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Belgium  Local habits

  • Shake hands :

At conferences and meetings shake hands with everybody when arriving and leaving

  • Kiss :

3 kisses on the cheeks are the rule when meeting acquaintances or friends

  • First names :

Let Belgians make the first move before calling casual acquaintances or work colleagues by their first name

  • Language :

Try to understand the linguistic problem. If you know someone is Flemish, don't insist on speaking French, unless that person cannot speak English. If they do not understand you, try French, then they know that you are not a Wallon who didn't learn Flemish.

  • Restaurants :

Eating is considered as one of the greatest pleasures in life. Expect to spend two to three hours for lunch. If you want to be quick, select the dish of the day or ask the waiter what can be served quickly. In ordinary restaurants, you can ask the owner if you can bring your dog; asking for a doggy bag is considered rude.

Typical dishes are: Mussels and chips, steak and chips, special beers

Tea is generally made by pouring hot water into a pot, leaving you to add the tea bag which can be a disaster to a Briton !

  • Tipping :

In the Restaurant (the bigger the bill, the more you leave, max.5 EUR although officially the service is included), the hairdresser (2.5 EUR), toilet cleaners in restaurants (0.2 EUR).

  • Invitations :

If invited for a meal, never go empty handed but don't bring wine or alcohol.

Flowers and chocolates are best and safest (don't bring white chrysantheums, they are taken to the cemetery on November 1st)

For large receptions you can send flowers before or after.

If you are invited to a Belgian home, consider it as a privilege; if invited on a Sunday, be prepared for it to last all day (drinks, four course meal, coffee and cake and at about six o'clock a cold supper. If your hosts protest fairly strongly to your leaving early, you are expected to stay to not leave them with all the food. If returning hospitality, it is safest to keep the formula your Belgian friends used for you; a meal with three courses is considered a minimum.

  • What to wear :

Never wear sun-glasses when talking to someone.

  • Most invitations state the type of dress to wear:

tenue de ville/stadskledij: (informal, dark suit/dress)

smoking: (formal, black tie or dinner jacket/cocktail or dinner dress)

habit et décorations (formal, white tie/long dresses for ladies)

  • Queueing :

Belgians find it hard to queue, check who is in front of you , otherwise you might wait a long time. Bus, tram and train queues don't exist; everyone for himself is still the order.