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Belgium Customs & Etiquettes
 
 
 
 
 

General

Belgium is on the whole an egalitarian society. Women are not expected to change their name when they marry. There are laws governing paternity as well as maternity leaves and laws forbidding sexual harassment in the workplace.

Meeting & Greeting

  • Greetings entail a degree of formality. A brief handshake is the common greeting among people who do not know each other.
  • Once a relationship is developed, three kisses on the cheek may replace the handshake. This is more a kissing of the air near the person's cheek. Start with the left cheek and alternate.
  • Men never kiss other men; they always shake hands.

Gift Giving Etiquette

  • If you are invited to a Belgian's house, bring flowers or good quality chocolates for the hostess.
  • Older Belgians may expect flowers to be unwrapped.
  • Do not give white chrysanthemums as they signify death.
  • Flowers should be given in an odd number, but not 13.
  • Liquor or wine should only be given to close friends.
  • Gifts are opened when received.

Dining Etiquette

  • Belgians socialise in their homes and restaurants, although the home is reserved for family or close friends.
  • If you receive a written invitation, the response must be written as well.
  • Wait for your host or hostess to introduce you to the other guests.
  • Dress conservatively. Belgians take pride in their appearance and expect you to do the same.
  • Arrive on time. Punctuality demonstrates respect.
  • Wait for your host to tell you where to sit.
  • Women take their seats before men.
  • Table manners are Continental -- the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
  • Keep your wrists above the table when eating.
  • Wait to see if your host offers a toast before sipping your drink.
  • The guest of honour may also give a toast.
  • Women may offer a toast.
  • It is polite to stand for a toast.
  • The Flemish raise their glasses twice during a toast. The glass is initially raised during the toast and then at the completion of the toast.
  • Never leave food on your plate. It is seen as both rude and wasteful.
  • Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel on your plate, tines facing upwards, with the handles facing to the right.
  • Belgians take pride in their cuisine, so praising a meal is a sincere compliment.