‘I’m going on Erasmus to Belgium.’ ‘Why?’


When you Google ‘Belgium is’ – go on, try it – the second query that comes up says ‘Belgium is in which country?’ That basically sums up how much students know about one of the smallest countries in the world. 

Mostly famous for its peculiar political system and the best combination of food traditions in Europe – who doesn’t love chocolate, fries and beer – Belgium is most of all known as a boring place with inhabitants that like to protect their comfort zone at all times. 

But is it actually that boring? We listed 10 striking things about the Belgians and their weird little flat country (and don’t shoot us because we mention Belgian fries . A lot.)

1. They invented GAS-laws

No, these are not laws about gas. GAS stands for Gemeentelijke Administratieve Sancties (Communal Administrative Sanctions) and were intended to enable local authorities to tackle petty nuisances that were mostly left unpunished, with a maximum fine of 250 euros. Unfortunately, this got out of hand with laws like ‘You can’t eat a sandwich in front of a church’, or ‘Street musicians in the city of Leuven are not allowed to play off-key’. And in Lokeren, it is prohibited to predict someone’s future. So you witches better start to run.

2. Their pigeons are on cocaine

One of Belgium’s most successful sport is… pigeon racing. And Belgians like to be the best in their sports. It became known that the owners of the poor birds would feed them with cocaine to make them fly faster. Belgium in general is notorious for its cocaine use: Antwerp is called the capital of the white sugary substance. 

3. They like their comfort zone

Everyone likes an occasional cozy night at home. But Belgians are so fond of their comfort zone, that many internationals find it remarkable. They like to stay close to home when they go out and find an hour commute to work absolutely unbearable. They choose to move almost next to their work place if possible (although this could also be because of their world-record-breaking traffic jams). 

4. They make the best TV formats

Belgian television makers have won multiple prizes for their world famous formats and Belgians are crazy about it. The television program The Mole that is airing right now in its second season and won a Golden Rose, has a unique format. Players in The Mole must work together to complete various challenges to build up a significant cash prize for the winner. One of them, however, is "the Mole" and has to try to sabotage all of it. The fact that the participants include a pervert-y bus driver to a not-too-intellectual cleaning lady definitely contributes to the show’s popularity. It aired in Flanders and the Flemish people love it, making Facebook groups , Twitter accounts , even starting clubs and making bets . Not a surprise, seeing that 97 percent of the inhabitants have cable television. 

5. They are hard workers

Belgians are known to be hard workers – they do their job, but are also known to complain a lot about it. They are famous for their ability to speak multiple languages and are loved abroad because of that. They tend to be flexible, but maybe they just appear that way because most are reserved and too afraid to speak up for themselves… 

6. They don’t like McDonalds

Belgium has one of the lowest proportions of McDonalds to people in the developed world. But who would want chain fast food anyway when you can have authentic Belgian fries with mayonnaise? There is a place that serves fries in every single village. They even have competitions for the best baked fries and a monthly magazine called Snackblad (‘The Paper Snack’).

7. They were one of the first countries to legalize gay marriage

Maybe one of the weirdest things about this country is that it is one of the most progressive ones in terms of adoption, relationships, and sexuality in general. Belgium is also stated as one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world. It’s funny considering that Belgians appreciate their comfort zone so much and like to stick to tradition, but on the other hand encourage the LGBT community in so many ways. Well done Belgium.

8. It is one of the safest places in the world

Even after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and its link to Belgium, Belgium is considered one of the most peaceful and safest places on earth. Homicides rates in particular are extremely low. I guess when you live in the country with some of the most magnificent castles, enchanting natural beauty and medieval architecture you don’t really feel like murdering someone. And if you do feel like it, have a Belgian waffle. 

9. They have the best combination of food traditions

If we didn’t already mention the famous steak, fries and homemade mayonnaise that you have with a bottle of beer, Belgium has so much more of the best combinations on a plate. Try Vol-au-vent, which is basically an oven baked pastry filled with chicken, mushrooms and a creamy sauce, served with fries, of course. Or the dish that epitomizes rural Belgian cooking: endive and ham in a cheese based sauce, grilled in the oven. Another true classic of the nation’s cuisine is Filet Americain, which is raw minced beef served cold, mixed with lots of herbs and a raw egg. You can eat the best Filet Americain here. Basically if you love good meat and perfectly baked fries, you should book a flight. 

10. Their political system is so complicated, they don’t even understand it themselves

A specific expression ‘A Belgian Compromise’ is invented to describe the solutions the multiparty governments (yes, they have more than 1 government) come up with now and then to solve political problems, because they can’t seem to get to one, clear solution to a problem… ever. The reason behind this is that the country, as tiny as it is, has numerous parties with many different ideas about how Belgium should function. Therefore, every election there are coalitions formed out of the more than 16 main political parties. Because they speak 3 different languages – Dutch, French and German – there are some linguistic problems as well. But in the end, we all love the friendly, bit-goofy, Belgians.

Written by Alexia Simons

in Erasmus