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Social norms in Belgium

Like in many European countries, there are certain unwritten rules in order to properly behave in society. Usually, parents and teachers will explain them to children at an early age, but if you’ve just moved to the country, you might be completely unaware of them. 

Greeting norms

When greeting someone in Belgium, it is important to be aware of the many different customs and norms that exist. For example, in Flanders it is common to shake hands with everyone present, while in Wallonia it is more common to kiss on both cheeks. In Brussels, both customs are followed.

It is also important to note that Belgians are generally quite formal when greeting someone, so it is best to err on the side of formality. For example, when meeting someone for the first time, it is best to use their title and last name. Once you have been introduced, you can move to a first-name basis.

When shaking hands, it is important to make eye contact and give a firm handshake. Belgians often greet each other with a light kiss on both cheeks, although this is more common among women. Men usually shake hands.

If you are unsure of what to do, it is always best to wait for the other person to make the first move. 

Belgian social norms in the place

Belgians tend to dress conservatively for work. For men, this means wearing a suit and tie. For women, it means wearing a skirt or trousers with a blouse or sweater.

If you are invited to a business meeting, it is important to be punctual. Belgians generally arrive on time or even early for meetings.

Business meetings in Belgium are usually quite formal. It is important to be polite and respectful when interacting with your Belgian colleagues.

Body language

Belgian consider snapping your fingers as a rather impolite behaviour, same with using toothpicks, yawning and putting your hand in your pockets in public. 

Feet should never be placed on the chairs, tables and other furniture, as it is seen as rude and vulgar, as well as unclean. Another thing considered very offensive in Belgium is back clapping – this friendly gesture will be taken as an insult. 

Dining together

If you’ve just moved to Belgium, you may not know about certain rules of dining together, but worry not – we’re here to help.

When dining out, it is customary to order a starter, main course, and dessert. If you are dining with a group, it is considered polite to wait for everyone to be seated before ordering. Same with actually starting the meal – it is considered impolite to begin eating until everyone at the table has been served.