Looking for love in Belgium? Here’s everything you need to know about understanding local men and women and the Belgian dating scene.
Dating someone from a foreign country can be complex and challenging. After all, different cultures around the world have different ideas of what makes someone a desirable partner. What people might consider romantic or polite back home might not be well received in your new home country.
If you happen to live in Belgium, learning about the local dating scene and the mindset of Belgian men and women can really help your love life. Luckily, this guide is here to help by providing the following information about dating in Belgium:
- An overview of dating in Belgium
- How to meet people in Belgium
- Dating etiquette in Belgium
- Dating behavior in Belgian
- Moving into a relationship
- The role of the family in dating
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An overview of dating in Belgium
Belgium might not be known as the most romantic nation, but when it comes to dating, Belgian men and women have a lot to offer. For one, they speak three languages – Dutch, French, and German – so if you speak one of these, you’ve already overcome the first obstacle: the language barrier. If you don’t, however, don’t fret, as many Belgians are highly proficient in English too; particularly the Dutch-speakers. Despite this country’s gift for languages, however, you shouldn’t expect your love interest to be a chatterbox from the get-go. On the contrary, Belgians are often considered to be somewhat reserved and closed when first meeting people. This can make them appear distant, unemotional, or even disinterested in the early stages of dating. But you shouldn’t let this put you off. After all, once a Belgian man or woman enters a relationship, they are much more comfortable opening up.
Essentially, if you have the patience, getting to know a Belgian man or woman may be well worth the wait, as many of the country’s cultural stereotypes include swoon-worthy qualities. For instance, not only are Belgians generally considered to be well-mannered, dependable, calm-natured, and hard-working, they’re also not ones to play games when it comes to love. Furthermore, they place a high value on long-term relationships, which is good news if you are seeking commitment.
How to meet people in Belgium
Just like in other European countries, there are several traditional ways to meet new people and potential partners in Belgium. Meeting someone at a bar or through friends remains a common way to meet Belgian men and women. This is especially true in smaller cities that have tighter communities and offer fewer opportunities for people to mingle. Given the reserved and humble nature of Belgians, it is also perhaps not surprising that the majority of couples meet this way.
Online dating is another option that has become increasingly popular in Belgium. There are now a plethora of dating websites that provide ample opportunities to meet local men and women. However, you may find that in larger cities such as Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, and Genval, many of the users and members are from overseas, as this is where the majority of expats live. EliteDating.be, Meetic.be, and Parship.be are some of the more popular dating sites for those looking for relationships. Meanwhile, Tinder, Bumble, Happn, and Badoo remain the go-to apps for casual dating.
Dating etiquette in Belgium
When it comes to dating etiquette, Belgium is fairly similar to other European countries. That said, there are certain cultural traits that are useful to know when dating as an expat.
Making the first move
Generally speaking, Belgians tend to move slowly when it comes to showing their interest in a potential partner. Therefore, it might take some time for them to muster up the courage to ask someone out. If you met through mutual friends, which is common in Belgium, you might see them several times before they make a move and ask you out for coffee.
A typical dating scenario in Belgium
In Belgium, first dates usually involve the usual scenarios such as going to cafés, restaurants, and bars. You might also visit parks, cinemas, and fun cultural attractions. If you happen to live in a large city such as Brussels, there are plenty of fun things to do, depending on your preference. In fact, all of the major cities in Belgium are full of fun activities to suit all interests.
Dating behavior in Belgian
While it’s always wise to take cultural stereotypes with a pinch of salt, there are certain traits that Belgians are known for around the world. These may become apparent once you begin to navigate the local dating scene.
While your Belgian sweetheart might not spoil you with roses or dance with you in the moonlight, they will certainly never keep you waiting. This is because people in Belgium consider being late a major sign of disrespect; furthermore, punctuality is a prided trait. If your date is picking you up, therefore, make sure that you are ready well in advance as they will likely be on your doorstep before the agreed time.
Neatness and order are highly regarded in Belgian culture and men, in particular, are penchant to self-grooming; down to their clean and tidy fingernails. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to scrub up for the occasion. Showing up to a date wearing torn jeans or overly casual clothes will unlikely impress a Belgian. They also tend to take great pride in maintaining clean and tidy homes; so, if you’re inviting someone over for dinner, make sure your place is looking spick and span.
Belgian men and women are known to be particularly organized when it comes to their social lives and careers. It is typical for people to have active schedules and many commitments; therefore, it can be tricky to secure a place on their agenda. Belgian people also tend to like their comfort zone which means they are less likely to be available for last-minute plans or impromptu dates. Therefore, appearing flakey or unreliable, or canceling on them last-minute will not score you any points.
Belgian people are generally known to be polite, softly-spoken, and extremely well-mannered. In fact, men will even rise sometimes when a woman enters the room to show respect; or stand on public transport until women are seated. With such a big emphasis placed on manners, how you conduct yourself during a date is extremely important. For instance, you should avoid putting your hands in your pockets, yawning, or using toothpicks when eating out. Your hands should also stay on the table during the whole meal and never on your lap. Having good table manners will likely impress your date, but if your manners are below par, don’t be surprised if they give you a ‘judging look’. Another thing to bear in mind is that Belgians tend to be thrifty and don’t appreciate waste; therefore finishing all the food on your plate is important.
Flirting and body language
Belgians are not renowned for being overly passionate or touchy-feely and tend to be more formal and reserved. They will usually greet strangers with a handshake and acquaintances with a kiss on the cheek. If you are invited to a group event or dinner party, it’s common for Belgian men to shake the hand of the host; as well as everyone else in the room. They will also kiss the cheeks of women who are close acquaintances. The lack of physical contact you might experience during dates shouldn’t necessarily be taken as a sign of disinterest, though; it’s merely down to the local culture.
No time for games
One attractive quality of Belgian men and women is that they aren’t likely to mess you around or play games when it comes to dating. Remember, this is a culture that highly values honesty and good manners. Therefore, deliberately leading someone on or sending mixed signals is not seen as acceptable behavior. If they are interested in a relationship, they will let you know. And if they aren’t, at least you will know where you stand.
Because Belgians are known for being reserved and conservative, they may come across as being distant or disinterested, to begin with. They tend to be formal and closed when meeting people for the first time; therefore, it’s not common to discuss personal matters, or at least during the first date. With access to an array of top Belgian foods and gourmet restaurants, local cuisine is a great talking point, however. And chances are they will know a lot about food. Conversations are generally softly-spoken and calm; many online forums even talk about the ‘gentle’ nature of Belgian people.
Splitting the check
Women in Belgium are typically independent and happy to pay their way, therefore splitting the check is not a taboo. In fact, in this progressive nation, women are generally socially and economically empowered; enjoying good wage equality and employment conditions. As a result, men and women are seen as equals.
Acts of chivalry
That said, Belgian women still appreciate chivalry and value politeness; therefore, taking a small gift such as flowers or wine to a date will win you points. However, don’t make this too flashy, because Belgian culture is typically modest and people don’t expect lavish gestures. And by no means give her chrysanthemums, as they symbolize death in Belgium! Read more about the meaning of certain flowers around the world.
Moving into a relationship
There are no set rules in Belgium regarding when to become exclusive or invite your partner to meet your family, and so on. That said, the nation’s straight-forward approach to dating means that if a man or woman wants a relationship, they will make it known. The terms ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’, therefore, can be spoken out loud after dating for only a couple of weeks; and without fear or judgment. Similarly, a Belgian man or woman won’t think anything of asking someone to join them at a wedding or dinner party after just one date. In this respect, they can be incredibly romantic.
Meeting the family
Generally speaking, a relationship with a Belgian needs to be fairly settled before they invite you to meet their parents. After all, family is extremely important in Belgium, and not just anyone is invited to enter the circle of trust. When you do meet their parents, however, it is likely to be an informal and cozy affair because hospitality is extremely important in this culture. One thing to bear in mind, though, is that it is customary to kiss people three times on the cheeks when you greet them hello and goodbye. So that’s six times for one parent, and twelve for two; assuming there aren’t any siblings, grandparents, aunties, or cousins to kiss, too!
Despite being a fairly conservative nation, Belgians aren’t in a rush to tie the knot. In fact, in 2018, the average age at first marriage was 33.7 years for men and 31.4 years for women. It appears, therefore, that people generally like to take their time to find the right partner to settle down with. This might explain why the marriage rate in Belgium remains fairly stable; staying within the lines of 37 to 45 thousand between 2007 and 2018. Since same-sex marriage was legalized in 2003, the number of marriages between same-sex couples has also remained consistent; accounting for 2.5 % of the total number of marriages in 2017. It is worth noting that expats marrying Belgians may have to go through extra paperwork procedures to get a marriage approval in Belgium.
The role of the family in dating
Family plays an important role in Belgium; with some people living with their parents into their 20s or 30s. Therefore, as the partner of a Belgian man or woman, you can expect to have many of your Sundays dedicated to long three-course lunches or dinners with your in-laws. You are also likely to visit grandparents weekly or even talk daily.
Raising children in Belgium
While Belgian men and women are hard-working, they also know how to enjoy a good work-life balance and dedicate time to their families. In 2019, the average number of children per woman was 1.65 but this is expected to increase again slightly in the next few years. Like with marriage, Belgian women are also choosing to have children slightly later in life. According to a study by the European statistics agency Eurostat, in 2015, mothers in Belgium gave birth to their first child at an average age of 28.7 years; slightly more than in 2013 when the average age was 28.5 years. So again, it seems that women are not in a rush to settle down and start a family.
Gender roles the family home
Despite Belgian women being socially and economically empowered, traditional family values still remain strongly intact in Belgium. The country has a strong tradition of women fulfilling a predominantly domestic role, rather than a professional one. That said, the occupational gender gap has been slowly decreasing in recent years; primarily due to an increase in part-time jobs. For instance, in 2011, 43.3% of employed women worked part-time, compared to only 9.2% of men. It is also not uncommon for married couples to work side-by-side. Therefore, it seems that although women are generally more involved than men when it comes to caring for their children and home, they are managing to juggle work and family life.