5 things you need to know about Belgium…

...but everyone forgets to mention!

There’s more to a country than is in the guidebooks, and it’s often the little details that make the difference. The things “everybody knows”, so doesn’t tell you.

But it’s in these small things that the most attractive, amazing or important information lies. So, here are the 5 things you need to know about Belgium… but no-one will tell you!

5 things to know about Belgium, cycling in Belgium

'The area you live in will define which language is most prevalent. So, make sure you know which language you need to know for your chosen home city.'

It’s Actually not that Big…

At only 30,528 square kilometres, Belgium is the fifth smallest country in Europe. Whilst you might think that being small isn’t a benefit, it means you can get to France, Luxembourg, Germany or the Netherlands with only 2 hours driving, not bad at all.

You’ll also find yourself really close to some key European capitals including London (320km), Paris (265km) and Amsterdam (173km) with train services to all three.

So, if you’re looking for a home that lets you travel and see the rest of Europe really easily, you won’t find a better one than Belgium.

(And if you’re wondering, the four smallest countries in the EU are Vatican City, Monaco, San Marino, Liechtenstein and AndorraNow you’re trivia quiz ready!)

4 Languages, 1 Country.

Did you know that four languages are spoken widely in Belgium?

Well, there are, and one of them certainly surprises many people:

  • 59% speak Dutch*.
  • 40% speak French.
  • 1% speak German.
  • And 55% speak English as a second language.

The area you live in will define which language is most prevalent. So, make sure you know which language you need to know for your chosen home city.

Whilst the main cities will see most people able to use English, for more remote or quieter areas, even a basic level of the local language is beneficial.

*Though this could most accurately be called Flemish, which is to Dutch what American is to English. The same but some different words, phrases and pronunciations.

Local Government Rules.

Where some countries have large, centralised government, Belgium does things smaller. Every Belgian municipality has its own City Hall, called a Commune, which handles the administrative and bureaucratic side of life.

If you’re staying for more than three months, you’ll need to inform your local Commune. This is where you get your Residence Visa, so take along lots of identifying documents including your passport, ID, any marriage certificates and birth certificates, for you and your family.

But the Commune is about more than admin, here you can find out lots more about the local area and your new home. Information on local events, schools, and pre school facilities can all be found here, so don’t forget to ask!

The Favourite Form of Transport.

The Belgians are great lovers of sport and the outdoors, so, of course, they’re into cycling. The country offers a lot of choice for those who enjoy life on two wheels. If you’re a casual rider who likes the flats, fancy a challenge with hilly areas or just see a bike as a commuter choice, the Belgian cycle network has you covered.

From urban Antwerp to bucolic Flemish Brabant, getting around by bike is easy.  In fact, in a country of 10.4 million people, there are over 8.8 million kilometres of mapped cycle routes. Those are split into over 158,000 individual routes, 9,800 of which you’ll find in Brussels.

The paths themselves are really well signposted and kept in great condition. However, the Belgian weather doesn’t always play ball, so make sure you take the right clothing for any cycling adventures you have planned.

That said, if you prefer off-road mountain biking, there are over 2,800km of trails documented by enthusiasts. These trails cover over 55,500m of route descent, letting you choose the level of challenge you want from your trip.

Whether you’re a beginner or ride as a serious sport, Belgium has the terrain and infrastructure for you. Is it any wonder that Belgium gave birth to the world’s greatest cyclist, Eddy Merckx?

Dinner is Served.

While many people know that Belgium is famous for chocolate, waffles and beer, do you know just how big those foodstuffs are and what else you can get? After all, you can’t live on beer and chocolate. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Well, let’s start with the beer. As of 2021 there were over 400 active breweries in Belgium, producing over 1,500 different types of beer. Whatever your beer of choice, you’ll find it in Belgium and some distinct varieties around it as well.

When it comes to chocolate, things are even more impressive. Boasting over 2,000 chocolatiers, producing over 172,000 tonnes per year, chocolate is big business in Belgium. Though this isn’t a surprise when you consider that chocolate production in the country can be traced back to the 17th century.

If that’s dessert and drinks taken care of, what about the main course?

Many people are surprised at the importance of Belgian fries, or frites as a staple. You’ll find many shops selling them in the towns and cities across the country. That explains why Belgians eat more fries than Americans, per year, and why they’re the national dish.

But once you have your fries, what to put with them? If you’re feeling saucy, there’s a lot on offer including familiar sauces like mayonnaise, curry and tomatoes, but you’ll also find more exciting varieties. These include Andalouse sauce (peppers, mayonnaise, tomato paste, & pickles), Samurai sauce (mayonnaise, Tunisian chili, spices, tomatoes, & peppers) and sauce Americaine (mayonnaise with tomato, chervil, onions, capers, seafood stock, & celery) should you be feeling more adventurous.

From there, we’d recommend trying moules-frites (mussels with fries), stoofvlees (a hearty beef stew to drench your fries with), and waterzooi (a creamy stew of fish or chicken). Whatever your tastes, you’ll be well fed in Belgium!

These are just some of the hidden gems of wisdom you’ll need to know to live in Belgium. If you’d like help unlocking the secrets of Belgian life, then we recommend working with some of our members. They can help you plan and complete your move with ease, then support you as you find your way in your new home country.

 

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