for some event, the sender expects a well-written response to it as a part of the Belgian culture and etiquette.


The History Of Belgian Culture

The country of Belgium gained independence in 1830 when it separated from northern Netherlands. Following the independence, the country experienced various linguistic and political discrepancies in the years that passed by.

As of today, the two ethnic groups of Belgium are divided geographically and can easily be identified by the language they speak. The Flemish, who speak Dutch belong, to the north of Belgium whereas the Walloons belong to the south of the country. Owing to these barriers, the culture of Belgium has shaped accordingly.

  • When it comes to art, Belgians have made significant contributions with art forms such as Mosan art, Baroque painting and the Flemish Renaissance.
  • Along with art, architecture of various forms also flourished all across Europe from 11th to 15th centuries and Belgium played its part in it.
  • One can find examples of Baroque architecture, Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance even today in some parts of Belgium.
  • In the 1800s and 1900s there were many Belgian painters who played a part in upcoming art forms such as surrealism, romanticism and expressionism.
  • Art Nouveau, a unique style of art and architecture which can now be found all across the world, was largely initiated by Belgians Henry van de Velde and Victor Horta.
  • Compared to other countries in the world, Belgium has a significantly greater number of parades and processions for festive reasons indicating a large influence of folklore in the Belgian culture.
  • Although there are various official festive holidays in Belgium, Saint Nicholas Day is a non-official holiday in this European country.
  • Since time immemorial, Belgians have taken great pride in the cleanliness of their country and even now regard cleanliness as an issue of national pride.
  • If you ever assumed that Belgium isn't an important part of the European Union, then you should know that the country was among the founding nations of the European Union.
  • Did you know that Belgium is such a multilingual country due to its culture that a number of Belgian cities have two different names and on occasion, these names have no resemblance?
  • For instance, the city of 'Brussels' is also written as 'Brussel' and 'Bruxelles'. This might be easy to interpret but the city named 'Tournai' has its other name as 'Doornik'.
  • Another interesting fact about Belgium is that if you are a US or a UK citizen or from any other country in the world you will be treated just like an ordinary Belgian in the eyes of the Belgian law.
  • According to Belgian laws, you can be sentenced to jail for a very long period of time along with a hefty monetary fine if you are even mistakenly caught with any of illegal drugs.
  • Interestingly, unlike many other countries in the world, Belgian highways are lit throughout the night irrespective of the frequency of commuters on the highway.
Another interesting fact about Belgium is that if you are a US

Famous Traditions Of Belgium

The country of Belgium is known for upholding many of its ancient traditions and customs. The European country celebrates various different kinds of festivals and follows customs which cannot be seen in any other country or culture.

  • Did you know that Belgians celebrate a unique festival known as the Carnival de Binche in the town of Binche where people come out on roads wearing unique, colorful outfits paired with wax masks?
  • Interestingly, the tradition has been going on since the 14th century and these people who dress up are referred to as 'Gilles'. An astonishing part of this tradition is that oranges are pelted on the crowd that stands to look at these colorfully dressed people.
  • Kids of Flemish origin in Belgium celebrate Old Year's Day and go door to door for trick or treat.
  • The trick or treat over in Belgium is different from the culture in America as there are no vampires or ghosts involved. Instead, these kids treat candy-givers with short songs related to the occasion.
  • Did you know that a village in Belgium known as Malmédy celebrates a unique festival recognized as the Giant Omelet Festival? The cooks involved make a skillet with a diameter of 13.12 ft (4 m) and break around 10,000 eggs.
  • Going by the name 'French fries' we have naturally associated this delicious snack with the country of France and believe that it was invented in France itself.
  • However, many Belgians claim that it was they who invented French fries. At the same time, it has been observed that French fries in Belgium are perhaps better than the ones in France or any other country in the world.
  • Did you know that every village in Belgium has a culture of having kiosks which serve Belgian fries? The way they eat them is interesting too.
  • People all over the world generally pair French fries with ketchup but Belgians eat these French fries along with mayo.
  • What might astonish you even more is that many tourists who have been to Belgium have appreciated this combination of French fries and mayo and liked it more than eating French fries with ketchup.
  • As we talk about the food and drink culture of Belgium, did you know that there are around 1,000-2,000 different kinds of Belgian beers?
  • There is a café in Brussels that serves more than 1,700 different kinds of beers, which indeed is a lot of beers.
  • There is a common saying about the variety of Belgian beers that if you drink a Belgian beer every day for as long as four years, you wouldn't end up drinking the same beer more than once.
  • A fun fact associated with Belgian beer is that every Belgian beer has a special matching glass to go with the beer.
  • Many Belgian households believe it to be wrong to serve a beer in a glass that does not belong to the beer.
  • Apart from beer and chocolates, Belgium has many other different foods to offer such as waffles, mussels and even carbonade flamandeor beef stew.
  • Did you know that there are around 30 different kinds of waffles which can be found in the supermarkets of Belgium?
  • Research has said that Liege waffles and Brussels waffles are the two most popular waffle types in Belgium.
  • Did you know, despite all the cultural and linguistic differences among the Belgians, there is only one subject that unites the entire country: football?
  • Belgians are crazy about the game of football and the national football team of Belgium is known as the Red Devils.
  • Interestingly, whenever there is a football event that involves the Belgium national team, the entire country sports red colored horns or other accessories on their cars or homes.

The Importance Of Belgian Culture

Belgians follow a culture influenced by the French, the Dutch and other European countries as well owing to its location. Belgians have some cultural practices which are pretty unique to the country and reflect the Belgian identity but at the same time, there are some traditions or customs which can be seen in other countries as well.

  • Belgians have significantly contributed to the development of electronic music in the world and Belgium is often regarded as the land of music festivals as well.
  • Did you know that Belgium hosts some of the biggest music festivals in the world such as I Love Techno, Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter?
  • One of the most beautiful and integral parts of the Belgian culture is the importance of family. It has often been noticed that Belgian families share almost every meal; it is a part of their custom.
  • Of all meals, Belgians consider eating together to be the most important at night during dinner.
  • Belgium's importance can also be measured in terms of the influence of the Belgian economy. The country boasts a high GDP and is majorly service-oriented.
  • Belgium is infamous for having one of the highest tax rates of all countries in the world.
  • Upon calculation, adding the income tax, the communal tax and the social security taxes, Belgians often end up paying around three-fifths of their salary as tax.
  • Belgians make carpets entirely made of flowers. The Brussels flower carpet is famous all over the world and can be seen live only on even-numbered years during the month of August.
  • Unlike most of the other countries, Belgians do not believe in receiving gifts from Santa Claus. Instead, Belgian children are believed to receive their presents from Saint Nicholas, also known as Sinterklaas.
  • On the December 6 every year, Belgian kids receive gifts from Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas. All Belgian children rush downstairs to see if Sinterklaas has left something by the fireplace in the morning.
  • The Belgian culture is famous for a wide range of topics ranging from ancient customs, food, parades, football, comics, architecture, painting, chocolates, waffles and beers.

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Written by Aryan Khanna

Bachelor of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

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Aryan KhannaBachelor of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

A dedicated and hardworking content writer currently pursuing his Bachelor's in Management Studies from St. Xavier's University, Kolkata. Aryan aims to gain corporate exposure and enhance his skills while creating well-researched and engaging content that is SEO-friendly. Aryan is a talented individual who puts in the effort to overcome any obstacle in his way.

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Fact-checked by Pratiti Nath

Bachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology, Masters of Science specializing in Biotechnology

Pratiti Nath picture

Pratiti NathBachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology, Masters of Science specializing in Biotechnology

A Master's in Biotechnology from Presidency University and a Bachelor's in Microbiology from Calcutta University. Pratiti holds expertise in writing science and healthcare articles, and their inputs and feedback help writers create insightful content. They have interests in heritage, history, and climate change issues and have written articles for various websites across multiple subjects. Their experience also includes working with eco-friendly startups and climate-related NGOs.

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