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Business Etiquettes in Belgium


Although third-party introductions are not necessary, they often smooth the way. Regardless of how you are introduced, you must always be polite and well mannered. Belgians are careful and prudent so take time before they trust others, be they individuals or representatives of companies. Business dealings tend to be bureaucratic. There are many procedures and a great deal of paperwork. Belgians are excellent linguists and many are sufficiently fluent to conduct meetings in English.

Belgians also prefer subtlety to directness, believing that subtlety is a reflection of intelligence. Although they are more direct in their communication than many cultures, if a response is too direct it may be seen as simplistic. They prefer communication to be logical and based on reasoning.

Belgians often engage in long, critical discussions before reaching a decision so that they can be certain that they have considered all the alternatives. They believe it is rude to be confrontational.

Business Meeting Etiquette

  • Appointments are necessary.
  • The person you are meeting will generally set the time for the meeting, usually mid morning or mid afternoon.
  • Avoid scheduling meetings during July and August, which are prime vacation times; the week before Easter; and the week between Christmas and New Year.
  • Everyone is expected to arrive on time. Arriving late may brand you as unreliable.
  • Meetings are formal.
  • First appointments are more socially than business oriented, as Belgians prefer to do business with those they know.
  • Do not remove your jacket during a meeting.

Dress Etiquette

  • Men should wear dark coloured, conservative business suits with white shirts and silk ties.
  • Women should wear business suits or conservative dresses.
  • Men should only wear laced shoes, never loafers or other slip-ons, as they are too casual.
  • Polished shoes are an integral part of a professional image.

Business Cards

  • Business cards are exchanged without formal ritual.
  • Have one side of your business card translated into French or Dutch. This shows respect and understanding of the linguistic heritage of your colleagues.
  • If you have meetings in both areas, have two sets of business cards printed, and be careful to use the proper ones.
  • Present your business card so the recipient can read the side with their national language.