How to piss off a Belgian

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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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..
  5. 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.
  6. 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?

132 thoughts on “How to piss off a Belgian

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  2. You forgot the most beautiful and livable city – Antwerp! We’ve lived here for 11 years and love it!

  3. Belgium was ok if it was not that crowded (3 million max for such a small territory), if they knew what a decent food is and if they had worked better on their immigration policy. And if they could clean their streets. And if they learned how to drive. And if you would not need to wait for an internet connection for a month. And if they did not charge you bloody 20 cents a minute for a phone call (6 cents on average for other EU countries). And… the list goes on and on :)

    • Their immigration policy is very accessible, try USA chap. Also, their food is very healthy. I do not know were you come from, but the title is not “how to piss off a Russian”.

    • A little correction: we have almost 10 million inhabitants, so yeah overcrowded it is. But luckily we have these beautiful publik parks where you can relax an enjoy the versity of Belgian nature.

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  6. loved reading it and it is spot on:-) and yes mayby there are things we need to work on but in general compared to some other countries, Belgium is a very good and nice country to live in!

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  8. My husband is Belgian and he loves to talk about beers, chocolates and taxes. Out of it, I think you are totally right. If the Belgian is Flemish, try asking him/her to speak french and you’ll see a very piss-off Belgian XD

    • That happens to me too! If I go to a Belgian restaurant owned by a Flemish, often immediately when I speak French the waiter goes from very friendly to giving terrible service (and pretends they don’t understand). It’s worse than being in Paris!

  9. I love Belgium. My wife lived there for five years growing up (all in Wallonia) and we’ve visited several times since. My favorite thing about the country is that despite the Flanders/Wallonia divide, it is a country absolutely united in its love for quality beer, from the Val-Dieu near Liege to De Halve Maan in Bruges. But I always prefer to talk football. Lots of topics there for me: an American (Sacha Kljestan) starting regularly for Anderlecht, the fantastic players Mousa Dembelé, Jan Vertonghen and Nacer Chadli who take the pitch for the club I support, Tottenham Hotspur. The trendy pick of the Belgian national team to win the World Cup. Great footballers, great beer, great chocolate… I want to go back!

  10. way too stereotype ! Indeed, you forgot to mention Antwerp. MAS museum, kathedraal, Red Star Line museum… BTW your text about Prince Laurent is VERY DATED, about 20 years old I guess. Nice try.

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