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25 Interesting & Fun Facts About Belgium (That You Probably Didn’t Know)

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25 Interesting & Fun Facts About Belgium (That You Probably Didn’t Know)

Belgium is an interesting country that’s been shaped by many different influences. Best known in the world for its waffles, chocolate, and beer, Belgium is as fascinating and as diverse as its food and drinks!

In this article, I want to show you a lighter, fun side of this beautiful country that I now call home. Some interesting facts and fun things that you probably didn’t know about Belgium.

So here are some of the typical things that make Belgium unique. Things that Belgium is famous for, but also some weird facts that you probably never heard of. Some of these facts and habits might seem very strange at first sight, but once you get to know and love this country, you cannot imagine it any other way.

Scroll down to learn more about Belgium and the Belgians!

Facts about Belgium - things to know and trivia
 

In random order, here are all kinds of fun and interesting facts about Belgium:

1. Belgium can function without a government

Belgium is a constitutional monarchy. We have a King and 6 governments – a federal government and 5 regional governments. Belgium has proven time and again that the country can function without a federal government.

Once, it took 589 days for a government to be formed and people found it totally acceptable. Some things just take time, they say. Others argue that it is actually even better this way because we don’t have any new tax increases during the period that it takes to form a government.

Update: During the most recent government formation in 2019-2020, Belgium broke its own previous world record. This time, it took 652 days for a federal government to be formed in Belgium.

The reason for this is that political views are very different in Flanders and Wallonia. So the political parties that get the majority of votes in one region don’t necessarily have a related counterpart in another region.

Belgian flag
Belgian flag
 

2. There is no Belgian language

Belgium has three official languages and none of them is called Belgian. People speak Dutch, French, and German in different parts of the country.

In the Dutch-speaking schools, kids start to learn French in the 5th grade at the latest. So the majority of Flemish people also speak French. Whereas the schools in Wallonia don’t have obligatory lessons of Dutch, so very few French-speaking people from Wallonia can communicate in Dutch.

Most Flemish people also speak English. Kids often learn English from the TV long before they learn it at school. It’s not the case in the French-speaking part of the country because all their TV programs are dubbed.

How do you say ‘hello’ in Belgium? As already mentioned, Belgium doesn’t have one single language. If you want to say ‘hello’ or ‘good day’ in French, you say ‘salut’ or ‘bonjour’. In Dutch – ‘hallo’ or ‘goedendag’.

How do you say ‘thank you’ in Belgium? If you want to say ‘thank you’ in Belgium, you say ‘merci’ (French) or ‘dank je/ dank u wel’ (Dutch).

Informational sign in Belgium in four different languages
Informational sign at the Mardasson Memorial in Bastogne in four different languages. Almost everywhere in Belgium, you’ll find informational signs in at least two languages.
 

3. Belgians are crazy about football

Belgium’s football team is called the Red Devils and the whole country colors red when there are any major football events. When this article was first published, the Belgian national team was number 1 in the world on the FIFA ranking and the country was as united as never before.

Football (soccer) is the only thing that can unite all Belgians and make them forget all the differences and disagreements, even if for a short while.

During any major football events, you’ll see people wearing all kinds of football-related accessories, cars are decorated with flags and devil horns, and you can see Belgian flags hanging out of the windows all over the place.

Belgian football supporters dressed in national colors
This is pretty much how most Belgian men look like during the World Cup or any major football match – Photo by m.iacobucci.tiscali.it/Depositphotos.com
 

4. There are tens of different types of Belgian waffles

You can find more than 30 types of different waffles in an average Belgian supermarket (yes, I counted). But most Belgian waffles in Belgium don’t taste anything like Belgian waffles in the U.S.

The two most popular types of waffles that you’ll find for sale at tourist places are Brussels waffles and Liege waffles. The Brussels waffles are airier and not as sweet, whereas the Liege waffles are very thick, rich, and full of pearl sugar.

The ‘Belgian waffles’ that you find abroad are usually somewhat similar to the Brussels waffles.

Liege waffles - Belgian waffles in Belgium
This type of Belgian waffles that you usually see at tourist places are actually Liege waffles
 

5. Belgians are a bit snobbish about chocolate

As far as Belgians are concerned, Belgium has the world’s best chocolate. And even I’m an ‘adopted’ Belgian, I have to agree with them on this one.

Giving foreign chocolate as a present might be taken as an insult by Belgians. After all, they are the ones who have the very best chocolate in the world.

The truth is that Belgian chocolate is very good; much too good actually, and they are absolutely right to be proud of it.

Belgian chocolate for sale at a chocolaterie in Brussels
Belgian chocolate for sale at a chocolaterie in Brussels
 

6. Belgian national symbol is a peeing boy

The Belgian national symbol is a peeing boy, Manneken Pis of Brussels.

Usually, he is not dressed and foreigners always find it amusing. But the little guy also has hundreds of different costumes for all kinds of occasions and somebody takes the trouble of changing his clothes two to three times a week.

If you are interested, you can learn all bout Manneken Pis and see a part of his impressive wardrobe at the GardeRobe MannekenPis museum in Brussels.

READ ALSO: Best Places to See & Things to Do in Brussels

Manneken Pis in Brussels
Manneken Pis in Brussels
Manneken Pis
Manneken Pis
 

7. Belgium is the land of music festivals and parades

Belgium has some of the best music festivals in the world. Tomorrowland, Rock Werchter, I Love Techno – these are just a few examples of the music festivals attracting thousands of people from all over the world.

In addition, Belgians love parades. There are so many traditional parades all over the country! Some of them happen every year, but there are also traditional historic or religious parades that only take place every so many years.

We have the annual Aalst Carnival parade, the triennial Cat Parade in Ypres, the septennial Lady Virga Jesse parade in Hasselt, the Horse Bayard of Dendermonde that takes place every 10 years, and many, many others.

Especially in summer, Belgium turns into one huge festival terrain. There’s always music and so many fun events everywhere you go.

Carnival of Binche in Belgium
Carnival of Binche – Photo by kobbydagan/Depositphotos.com
 

8. Belgians invented the ‘French’ fries

Belgians say that they invented French fries. And to give them credit, the fries in Belgium are indeed better than in France (or anywhere else for that matter).

You can find the world’s best fries at no more than 5 minutes driving distance from pretty much anywhere in the country. Every little village has at least one ‘fritkot’ – a kiosk or a van serving Belgian fries.

You probably heard that Belgians eat fries with mayo. As strange as it might sound, it’s absolutely delicious! It has become my absolute favorite Belgian food and it wouldn’t occur to me to eat fries with ketchup ever again.

You must try Belgian fries with mayo
You must try Belgian fries with mayo!
 

9. There are over 1000 different types of beer brewed in Belgium

You can drink a Belgian beer every day for 4 years and never have the same beer twice.

There is some uncertainty about the exact number of different Belgian beers. But according to most sources, there are at least 1,000-1,200 original Belgian beers brewed in Belgium.

On top of that, there are many different types of beers under the same name. That explains why you can find a café that serves more than 1,700 different Belgian beers in Brussels (look for Café Délirium).

Lots of different bottles of Belgian beer
This is just a small selection of different Belgian beers
 

10. Every Belgian beer has a matching glass

Every single Belgian beer has its own special glass. I have difficulties to imagine how a café can store over a 1,000 different kinds of Belgian beer with their matching glasses, but somehow they do.

We are just an average half-Belgian family and our basement is filled with all kinds of different beer glasses. We hardly ever use most of them, but – to my Belgian husband – it would be unthinkable to serve a beer in the wrong glass. So we have all kinds of different glasses that match my husband’s favorite beer types.

Belgian beer and matching glasses
Every Belgian beer has its own special glass
 

11. Smurfs come from Belgium

Belgium is world known for comic strips. The most famous are probably the Smurfs, Tintin, and Lucky Luke. There are more than 800 registered Belgian comic series.

Pretty much everyone I know here in Belgium owns hundreds of comic strip books. It’s one of the first books that our kids started to read and it’s also the first thing they always look for at a school library.

Smurfs mural in Brussels
Smurfs mural in Brussels
 

12. Belgian highways are lit at night

Belgium’s highways are lit at night. I am so used to it by now that I only understand how spoiled we are when they switch the lights off or when we travel to other countries.

As I’m updating this article, I have to say that these days, some parts of the highways remain dark during the least busy hours of the night. However, most Belgians find that it’s too dangerous and don’t agree with these ‘savings’.

READ ALSO: Is Belgium Safe?

13. Belgians love to talk about the weather

You can make friends in Belgium just by talking about the weather. Really. Belgians are obsessed about the weather and so you always have an easy conversation topic available.

Contrary to the popular belief, it doesn’t rain all the time in Belgium, but we do get a fair bit of rain. In any case, enough to give us something to talk about. And if we get an exceptionally dry year, as it’s happening more and more recently, there’s just so much more to discuss…

So if you meet a Belgian for the first time and are looking for a way to start the conversation, just say something about the weather.

Ghent city in Belgium
Ghent city on a sunny winter day. No matter if it rains or we get sunshine, the weather is always a popular topic.
 

14. Belgians love to cook (& to eat)

Cooking books top book bestsellers lists in Belgium for years. Belgians love to cook. And to eat. Belgians love the Burgundian lifestyle, fine food, and drinks.

If you are going for dinner at a restaurant in Belgium, count at least 2-3 hours. Nobody likes to rush through dinner and restaurants don’t even expect to seat tables more than once in the same evening.

15. Belgians love to shop

Belgian favorite pastime is shopping or going to the seaside. An ideal weekend is spent in Knokke, the posh seaside resort with many luxury boutiques on the Belgian coast.

Come weekend and Belgians flock to shopping malls and seaside resorts. If you don’t like the crowds, stay away from these places on weekends and public holidays.

16. Every Belgian wants to own a house

Belgians say that they are ‘born with a brick in their stomach’. All self-respecting Belgians try to buy or build a house as soon as they can.

Typical Belgian houses in Bruges
Typical Belgian houses in Bruges
 

17. Belgians dream of a B&B in Southern Europe

The ultimate Belgian dream is to retire at 50 and run a B&B in the South of Europe. Many Belgians move to Provence in southern France or to Spain, buy a house, turn it into a small B&B, and only come back to Belgium when they need some serious medical care.

18. Money topics are taboo

Belgians are pretty open and will talk about pretty much anything, except money. Children usually don’t have the slightest idea of what their parents earn.

If there is one money topic that Belgians love to talk (complain) about, it’s taxes. And there’s a good reason for that – see below.

19. Belgium has some of the highest tax rates in the world

Belgium has one of the highest personal income tax rates in the world. If you earn more than 13,250 EUR per year, you pay 40% tax. From about 40,000 EUR per year, income tax is 50%.

In addition, you have to pay social security taxes of 13.07% and communal taxes that, depending on where you live, can be as high as 9%.

So it’s not uncommon for Belgians to pay 60-65% tax on their income.

20. Belgians make flower carpets

Belgians make carpets from flowers and they are really good at it. If you visit Brussels in mid-August on the even years, don’t miss the Brussels Flower Carpet!

How to visit Brussels Flower Carpet
Bi-annual Brussels flower carpet is not to be missed
 

21. Santa Claus doesn’t come to Belgium

Belgian children don’t get their presents from Santa Claus, but from Sinterklaas or St. Nicholas. He comes by boat from Spain around mid-November, takes a tour of schools and shopping malls in the following weeks, and brings presents to all the ‘good’ kids on the 6th of December.

Sinterklaas travels on a white horse and with the help of Black Peters enters the houses via the chimney. Kids put their shoes at the fireplace on the evening of December 5. They also leave some carrots and sugar for the horse and drawings for Sinterklaas.

Here you can read more about the Sinterklaas celebration in Belgium.

Sinterklaas arriving on a boat
Sinterklaas arriving on a boat – Buurserstraat38/Depositphotos.com
 

22. Belgium has the world’s smallest city

Belgium has some beautiful historic cities, like Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, or Leuven. In addition, we have many smaller towns, but there is one that Belgians are particularly proud of – Durbuy.

Durbuy prides itself on being ‘the smallest city in the world’. It’s not really a city, rather a very small (and picturesque) town, with a population of just about 500 people.

However, Durbuy’s location and position were pretty significant in the past. In the early 14th century, the Count of Luxembourg gave the town the rank of the city.

Durbuy in Belgium - the world's smallest city
Durbuy – the world’s smallest city
 

23. Belgians co-invented the World Wide Web

When talking about the things that Belgium is famous for, people often forget that we have great universities and lots of scientists in Belgium. Here’s just one example – the invention of the World Wide Web (www).

Belgian computer scientist Robert Cailliau together with his English colleague Berners-Lee, invented the hypertext system for accessing documentation, which eventually led to the creation of the World Wide Web.

Can you imagine that? There would be no internet without Belgians. 🙂

24. Saxophone was invented by a Belgian

Did you know that the saxophone was invented by a Belgian named Adolphe Sax? He was born in the small city of Dinant and if you visit the city today, you’ll see saxophones everywhere.

Also some of the world’s most famous painters were Belgian: Rubens, Ensor, Magritte, Delvaux, van Eyck… to name just a few.

Saxophone bridge in Dinant Belgium
Dinant is the home town of Adolphe Sax
 

25. Belgian cities often have two different names

Belgium is multicultural and multilingual to its core and you will notice it in all kinds of details every single day. I’m not even talking about tens of different nationalities living together, this is about Belgium and Belgians.

Here is my favorite example and something that took me many years to get used to – the same city will have different names in Flemish, Walloon, or German-speaking parts of the country.

So Belgium is a place where it’s very easy to get confused and lost while driving around. Don’t look for ‘Liege’ road signs if you are on a highway in Antwerp, because the sign will say ‘Luik’. And when you finally manage to get to Liege, you will need to look for ‘Anvers’ in order to find your way back to Antwerp.

I still remember the first time I got lost in Belgium (this was before the times of GPS). I had a map with me, but road signs were pointing to places that were not on the map. I ended up driving around for several hours.

I remember asking people for directions and they looked at me as if I was from another planet. I was asking for directions to Mons while the signs were showing ‘Bergen’ and it was less than 30 minutes drive from where I was! It took me several weeks to realize that Gent is actually the same place as Gand.

Here are some examples of Belgian town names (some translations are quite similar, but some don’t even resemble the original):

  • Bruxelles = Brussel = Brussels
  • Antwerpen = Anvers = Antwerp
  • Gent = Gand = Ghent
  • Mons = Bergen
  • Tournai = Doornik
  • Mechelen = Malines
  • Kortrijk = Courtrai
  • Namur = Namen
  • Ieper = Ypres
  • De Haan = Le Coq
  • Braine-l’Alleud = Eigenbrakel
  • Jezus Eik = Notre-Dame-au-Bois

And in case you wonder, even the country name itself is different in all three official languages: België (Dutch), Belgique (French), Belgien (German).

 

Belgium FAQ

Here are some additional facts that you may want to know about Belgium:

What is Belgium famous for?

Belgium is world-famous for its chocolate, waffles, beer, and its national football team, the Red Devils. Belgium is also home to NATO headquarters and also to the European Parliament. Brussels is often referred to as the ‘capital of the EU’.

Do people speak English in Belgium?

The majority of people in Flanders speak English very well. It’s not always the case in Brussels or in Wallonia. However, as a tourist, you should have no problems finding someone who speaks English to help you out.

Is Belgium a rich country?

Yes, Belgium is one of the richest countries in the world. According to Allianz Global Wealth Report 2020, Belgium ranked as the 11th richest country in the world by net financial assets per capita.

Why are taxes so high in Belgium?

Among others, Belgium’s high taxes are used to finance the healthcare system, education, and social security programs. For example, we have an excellent and very affordable healthcare, school costs are low, and university studies are very affordable (the biggest cost is renting a place to live).

Is Belgium expensive to live?

The cost of living in Belgium is relatively high, but still very affordable compared to many other Western European countries. For example, real estate is much more affordable in Brussels than in Amsterdam, Paris, or London.

 

So here are some weird and fun facts about Belgium. As you can see, it’s a unique country, very multicultural yet authentic and true to its values. It’s a great place to live and a wonderful destination to visit.

If you are planning a trip to Belgium, make sure to check out our post with a suggested Belgium itinerary for 3 or 4 days.

I also strongly recommend visiting our favorite Belgian town, Antwerp. Here you can read about the best things to do in Antwerp.

Travel inspiration for Benelux:

If you found this post interesting, don’t forget to bookmark it and share it with your friends. Are you on Pinterest? Pin these images!

Belgium facts and interesting things to know
Fun and interesting facts about Belgium
 

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June

Monday 15th of March 2021

Great article Jurga, lots of super information in there, you forgot to tell us how good your trains are for getting around too! After reading your previous Belgium article we were keen to visit, and followed some of the wonderful information you shared. We parked our car at the hotel in the millionaires quarter in Ghent, and took the train to all the cities you recommended. The tunnel and Art Deco lifts were amazing and we wouldn’t have known about them without your tip. Thankyou so much.

P.s. thank you for all the tips you gave us for Norway

Jurga

Monday 15th of March 2021

So happy to hear that you used so many of our recommendations for your (various) trips, June! It's always nice to hear from our loyal readers! As for the trains... Every Belgian has a love/hate relationship with the railway, I think. Belgium has a great railway system indeed, but it's not always on time, so many locals aren't happy with it because even a small delay often causes missed connections. And if you live further away from the major cities, a missed train often means you have to wait an hour for the next one... I've had my fair share of train delays and missed connections and once I almost missed the flight because the trains just didn't run for hours, but all the info we were given said that they would be arriving soon... Luckily, my husband could bring me to the airport by car, and despite initially having 3 hours of spare time at the airport, I arrived less than 10 minutes before the check-in closed. So yes, I can't say that they are always great. :) But for tourists who aren't in a hurry, don't have to change trains, and are just visiting the main cities, it's definitely the best way to get around Belgium! I'm glad that it worked out well for you.

Ebesom Patience Eneigho

Sunday 3rd of January 2021

Is it easy for someone who is in Belgium to take a family member if yes is it expensive? i'd love to travel there through a family member

Jurga

Tuesday 5th of January 2021

Hi, this is a travel blog and we really cannot help you with any immigration questions. All the best!

Benedikt

Tuesday 15th of December 2020

As a Belgian myself its quite funny to read all your points. Those translations of cities is indeed very funny, but we are so used to it since childhood that its not really that difficult. The only thing I dislike is the political parties who try to break our beautiful country. You should make such an article about Lithuania too!!

Jurga

Wednesday 16th of December 2020

Thank you, Benedikt, and as for politics - it's the same everywhere. The only difference here in Belgium is that they speak different languages, so it looks as if the differences are irreconcilable. As for Lithuania, I'll give it some more thought. But every time I tried to come up with a similar article, I got stuck. When you grow up with certain things done in a certain way, you consider them totally normal and not that interesting. You need to look at your own country through the eyes of a foreigner in order to write an article like this one. I'll have to talk to some foreigners and see what they find special in my home country. :) Also this article about Belgium is one of the first ones I've ever written on the blog. At that time, we were just back in Belgium after having lived in the far Luxembourg for a few years, so I could look at Belgium with the 'foreign' eyes. It would be more difficult to write it now as I'm so used to all of this.

B. Samajdar

Wednesday 4th of March 2020

I want to be a Belgian citizen with my wife and son. What should i do?

Yvonne

Monday 15th of March 2021

Fun article thanks, look forward to the day I can explore Belgium. Meanwhile now that I have had my two shots I am on the road in my camper exploring Arizona, Big Bend Texas and the gulf coast. Thanks for your articles on the national parks.

Jurga

Thursday 5th of March 2020

Hi, I really don't feel like it's something I can help you with. Every situation is different and you'd have to enquire with the official sources.

Oscar

Friday 30th of November 2018

Wow honestly I must say am most grateful for this information actually next year 2019 am really planning on coming to spend sometime actually in Belgium cause have been searching for a nice place to travel too for my vacation so I think have found the place to be I love belgium as a country so I hope I will enjoy myself when I come over for vacation..

Jurga

Sunday 2nd of December 2018

I'm sure you'll love Belgium, Oscar. Have a great trip!

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