Today I decided to take you on a tour of my home country through the alphabet, each letter referring to a word followed by its explanation. Some facts, some Belgian humour and all in all just me trying to tickle your curiosity just enough for you want to visit Belgium if not already done. So let’s get started!
Belgium’s nickname is the flat country as beautifully sang by Jacques Brel. The highest point culminates at 694m above sea level. We are very proud of it and even have ski slopes over there.
You can’t decently talk about Belgium without at least mentioning its beers! There are hundreds and hundreds of different Belgian beers. Some bars only serve Belgian beers and their menu is as long as several arms put together! My personal favourite is the Kriek, a pink beverage made with cherries.
Cuisine (or chocolate, I can’t decide)
The cuisine or rather the cuisines. The Belgian loves to eat and has within his reach an impressive offer of world cuisine restaurants. The country is at a crossroad and its food is a reflection of it. No, let things be clear: in Belgium one does not eat only mussels and fries! Maybe “chocolate” should have worn the “C” flag because you know, it’s Belgian chocolate!! And it’s the best in the world. I think I can hear you trying to challenge my opinion but in all honesty, I am very objective!
Belgium is a country full of contradiction: its motto is “Strength lies in unity” but the country always seems to be on the verge of implosion because of its constant divisions.
Belgium is a small country in the heart of Europe. Many European institutions have chosen it to put down their bags and companies their European or even global headquarters.
But where does the idea that the Belgian national dish is French fries come from? Okay, we find fritkots everywhere. Fritkots? What’s that? Small barracks installed here and there where you order fries and fricadelles (don’t ask, you don’t want to know, no one wants to know!) to go that are cheerfully covered with mayonnaise or samouraï (spicy) sauce. With the precious pack on which fat leaves its marks you will find a bench to sit and enjoy your beautiful portion of fries covered in mayonnaise.
In Belgium, there is not one but four governments: one at the federal level and one for almost each region (the German region decided they didn’t need one, thank you!). We also detain the sad record of the country continuing to function without a government for the longest period of time: 589 days!
In Belgium we do not take ourselves seriously. We love to laugh of everything, of nothing and above all of ourselves. We question ourselves, we take a step back and we criticize. Belgians often practice self-criticism. But be careful, this exercise is reserved for Belgians only, not passing visitors. Because in the end, Belgians love their country!
Belgium certainly masters iconoclasm. The Belgian French speaking national TV once ran a program announcing the end of the country by implosion. It was broadcasted right after the evening news as a follow-up on a brand new development. Politicians and various public figures were interviewed on the fake documentary leading people to believe this was actual news. The mention that it was a fake was discretely written at the bottom of the screen. It was a big hit and even came out on DVD afterwards.
Once in Belgium don’t worry about jetlag. The country isn’t that big, there is only one time zone within its limits. By the way, you can drive from the Northest part of the country to the Southest one in only 3 and a half hours!
The last city at the Belgian seaside before you reach Holland. One of my favourite spots in Belgium!
Once again Belgium likes to make things complicated. We do not have one, we do not have two but three national official languages: Dutch, French and German. Our French is not the same as the one spoken in France. Our Dutch is not the same as the one spoken in Holland. Our German is not the same as the one spoken in … nah, I actually don’t know about this one but I can only suspect it is not the same as any other German spoken in the world! Phew, all of this for such a tiny country!
In Belgium, there is a reigning king, a retired king (his dad) and two queens (the wife and mother of the current king). At some point we even had 3 at the same time (the aunt)! What was I telling you? We do nothing like the others! The monarchy has a protocol role and holds no real power. The federal government is in charge of making decisions and the king approves them. Some say that the monarchy is the cement of Belgium.
“The Brabançonne” is the Belgian national anthem. It exists in 3 languages: French, Dutch and German. Imagine a football (soccer that is) game with everyone singing at the same time their own version of the hymn. How fun is that?
Belgium sent its first astronaut to the outer space in 1992 in the person of Dirk Frimout who flew aboard the space shuttle STS-45 for the space mission “Atlas1”. He was not sent in orbit but his flight in space lasted for 9 days.
Belgium: it is the Flemish in the North, the Walloons in the South and the inhabitants of Brussels in the middle, neither Flemish nor Walloon. Some have the reputation to be cold, distant and hardworking; others warm, a bit lazy and convivial. And those in the middle are a sweet mixture.
Quick is the Belgian equivalent to McDonald’s. The chain was created in 1971 and has restaurants in Belgium, Luxembourg and France. The concept and the food are approximately the same as the one you can find at his main competitor. I’ll be a bit chauvinistic on this one and say that given a choice between both I would go for Quick. Last time we visited a Quick restaurant (we desperately needed to buy a bottle of water!) and as we were queuing, my daughter whispered in my ear: “If someone farts in here we won’t smell it”! Who doesn’t love the typical smell of a fast food chain?!!
The Red Devils
In Belgium, politicians make the people believe that they have a grudge against each other. But fortunately, the national football team, the Red Devils, is there to tighten the ranks; especially in case of victory.
Adolphe Sax, a Belgian musician and inventor, created the saxophone and patented his invention in Paris in 1846.
Just because. Magritte, you know?
In Belgium, taxes on revenue are collected at the source. Some people have a hard attack when they receive their first payslip and see the difference between their gross and net salary!
Belgium is definitely unique. This tiny country (+/- 30500 square km and 11 millions habitants) is located in the heart of Europe. Our neighbours with whom we share borders are France, Germany, The Netherlands and Luxembourg. On top of that there is a maritime boundary with the North Sea. Another specificity is that Brussels, the capital of the country, is at the same time a city, a region and the capital of another region. When I was telling you Belgium was a unique country!
Visit Belgium! I can only encourage you to do so if you’ve never been there. It’s a beautiful country with lots of interesting sites to visit. From the seaside to Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent, Brussels, Namur and the Ardennes: adults and children alike will find something to their taste. And did I mention food is delicious?!!
When you ask people about Belgium, waffles often come up pretty quickly. Belgian waffles are goooood!!! If you haven’t tried one yet I suggest you do it quickly! I particularly like the ones from Liège with their sugar pearls.
Nope, sorry, I tried but I can’t find any word starting with an X that I could possibly link to Belgium. I even visited a website with words starting with an X for scrabble players but none of them inspired me. I could tell you Xerox has offices in Belgium but I’m not sure that is of any interest to you!!
OK I didn’t know about Y either and wanted to present you with the flag! So here it goes. When you see vertical stripes in black, yellow and red you know it stands for Belgium. Now, wait a minute you might tell me, if sometimes I spot horizontal stripes in black, red and yellow do you mean to tell me it is not Belgium? Yes, indeed, in this later case it is the German flag. A bit confusing, isn’t it? Don’t worry, if you happen to be in Belgium on the 21st of July chances are great you are seeing the Belgian flag as it is our national holiday!
If you flew to Belgium you must know Zaventem, it is our national airport. It is located right outside of Brussels in Flanders. It is a constant source of friction between 2 regions: Brussels and Flanders. It was built so close to the city that everyone wants to enjoy it but no one wants the planes to flight over their house. A source of conflicts it is!
I hope you enjoyed the read. I’d love to hear from you: what other words would yours to describe Belgium?