Ten good reasons to be Belge

10 good reasons to be Belge

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Together Magazine offers a sideways glance on why it’s easy to love the flat lands of Belgium and its cultural quirks.

Ten good reasons to be Belge Best rain

Most countries measure rainfall by quantity, but Belgium’s precipitation can also offer a bewildering breadth of forms. From the merest hint of drizzle to torrential downpours, nowhere beats Belgium for getting wet. It’s stated in the holy scriptures that paradise is ‘a well-watered garden’ and who would doubt that, even if we don’t live in paradise, we at least have a very well-watered garden?

Ten good reasons to be Belge Best stereotypes 

Think of Belgium and most people will conjure up images of beer, chocolate and frites. What’s so bad about that?

Longest non-existent government

All too often, the headlines report Belgium as being in crisis. How do people react? Ten good reasons to be Belge There’s no civil disorder, no panic in the streets, just people getting on with their lives. We’ll simply discuss it all over a beer or three, secure in the knowledge that we’ll muddle through somehow. We went for 589 days without a government, a world record. In many parts of the world we’d have been called a failed state, but we found that, if anything, things worked a little better than usual. 

Best tax offices 

Ten good reasons to be Belge When I went to sort out my taxes I found the people to be very friendly and helpful, so much that once we had finished, I said I had a bit of an embarrassing question to ask. That got their attention, so I asked: “So these are federal taxes, to the federal government?” “Oh yes, that’s correct,” they assured me. I went for the kill: “But we’ve had no federal government for a long time, so I would like a discount on my taxes because of this.” They were stunned. I suggested a 50 percent discount as being reasonable. They looked at me as if I was mad. I told them I was only joking and they burst into relieved laughter. Of course I was joking, I’d have settled for 30 percent.

Ten good reasons to be Belge National anthem? What national anthem? 

The average Brit starts mumbling after the first couple of lines of God Save the Queen, so it was with utter delight that I discovered Prime Minister yves Leterme didn’t know the Belgian national anthem either (it’s called La Brabançonne, for those who don’t know) when he so memorably burst into La Marseillaise. Can you imagine any other nation’s leader being so bold? As I pointed out to my Belgian friends, at least he didn’t sing Deutschland über Alles.

You can knock down the PM 

Ten good reasons to be Belge In November 2002, then Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt was out cycling when he was knocked down by a car at a roundabout near Gent, breaking his elbow. It was treated as a normal traffic accident, and no big issue was made. Try crashing into Silvio Berlusconi and see what happens. Here’s a clue – Bay of Naples, concrete overcoat.

Ten good reasons to be Belge Zen Buddhism is Belgian

Now this may be news to many, but it is true; I checked it in Wikipedia. Belgium contains two Zen koans – or instructional puzzles. The first is the country code, BE. What more concise exposition of Zen is there than the simple word ‘be’? Be alive, be conscious, be Belge! The second is the last syllable – 'um' – best illustrated by this ancient tale: A novice monk goes up to the Guru, who is busy contemplating a frite. “Master,” he asks, “how may I find enlightenment?” The Guru replies: “Child, canst thou explain the rules concerning whether Belgian establishments can or cannot allow smoking on their premises?” “Ummmm,” said the young monk. “Just keep repeating that until you get enlightenment,” states the Guru, and dismisses him.

Annoy extremists effortlessly

Ten good reasons to be Belge I’d only been in the country for a few days when I saw an old man shuffling along the street delivering free newspapers. As he came to my house he offered me a copy which I thanked him for. Then I noticed it was in Flemish. Demonstrating my newfound mastery of the bilingual system, I explained to him in my schoolboy French that I didn’t know Flemish so could I have a copy in French. He looked angry and stormed off in a huff. I turned the paper over and saw it was the Vlaams Belang newsletter.

Ten good reasons to be Belge The drive of your life

Priorité à droit exemplifies the line between madness and genius. Initially I thought it was the former, but now I finally get it. It’s a fantastic experiment in Darwinian Theory, which also ensures that there is a plentiful supply of transplant organs...

We’re here 

Ten good reasons to be Belge Some expats whine and complain about Belgium, but surely it’s wise to make the most of where you are and, if you look positively, Belgium is full of interesting places and people. What’s more, we at Together will bring you the best of La Belgique, in a handy-sized magazine. What more could you wish for?

Andy Carling / Reprinted with permission of Together Magazine.

Published in 2012; updated by Expatica 2016.

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3 Comments To This Article

  • haggar_dunord posted:

    on 25th October 2012, 05:05:39 - Reply

    Les pays heureux n'ont pas d'histoire, remember? Take any statistic, report, scandal, good news or bad news in the world media it will NEVER cite Belgium - and we love it that way. At best there was a movie called "If this is Tuesday it must be Belgium" and that is as close as we got to the world noticing us. In the meanwhile we bumble along, do our (sometimes reprehensible) thing, slog a beer (one of the best in the world)e eat well and live longer than many. Of all the 18 countries I have lived and worked in, Belgium was/is always the most comfortable, and "Vive les Belges!"(Fernand Reynaud)
  • Imran Majeed posted:

    on 25th October 2012, 01:38:11 - Reply

    My second home land is Belgium my origins is Asia Pakistan and been living here almost 15 years and I have every thing what you dream .even I am jobless but I get pretty much money from unemployment department .and we call this country ,a prince of Europe .although I don't have my house but I can buy it any time with low interest rates .is this happen in America .especially in medical department Belgian are best in the world .and education system is very strict and strong .so on what you want more ............... People's of Belgian are more sufictecated then other countries .although they don't speak to much with the foreigners but they never hurt them .they are polite and humble .i love you Belgium .i really enjoy in a rainy day and night it's a sign of paradise on earth it's really true .
  • Strudel posted:

    on 24th October 2012, 23:07:48 - Reply

    The things you get from living in such a wonderful place, including, but not limited to: - phenominal healthcare. Not only will you get incredibly good care, by intelligent and sympathetic healthcare providers, but they are kind enough to help you in English. To make you feel more at ease. And as a cancer survivor, I will not hear you slag off the healthcare system, so don't even try. I still own my house, despite the extremely high costs of the treatments I received... Whereas in MANY other countries, I'd now be bankrupt or not a survivor. - The education system. Want to learn Dutch? You will pay next to nothing, and in some places, literally nothing, to learn it. University education? No problem, you will not be spending the rest of your working life trying to pay off student loans as well as your home, car, and for your own kids education. - skilled labour force. To work at a McJob, you need to have 3 languages. Plus be able to work. That does not make them "not very clever". Belgium transacts almost 50% of all banking transactions, discovers a surprisingly large amount of medications, and managed to get the EU centred here, dispite the French and Germans wanting it. And they have fooled you into thinking they are not bright. That's smart - underestimate someone at your own peril. After living here for near on 15 years, we have gotten to know Belgium, Belgians, and the wonderful side of this quirky, funny, and interestingly diverse country. I hate hearing ex-pats moaning and I love this top 10 list.