25 Interesting Things

25 Interesting Things & Facts That I Learned While Staying in Belgium

I first visited Belgium in July 2013 and I stayed for almost two months. It didn’t take long for me to come again since we made a second visit just this August 2014. It’s October now and I’m actually still here (and would most likely stay for a year). Given the total time that I have spent here, surely I have come to learn, love, and appreciate a LOT of things about this underrated European country; so in turn, I will try to sum it up and share it with you guys!

But first, let me explain why I described it as underratedaside from it being a small (but influential) country on the map, some people and articles actually refer to Belgium as the most boring country in the world — this may or may not be true depending on how you define ‘boring’, but personally, I don’t agree with it. What I rather agree to are the satirical articles that ponder on why would anyone even say that Belgium is boring…

  • When they have a naughty pissing statue as a famous landmark
  • When they hold the current world record for having the most number of days without a government (that did not result to chaos)
  • When they have monks (yes, monks!) who make great-tasting beers that are famous all over the world

(I’ll discuss more of these things in detail later on in this post.)
But, see…?! Belgium is NOT boring! It’s just exceptionally odd in a charming way!

*Laughs* But I hope you get my point: it can be really interesting here and I guess people just tend to equate boredom to it because of the ‘relaxed’ and ‘laid-back’ ambiance (which I generally don’t mind). Besides, I believe that as long as you know where to go and what to do, Belgium can be a fun place to be! It’s like that for me and I just ultimately love experiencing any different culture, environment, and way of life.

» READ: 25 Things That Everyone Needs to Eat & Drink in Belgium

Therefore with this blog post, I will be sharing with you some of the interesting quirks and random facts that I learned while staying in Belgium as a foreigner from Philippines, Asia.

First off:

#1 – The existence of 3 official languages & 3 regions

Belgium Map

Belgium has 3 official languages (Dutch, French, German) and 3 regions (Flemish, Brussels, Walloon). Flemish (or Flanders) and Walloon (or Wallonia) are further subdivided into provinces but Brussels is not a province nor a part of any province.

As for the languages, those who speak Dutch — or to be precise: Flemish, which is a local dialect of Dutch — make up 59% of the population and are mostly from the Flemish region/community. Whereas those who speak French make up 41% of all Belgians and are mostly from the Walloon and Brussels regions. (There is only a small group that speaks German as highlighted in the map above.)

Trivia: There is actually a bit of tension going on between the Flemish-speaking region and the French-speaking region which might have rooted from the political scene. I say this because there are a LOT of governing bodies that oversee the different communities in Belgium — it’s a known fact that Belgians are experts in making simple things complicated; so if I try to discuss this aspect, this post would become very long and complicated. With that, just imagine the kinds of arguments and clashes that they have to do with one another… Rest assured though, the situation is not alarming, it’s definitely not resulting to any sort of madness or riot.

More Trivia: The Flemish region is in a sense, more prosperous than the Walloon region. Brussels by the way, is home to NATO and the de facto capital of the European Union so it’s kind of a big thing. Aaaand Belgium is a federal monarchy, so they do have kings, queens, princesses, etc.

As for education, Flemish schools often require children to learn French, Walloon schools require either Dutch or English at some point, and German community schools require French lessons. I guess it depends per school but it’s evident how each region tries to incorporate the other regions’ languages too — which is good. Anyhow, I just think this is awesome because if you happen to learn all three, it’s so easy to become a polyglot later on in your life (at least that’s what I think). But oh, don’t assume that every Belgian person would fluently speak all 3 languages.

Nevertheless, it won’t be hard to speak to Belgians in English especially if you’re in cities like Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, etc. But in the ‘countryside’, it would be a bit hard to find someone who speaks English. It’s possible especially if you come up and talk to younger people, but it becomes rare for older ones.

#2 – The country is incredibly flat

Flat Belgium

There are not that many mountains or hills, especially in the north (Flemish region) which has its highest point at only 60 meters. The south (Walloon region) is more hilly, but still not so with its highest point at only 694 meters – the highest point in all of Belgium, Signal de Botrange.

#3 – The abundance of bicycles

Bicycle Parking

Much like it’s neighbor, the Netherlands, Belgium is a land of ‘cyclists’. Everyone has their own bike and most short-distanced trips are done with it instead of a car — which is great because other than it being a healthy activity, it’s also eco-friendly! With this, of course you will always see bicycle parking spaces, cyclist traffic lights, and proper bike lanes; therefore, you can absolutely go around town or in the forests and be totally assured of your safety and route.

Belgian Bikes

Personally, I find this amazing because in the government in Manila has little to no regard for cyclists. I guess, given the condition of our air, biking isn’t an ideal thing at all; but it’s still such a shame because I LOVE biking. I always did it when I was small and still living in my hometown: Batanes (a rural island in the Philippines). So imagine how I first ogled at all the people riding their bikes here! Some would even decorate it while some others would drive such lovely vintage ones ♥ (In most cities like Antwerp and Brussels, there are also rental bikes spread out all over the streets like the photo above on the right).

#4 – The love of cycling and the sport

Cycling Sport

Related to #1, a lot of Belgians love to cycle (they even have an event that celebrates ‘all things bicycle’ called as Tour de Fats) so I guess it follows that most of them love the sport of cycling too.

Do you know the Tour de France? There are several Belgian cyclists who have become champions of that, which makes Belgium the second country with the most Tour de France wins behind France. Belgians even won medals in the Olympic Games and other different popular cycling races all around the globe so it makes sense that they are proud of this, and therefore ‘follow’ the sport.

But I guess this applies mainly for the males since I’ve never seen a female friend or relative of Jonas that goes loco over cycling like the men do… Truth be told, when I’m walking around town, I would often only see male cyclists in full gear seemingly on training or just out for their daily exercise—but never a female one (though there are few female watchers that I see on TV during races… but maybe they are family?)

And oh, if I may add: some of these cyclists that I see would even sometimes be old men which is just admirable. Again, in contrast with my home country, not a lot of old people are as active as that.

*Trivia – In a traffic accident, it is actually an instant assumption that it’s the fault of the vehicle driver and NOT of the pedestrian or cyclist; unless the driver can actively prove it was the cyclist’s/pedestrian’s fault.

#5 – The traffic jams

Traffic Jams

Of course this is something that I don’t love, but it’s an interesting thing. I found out that Belgium (specifically in Brussels & Antwerp) has the worst traffic jams* in the world according to Forbes. For example: they say that drivers in Brussels waste an estimated 83 hours a year in traffic!! (And I thought we have it bad in the Philippines! But fret not my fellow Filipinos, we are still one of the cities in the world with the worst traffic …So, yay? But seriously, I think we still have it worse because unlike Belgium, our drivers are never disciplined and the roads are never orderly nor good.)

Now apparently, the congestion here is said to be mainly caused by company cars, in which 1 out of 5 Belgians have — oi, that’s a lot! This definitely comes off as a weird thing to me because companies in Asia don’t do this for their employees, they only do it for those who are on a very high managerial or executive position. But it seems that it is more tax advantageous for companies here to give out cars rather than to give higher salaries.

“…What!? How can that be more tax advantageous???” Well Belgium has the highest tax rates in Europe and doing this will make companies pay less tax compared to when they give their employees a raise or a bonus.

*Trivia – Belgium is the world’s 3rd country with the most vehicles per square kilometers after the Netherlands and Japan. Another trivia: there is an ongoing + life-long ‘joke’ that Belgians have worse roads than the Netherlands since when you cross the border, you’ll immediately see and feel the difference.

*Note: In terms of frequent traffic however, Paris and London rank higher.

#6 – But to counter #3, the presence of amazing public transportation!

De Lijn

Which is definitely beneficial not only for Belgians (who don’t have or want to drive a car) but for tourists too! And again, this makes me sad and envious because Manila has none of this — but okay, I know that it’s expected as it’s a 1st vs 3rd world country predicament *tear drop*. Anyhow, other than their awesome rail system and stations (that can just easily transfer you to any European country), each of their three regions even have their own organized bus and tram networks:

  • Flemish region: De Lijn
  • Brussels region: MIVB-STIB
  • Walloon region: TEC

I have experienced the services of De Lijn and it always makes me want to cry whenever I see the schedules and routes that are so well-coordinated and planned! The buses have high-tech payment systems too (payment through electronic cards or through your phone) and it can even accommodate persons with disabilities (it has ramps and sections specially for them). Without a doubt, all of it just makes me say: “This! This is how a society should work!

I did mention that there are traffic jams in Antwerp and Brussels but the good thing about De Lijn is that it has its own lane on the highway; so in case there is a congestion, the buses can just breeze by with no problems. This definitely encourages people to use public transportation! …But I guess it makes you question why everyone is still driving their company car and sitting in traffic when there’s a fantastic public transport system that exists. Well, I presume that it just boils down to the way the people think: maybe they like to drive their car because they’re not paying for it nor its fuel anyway, or that maybe they just love driving as much as they love biking! Heh.

#7 – The dense, toll-free, and (sometimes) well-lit motorways

Belgian Motorways

DENSE : Belgium has one of the highest road densities in Europe. ‘Road density’ is said to be the “ratio of the length of the country’s total road network to the country’s land area”, and simply put, it means that Belgium has a LOT of roads interconnected to one another. Some of the motorways even have 3 lanes and different roads called as A-roads, B-roads, E-Roads R-roads, N-roads, T-roads, and secondary N-roads or Provincial Routes. Now I won’t bother explaining each (as it’s another complicated thing) but just imagine that they have a LOT of roads.

TOLL-FREE : Self-explanatory. I guess it makes sense for it to be toll-free because Belgians are paying a lot of taxes to their government!

WELL-LIT : Belgian motorways or highways are said to be the best lit in the world and that they even pioneered the use of high-mast lighting for roadways. But due to recent energy-saving efforts, the Flemish part doesn’t light up most of their highways anymore and that’s usually after 11PM until early morning. They only leave it on if there are extreme weather conditions, road works, accidents, or traffic jams — this saves them EUR 2 million a year, naturally.

Belgian Motorways Light from EarthNow there are some articles claiming that the Belgian highway is the only man-made structure visible from the moon at night. This is not true, the same way that the Great Wall of China is not visible from the moon. Come on guys, the moon is very far. I guess they need to brush up and say that it can be visible from space, with ‘space’ being 400km max above Earth (unless they use some high-tech zoom-in lens or whatever). So I guess the best statement to say is that the Belgian highways are one of the brightest man-made structures visible from space at night at a certain ‘height’ and with the right equipment: this is as seen in the image on the right (and above which is a zoomed in shot for a town in Belgium called Liege).

#8 – The license plates as an identifier

EU Car Plates

This doesn’t only apply to Belgium actually as it’s for the whole  of Europe. Some European countries have yellow license plates, some have blue fonts etc. (as seen here) but for the European Union countries, they are uniform in design: a blue strip on the left side of the plate with the European flag symbol (twelve yellow stars) on top and the country code of the member state in which the vehicle is registered below it (as seen here).

I just find this amusing because you can easily identify the person that’s driving in front of you.
Aaah! A terrible driver! And he’s from ____?!” -immediate stereotyping-

Kidding aside, Jonas and his friends told me that every European child has gone through this phase of pointing out these cars and deciphering what country they are from. (So I guess my amusement level is the same as that of a child now…)

#9 – The heavenly chocolate and the love for everything chocolate

Belgian Chocolates

Alas, we are discussing FOOD! (I guess that’s enough discussion about transportation.) So who would ever forget about Belgian chocolates!? It’s sooooo divine that every other country in the world tries to smack a ‘Belgian chocolate’ label on their product whenever they try to imitate and replicate the real thing, yet no one will ever beat the chocolate here. NO ONE!

The Belgians simply perfected this type of gourmet that it’s a must to try one of the famous brands like Neuhaus (the inventor of the ‘praline‘), Godiva, Leonidas, and Nirvana. Though of course, there are a LOT more other brands and shops in Belgium (like Marcolini, Wittamer, etc.) that can definitely make you cry with joy.

» READ: The Sweetest Affair, A Belgian Chocolate Tour!

To add to the frenzy of chocolate, I even noticed that there are various snacks and dishes that they try to put chocolate into and I did notice that they eat chocolate… a LOT: for breakfast, after tea, after coffee, etc. In fact, it’s only in Belgium that I experienced being given a piece of chocolate whenever I order coffee or tea.

#10 – The lekker bread and speculoos + The (typical) charming bakeries

Belgium Bakeries

Belgium has a VAST variety of bread much like Italy, Netherlands, France etc. But personally, it seems that the bread in Belgium go bad very quickly as compared to the others — which is a VERY good thing! Because this means that Belgian bakeries avoid preservatives for as much as possible so there is fresh bread everyday! I swear, the moment that I first tasted the bread here, I immediately knew the difference as compared to those that I’ve had in Asia.

Their snacks, sweets, cakes, pies, and biscuits don’t disappoint either. (Who hasn’t heard of the famous speculoos?)

Another thing that I noticed is that the typical Belgian bakeries look AMAZING. Never have I ever stumbled into a small town bakery that doesn’t look like it has been well thought out or well-decorated. (Actually, I’ve been to a bakery once that looked like a diamond shop!) Everything is just so charming and some of these bakeries even have a motif going on since I also previously chanced upon a garden-themed bakery, Alice-in-Wonderland bakery, etc. and these were not even based in the city! They were just normal bakeries in a town in Flanders.

*Lekker – Dutch word for tasty or delicious
*Trivia – It seems to me that it’s more common to celebrate birthdays here with fruit pies rather than cakes with icing etc.

#11 – The love for broodjes

Belgian Bread

Connected to #9, Belgians love and often eat broodjes or sandwiches, and they have a LOT of choices for bread type, toppings, and spreads. So it follows that aside from bakeries, they also have a lot of shops that sell these sandwiches.

My personal favorite? Their martino sandwiches that are made from steak tartare.

#12 – The typical Belgian meals

Belgian Meal

Typical Belgian meals go like this…

  • BREAKFAST: Very light. Contrary to popular notion, they DON’T eat waffles for breakfast. They eat bread (as connected to #9 and #10) and this can be bread (sliced, soft bread, hard bread, brown bread, etc.) with sliced meat, jam, butter, etc. Or in some cases, it could be bread pastries (like those with raisins, chocolate bits, fruit, gingerbread, etc.)
  • LUNCH: Medium-sized. Almost all of the time they eat brood, if not bread.
  • DINNER: The only heavy meal that often consists of potatoes with seafood/meat and vegetables.

This is something that I had to adjust to because in the Philippines (or in Asia) we often eat 3 heavy meals a day. LOL. Usually always with the combo: rice + viand.

#13 – The addicting Belgian (French) Fries with mayonnaise + Frituur

Belgian Fries

We all know the craze for Belgian fries and I will be one of the many people to confirm that they are reaaaaally good. I guess most other shops/people who sell fries all over the world just don’t know the secret to it… which is simply just to: double fry. (Or if they do know the secret, maybe they are lazy. Or maybe, it’s costly[?] and requires more time and effort. Dunno.) But surely, the right type of potatoes plus the right type of oil is vital too.

Another thing that I found interesting was that almost everyone prefer to dip it in mayonnaise instead of ketchup. At first it sounded and looked weird, but it’s actually a good dip for the fries! (Though I still prefer ketchup or no dip at all since the Belgian fries have enough ‘flavor’).

By the way, I alwaaaays crave for their fries, mind you. Everywhere we go, when I see a frituur (a shop that sells fries with different dip choices* and fried meat) I go crazy. Like really crazy. Speaking of fried meat, they are delicious! My favorites are the bitterballen and the special kurryworst.

Frituur

*Sample dip choices for meat and fries: Aside from the ketchup and mayonnaise, they also have curry ketchup, tartar sauce, cocktail Whisky sause, andalouse, American, samurai, riche, Mexican, oriental, Brazil, béarnaise or diablo.

*Trivias: Mussels + Fries combination is often referred to as Belgium’s national dish. Sounds like another odd combination but it works! Also, it appears that a growing number of Chinese people are becoming owners of frituurs! They actually have a word for these frituur-owners: frietchinees.

#14 – The lack of McDonalds and the rise of Quick + Frituur

Belgium Quick

There are not a lot of McDonald fast food shops here which makes absolute and perfect sense — Belgians already have the epic frituurs you know!!! (Personally, it even surprises me why McDonalds would even exist and thrive here.) According to factsofbelgium.com, “Belgium has one of the lowest proportions of McDonald’s in the developed world. It has 7 times fewer McDonald’s restaurants than the USA and 2 times less than France.”

But other than the frituurs, Belgium also has Quick, their own popular fast food chain founded in 1970 (so it’s like the equivalent of our Jollibee in the Philippines that continually tries to bring down McDonalds, but in Belgium’s case, they’re winning a whole lot more).

*Trivia: There’s also not a lot of Starbucks shops here, which is definitely fine. Who needs Starbucks when there are nicer cafés? …And beer.

#15 – The common & uncommon truth about Belgian Waffles

Belgian Waffles

COMMON TRUTH : that the waffles here are delicious. There are actually three (3!) common waffle types…

  • Liège Waffles – richer, denser, sweeter, and chewier. It has pearl sugars and is the most common type of waffle available in Belgium, often prepared in plain, vanilla, and cinnamon varieties and can be topped with cream, chocolate, fruits, ice cream, etc.
  • Brussels Waffles – bigger, lighter, crispier and have larger pockets. It’s easily identified given that it’s rectangular.
  • Galettes campinoises – thinner but rigid and crunchy. It’s buttery, crumbly and soft in the mouth (not to be mistaken with the French galettes which are like pancakes).

Types of Waffles Belgium

Images from brugeswaffles.com & acemal.com

UNCOMMON TRUTH : There’s NO such thing as a ‘Belgian Waffle‘ in Belgium since this is rather a type of waffle that’s popular or coined in North America. So naturally, you won’t ever find a ‘Belgian Waffle‘ in Belgium because they rather have a LOT of varieties like the three types that I’ve mentioned above.

#16 – The famous Belgian beers are made by monks and have their own custom glasses

Belgian Beer Trappist

Belgians are proud of their beer and they should be! It’s the best in the world! I know a LOT of people who love it, and some of my friends back in Asia would even often jokingly beg me to send over some of the less-popular but great-tasting beers here (there’s so many other amazing beers in Belgium aside from the well-known brands like Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, etc.).

Before I go on: I actually don’t like the taste of beer. It’s an acquired taste and I haven’t ‘acquired’ it yet unfortunately; but! There fortunately are fruit beers in Belgium that I absolutely love, like the Kriek lambic or cherry beer (ex: Lindemans) given how they are more milder.

Now take note that there are a lot of Belgian beers, around 800 different ones, and naturally: Belgians LOVE it and drink it regularly! It’s said that on average, Belgians drink 150 liters of beer per year, per person, which is no surprise because I would always see people drinking beer early in the morning in the cafés as if it’s coffee or tea. But anyways, to add more facts to the interesting Belgian beers, did you know that…

  • Some of the most popular Belgian beers are made by monks in monasteries – they are called Trappist beers and they have their own ‘order’ or association: 6 from Belgium, 2 from Netherlands, 1 from Austria, and 1 from the US. In Belgium, these 6 monasteries are: Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, and Westvleteren. Jonas’ parents live in Westmalle so I would often see the monastery.
  • Almost every beer has its own particular, uniquely shaped glass – and most of the time, they are only served in those glasses.It’s said that using the correct glass is considered to improve the beer’s flavor.
  • Most come in bottles – not cans, and again, mostly being drank from the glass and not straight from the bottle.
  • Some of the Belgian beers have interesting names – Dulle Teve means mad bitch, Duvel means devil, and then there are those beers called as Satan, Lucifer, and more.

*TriviaBelgian teenagers are legally allowed to drink beer and wine at the age of 16, but 18 for spirits. 

#17 – The concept of service/tap water in restaurants, cafés, etc.

Service Water

When you ask for water in a restaurant, expect that they will serve you a bottle of water (which is a bit costly). Apparently, it’s a cultural thing or a habit of Belgians to not serve service or tap water. No Belgian even asks for it when dining. But certainly, when you explicitly ask for ‘free tap water’ they can and will serve you that, but it would come off as a bit odd to them…

Rest assured, tap water here is DEFINITELY safe and clean; households drink their water from the tap anyways. So sometimes… when we go out, I can’t help but joke to Jonas that bewildered tourists who are not willing to pay for water can just go to the toilet room to drink from the tap if they want to.

*NoteThis is also a common thing in most European countries, but I think that the water thing is more of an instant assumption in Belgium rather than in other countries like France, etc.

#18 – The not-so-free public toilets and the lack thereof

Toilets in Europe

I’m from the Philippines and there is an abundance of free toilets in public places (mostly not so clean toilets, but at least it’s there) so it was surprising for me to see that public toilets are hard to find in Belgium. The only assurance that I have is that the metro stations have it because sometimes the shops, restaurants, or cafés don’t even have one.

Speaking of ‘free’… public toilets here are not really so free. They charge you .30 to .50 EUR cents even when it’s in the mall, in a restaurant, in the movies, etc. Of course in Manila we have toilets that we have to pay for (often with the whole shebang of extras like lotion, etc.) but you’ll always have the option of going the other way: the free way.

Surely there might be some Belgian restaurants or malls somewhere that don’t charge but I haven’t encountered those yet. Apparently though, establishments here are allowed to charge but we are NOT entirely required to pay. But you know… it’s a bit difficult to NOT pay when you see a toilet attendant (bouncer?) at the entrance — you just feel obliged to pay. No worries though, if you don’t have coins, they have plenty of change.

*Note: This is another common thing in most European countries actually.

#19 – The shopping activity is an adventure but everything closes early and closes on Sunday, except…

Meir Shopping

…for those areas where a hefty amount of tourists flock, so that will have to be in Brussels’ Gallerie St. Hubert and gift shops near the Grand Place. Bakeries and patisseries are open on Sunday mornings though, but generally, Sunday is like a dead or mellow day. Most places would really appear like a ghost town!

To add, on Mondays to Saturdays, everything often opens up at around 10AM but closes early at around 6PM (there are some that close later with 9PM as max). But the exception to this are the bars, pubs, and clubs that open until 4AM or 5AM — well of course, Belgians like to par-teeeey and have their sweet time with Belgian beers!

Another interesting thing: shopping here in Belgium is an adventure of its own if compared to the concept of big gigantic malls in the Philippines. I say this because though having a mall has its advantages (having everything in one place, etc.), to have shops scattered everywhere has it’s own perks too, and it’s specially gratifying when you happen to stumble into a unique shop or café — which is usually the case in Belgium.

Rest assured, there are malls here and galleries too, but they are very few so most of the time you’ll have to explore different streets to find what you’re looking for. It could be tiring, that’s for sure, but it’s still fun! (At least for me!)

*Note: Again, another common thing in most European countries (the closing early thing, separate shops, etc.)

#20 – The ‘aloof’ service

Customer Service

Again, coming from the Philippines, this is one of the striking differences that I saw when I first arrived in Belgium. For example, when I step in to a store or a restaurant in Manila, the staff will immediately come to my aid with big smiles and a cheery voice. They will bend over backwards in order to give you the best ‘royal treatment’ that they can give.

However, here in Belgium, it’s not like that at all.

There may be shops that have very warm and friendly staff, but in general, the service crew would be aloof. It’s not that they give bad service, no, not at all — but what I’m saying is that you will simply feel like they are just doing their jobs, nothing else: they will give you what you want or what you order, but they won’t go the extra mile. In some ways it’s a good thing (since in Manila, I sometimes feel annoyed when the staff becomes too ‘naggy’ or ‘pushy’ haha) but most of the time, it makes me miss the Filipino service and hospitality :P

*NoteAnother striking difference. If a small shop in Manila has like 10 employees, Belgian shops would normally just have two and this is a bit funny for me because most of the time, a 2-person Belgian crew works faster compared to a 10-person crew in Manila.
*Note #2: Yet another common thing in most European countries.

#21 – The great Belgian architecture and cozy-looking brick houses

Antwerp Grote Markt

If you like old, detailed, intricate, and packed-with-history kind of buildings, then Belgium is one of the best destinations for you! I’ve fallen in love for so many times with the different interior and exterior designs of the buildings, cathedrals, museums, castles, rail stations, etc. that I have seen here. Every single thing is picturesque, or in today’s terms: Instagram-worthy.

*NoteThere are not that many skyscrapers here and almost every building is old.

To add more to the already appealing aesthetics, normal Belgian houses are soooo cozy-looking! In the Philippines, we don’t normally have brick houses so the abundance of these in Belgium makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Besides, in my mind, that’s how a house should be like… looking like a traditional house. (I hope I’m making sense).

#22 – The abundance of trees, gardens, and green + The well-maintained home gardens

Belgium Gardens

I love trees and I love it even more when my surrounding is mostly filled with ‘green’ (plants, flowers, etc.). Therefore, Belgium definitely makes me happy with all their vast and well-maintained fauna. I especially like strolling through their parks or forests that are clean and filled with big and towering trees. In a way, it just makes me feel like I’m one with nature!

Another interesting thing that I noticed is that every single house in Belgium (mostly the ones away from the city) seemingly has a well-groomed garden which is crazy! Jonas’ mom for instance maintains the garden in their house all by herself and I swear, it looks like a scenery that came straight out from a home magazine. I once sent a photo as well of some of the household gardens here to my friends and they were all asking what park I was in. LOL.

#23 – The predictable yet unpredictable weather + The love for sunny weather

Belgium Weather

Much like London, Belgium can be really cold, gray and rainy for most of the year that people expect wet days almost all of the time. But of course it has its perfect days too, so when that happens, you’ll definitely see a LOT of Belgians on the streets cycling, walking, or chilling under the sun just to soak it all in. For me, this ‘phenomenon’ is a bit amusing especially when I compare the usual scene during a rainy day versus a sunny day. (Though it’s important to note that even when they forecast a sunny day, be cautious because there can still be a chance of sudden downpour).

For the seasons, Belgium has four with spring starting from March to May, summer from June to August, autumn from September to November, and winter from December to February.

#24 – The unique attractions & statues

Manneken Pis Brussels

Manneken Pis – one of the most famous statues in Belgium: a small 61cm bronze child peeing :P In his natural state, he’s naked, but he’s currently clothed in the photo above since they usually make him wear costumes. There are a lot of legends explaining this little boy which you can read here. But it seems that he’s not the only peeing statue… there’s even a girl peeing (Jeanneken Pis), and another peeing boy in Geraardsbergen.

Atomium – another famous one: a statue made of balls. LOL. Kidding aside, this shows the “shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times”. This is evidently big and there are actually escalators inside that lead you to each spheres that hold exhibit halls, etc. with the top sphere showing you the panoramic view of Brussels. Apparently, this has been named by CNN as Europe’s most bizarre building.

To add to this, there’s even a unique statue in front of the Town Hall of Antwerp called as Silvius Brabo – showing a Roman soldier, Brabo, throwing a hand of a giant (that he had killed). Some claim that Antwerp means ‘to throw a hand’ in Flemish, which is connected to this statue.

#25 – The laws, policies, and religion

Ghent

They legalize a LOT of things that would cause a HUGE uproar in a Catholic country like ours in the Philippines. For example, they legalized euthanasia in 2002, and then just this 2014, they legalized euthanasia for small children or minors (which makes them the first in the world to do this). They also legalized gay marriage in 2003, making them the second in the world after the Netherlands. Abortion is also legal since 1990, divorce is very easy, drinking is allowed at the age of 16 (as I’ve mentioned previously), forced marriages are banned, and more.

But actually this is a bit funny because the majority of the country’s people are Christians or Catholics. I initially expected them to be like us in the Philippines, but it can’t be helped! Which I like and agree to (I like freedom of choice for people). Moreover, there is a rising trend of free-thinkers and atheists in the country; for instance, I noticed that not a lot of people go to church anymore. The only time that I see people in church is when there’s a funeral going on, plus, most if not all of Jonas friends and relatives are even atheists.

Cheap Hotels in Belgium

» OVERALL

About Belgium

» READ: Things to Do in Antwerp, Belgium

…that would be it! I bet I missed mentioning several other things but I’m thinking that 25 points are enough for now. If I have something to add, I guess I can just make a part two? Besides, I still have to confirm and research if it’s actually true that Belgium has the most number of castles in the world per square mile (well, they do have 3,000 castles in total it seems). So we’ll see.

Ultimately, I hope you enjoyed this post and managed to learn more about the wonderful country of Belgium! If ever I have made an error in the statements that I’ve made above, please leave a comment below and I’ll look it over. (Most of the things I’ve listed here are based on my own experiences, research, and observations).

» Topmost cover photo by Mislav Marohnić / CC

How about you?

  • Have you ever been to Belgium? Or Europe?
  • What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear of Belgium?
  • Where are you planning to travel next?

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49 comments

  1. Nice to read how you captured the Belgian spirit in an article! One thing you might have forgotten, is the way how we like to make fun of ourselves... the part where you described the cozy houses makes me think about this: https://www.facebook.com/uglybelgianhouses/

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    1. Aaaah yes, I forgot to mention that trait too! I notice that a lot from my Belgian friends :))

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  2. I miss Europe a lot and this post brought me back at least virtually ;-) Omg Aileen, you made me soooo hungry. I would kill for waffles now, haha :-)

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    1. Haha! Come to Belgium then, Maya! ;)

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  3. A lot of complaining "locals" should read this, lot's of success on your life trip !

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    1. Thank you Fab! :D

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  4. Great post! And very recognisable for me living in Antwerp.
    One thing, though: I would argue that Dutch is a dialect of Flemish :p

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    1. HAHA! That made me laugh out loud :P You are a true Belgian for sure! Much love to all you Belgians! :D

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  5. You've summed up the essence of Belgium pretty damn well, I don't think I could do any better being a local :D You even managed to make me miss Belgium which is a hard job to do, lol! The bread, broodjes, pastires, chocolates, fritures and beers is what I miss most being in South America. As for the tap water thing: I was refused tap water once in a restaurant. Bastards! I'm thinking it might be against the law to refuse... Or at least it should be! :s

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    1. Thank you so much, Sarah! That makes me very happy to hear! :) I guess my 'immersion' here has been really good then, haha! And about the tap water, indeed it should be against the law! :P That must have been really frustrating though. Anyhow, I hope you're doing fine over there in South America! I miss my hometown too, but it's always nice to be in a new environment, right? :)

      Reply
  6. Belgium sounds like an incredibly interesting place - I don't know who would think otherwise! And you've given plenty of good reasons! I have yet to visit Belgium but I'd love to someday!

    Reply

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