There are close to 20 travel related websites or blogs embedded in my RSS feed with a strong focus on the airline & hotel industries, but also more than a few that talk about travel in general and the community around it, going from basic ‘tips & tricks’ to inspirational activities or downright funny stories. Matador (Network) is currently doing a series called “how to piss off..” Where, with some form of irony, they suggest what would be really great ways or topics to discuss to make someone from Wales, an atheist, a vegetarian, a Texan… go completely bonkers.
But, they have yet to publish how to piss off a Belgian, my recent trip to New York and Mexico City reminded me of some of the wonderful pitfalls or misconceptions people from all over the world have about Belgium and its inhabitants. So allow me to help them out a bit…
- Ask if Brussels is situated in Germany
Be completely oblivious of geography, history or politics. Ignore the fact that it’s actually the capital of a country quite commonly referred to as ‘Belgium’ which declared its indepence in 1830. Remind us that indeed not so long ago zie Germans did wander around within our country’s borders for a lenghty period of time. Because we share borders with countries such as The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany and France, it’s of course more than likely that we are actually merely a province.
- Assume we all speak French
After a lengthy discussion, showing you our passports, pin-pointing Belgium on Google maps and finally having you convinced that the annexation to Germany did not happen.. assume we all speak French, forget about the 60% of our Dutch speaking citizens, not to mention the more than 75.000 that do speak German. Disregard that it’s also quite common to be bilingual. Ask if we are sure that Dutch is an actual language or be amazed that it is spoken outside of the Netherlands.
- Tell us you really enjoy drinking Belgian beers such as Blue Moon, Flying Fish, Horny Devil,…
Try to bond with us in a bar, share your thoughts about that night out in the town when you tried several real Belgian Beers, not Belgian Style Beer as the label reads, but be sure to be very confident you surely knew what you were drinking, who is this Belgian guy to claim it isn’t genuine Belgian beer. As you raise your pint of Blue Moon, you become increasingly confident with every sip you take, your beer is as Belgian as Leffe, Duvel, Stella Artois and West Vleteren, no doubt about it. Continue to celebrate your new friendship and confide in us that you think they all taste the same.
- Bring up having eaten Belgian Waffles with everything on it
Not only did your last trip to New York consist of exploring the Big Apple, you also tried Belgian Waffles for the first time, there’s of course no difference between Waffles from Liège or Brussels and at Wafels & Dinges you had a great Waffle, one with powder sugar, whipcream, strawberries and/or chocolate. But there was something missing, was there not? So when you got home, you decided to make the recipe even better, took some of the traditional toppings and gave it that little bit of extra by adding layers of bacon and mapple syrup. Not less is more, more is more. You even took a picture, show us, we can hardly wait to see the result..
- Bring up that you read about how much taxes we have to pay
Remember that article in the newspaper about which countries have the highest Total Tax Rate? The one that highlighted Belgium being almost 20% above EU average? Also the same article that suggested your country is somewhere in the middle. Time to mention how hard it already is, mention how you can’t imagine living like that with the government emptying your pockets. Pay absolutely no attention to our excellent healthcare that does require funding or forget that we provide for the unemployed.
- Ask about French Fries
You’ve eaten Mussels and french fries, you love them, we all do. But why are they called French fries all over the world? Remind us of that, we enjoy hearing that one of our favorite dishes is associated with the French although we prepare the fries differently, perhaps now is also the the time to mention you always mix up if Brussels is situated in France or Germany..
Things we do like to talk about: Belgium in a nutshell.
Belgium is a constitutional monarchy and while one of our Princes enjoys speeding with his Ferrari, he also thinks 250K annually is though to get by. Brussels is considered to be the most important seat of the European Parliament, houses the European Commission and the Council of the European Union. Our Prime Minister is gay and a friendly cheerful chap. Our country is bigger than Monaco, Liechtenstein or Vatican City. Women are allowed to vote, but we tend to make fun of their driving skills for which we will get reprimanded by them. TinTin is a Belgian series of comic albums of which more than 200.000.000 copies have been sold worldwide, published in 77 languages. Toots Tielemans is a 91y old living Jazz legend that plays the harmonic, unfortunately he recently announced his retirement.. When it rains, we complain about Belgian weather, when the sun is shining, we complain it’s too hot, light up the barbecue & drink a Jupiler.
Thinking of Belgian Cuisine, tasty dishes not mentioned above are Gentse Waterzooi, Stoofvlees with fries and we do enjoy our coffee with some chocolates or pralines. Traffic sucks, trains are always late and there are over 350 festivals in Belgium with several of them being internationally renowned.
In cycling, we are a host to some of the most well-respected classics: Ronde van Vlaanderen, Gent-Wevelgem and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. And after 12 years of missing out, we are finally returning to the World Cup Football/soccer where we will gladly see the Netherlands get defeated, preferably by us. When you do get a chance to visit Belgium, not only Brussels or Bruges may be interesting but also Ieper or Ghent are definitely worth looking into.
Any further questions?