Xenophobe's® Guides: How the Belgians see themselves

Xenophobe's® Guides: How the Belgians see themselves

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Do you know which traits Belgians think they possess? Here are some hints.

Xenophobe's® Guides: A book series that highlights the unique character and behaviour of different nations with insight and humour. 

In Flanders

The Flemish think of themselves as hardworking, honest and dependable. Look at Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp, a magnificent trio of cities, with their great cathedrals and wonderful collections of art. These were virtually city-states in their day, and still have an air of individual civic pride and autonomy about them.

Today the Flemish stand proud: they feel that their star is in the ascendant, and after centuries of being kicked around by the French-speaking Belgians they know that the boot is now on the other foot. As the old heavy industries of Wallonia collapsed, new light industries and the port facilities in the north, as well as tourism, have brought an economic renaissance for Flanders. It is now ranked as one of the most prosperous regions in Europe, leading the rest in information technology, pharmaceuticals and electrical industries.

The Flemish see themselves at the sharp end of the European economic revival. They pride themselves on their honesty, good nature and humanity, and feel they are cultured in a way that could not be labelled ostentatious. In fact, very Belgian.

In Wallonia

The French-speaking Belgians are more likely than the Flemish to see themselves first and foremost as Belgians. The truth is that they are passing through troubled times. They see themselves as being between a rock and a hard place.

The French-speakers have lost power. They have lost the initiative in a land in which they were once the undisputed masters. Wallonia is taking on the aspect of a pleasant, sleepy province somewhere vaguely in Europe.

The French-speaking Bruxellois see themselves as even more threatened. Encircled by Flanders, they find that the Flemish want to make Brussels the capital of Flanders, despite the fact that the majority of Bruxellois are francophone. (‘It depends how you draw the map of Brussels,’ retort the Flemish.) In a word, the French-speakers of Belgium consider themselves oppressed. They find this hard to accept, for they see themselves as hardworking, dependable, good-natured, sociable and cultured (but not excessively), and rather undeserving of their relegation to playing second fiddle.

For more, read The Xenophobe's Guide to the Belgians.


Reproduced from Xenophobe's Guide to the Belgians by kind permission of Xenophobe's® Guides.

Photo credit: Ptipaps via Wikimedia Commons / Republished 2016.

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1 Comment To This Article

  • Tony posted:

    on 21st March 2013, 12:52:49 - Reply

    Having lived in both parts of Belgium 9 years in total, I agree that the Flemish have very much this concept of themselves. I did noticed, however, that many Flemish people have a chip on their shoulder concerning the French speaking Belgians. This has not changed even though they have prospered and the French speaking area has declined. As for them being hard working and honest I have noticed little difference to any other country I have lived in. I always recall the shameful disclosure from a head of a company in Antwerp who claimed his technical training staff could prove that Walloons are less intelligent and lazier than the Flemish. It simply demonstrates that every country has its idiots.
    As for Wallonia they too like their Flemish colleagues are just as hard working and honest. What I did find, however, was that there was less animosity towards their Flemish colleagues. I have very fond memories of both areas and the south of the country to my mind did have a warmer and more welcoming attitude.
    It is very sad to see the efforts made to split the country when both sides enhance and contribute to this beautiful country with an incredible history.