Belgium Culture

Belgium culture is concentrated within each language community and it is sometimes difficult to speak of a common Belgian culture. Commen elements of Belgian identity are friendly predisposition and indulgence in life.

Art | Government | Made-in-Belgium | Business | The Monarchy | Stories & Folklore | Comics | Music | History | Belgian flag |



Here are some basic Belgium Facts visitors might want to be familiar with.

I think Brugel depicted the Belgian identity spirit perfectly with his paintings of weddings and festivities. Belgians appreciate good food and wine and many celebrations are centered around them.

On the other hand Belgians come across as a lukewarm audience. Concert performers have it though with an audience that is not keen on participating unless really motivated. It is said that if a singer/band is successful in Belgium then there is a good chance they will also be appreciated by the rest of Europe.

Nonetheless Belgium has seen the flourishing of major artistic movements that have had tremendous influence on European art and culture.


Belgium culture: Art

This is the nation that has produced the Surrealist painters Rene Magritte and Paul Delvaux.

The Belgians where at the forefront of the avant-garde in the late 19th century, hosting exhibitions by Cezanne even before he was fashionable in his own country.

It was a Belgian who brought Art Nouveau to Architecture. Victor Horta designed the world’s first Art Nouveau house in Brussels in 1893.


Belgium culture: Museums
The most impressive Belgium art museum is Royal Museum of Fine Arts, in Antwerp. The museum's permanent collection ( Over 7000 works) is one of the most important collection in Europe. It has unique paintings by Flemish Primitives such as Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling as well as the work of Quinten Metsijs , the founder of the Antwerp Art School.

The Plantin-Moretus Museums in Antwerp is a world heritage site, is the largest publishing house of the seventeenth century.


Belgium culture: Government

Belgium is a very well structured country. The federal government works so well, that we decided to create three more. The Flemish, the Walloon and the Brussels government. These four bodies work so perfectly on their own that there is absolutely no need to work together. And so they don’t.

There is a strict line between the three forces of legislature, the executive government and the judiciary. This line is so strict that in one specific emergency the Prime Minister called the judge of the High Court to tell him mind to his own business and to not interfere with the government.

According to him this was ‘Good governance’. And we agree - in Belgium everybody is equal, but some are more equal then others.


Belgium culture: Made in Belgium
Belgium culture heritage is very rich but the nation has simply not been around long enough to acquire the cultural roots to which the label ‘Belgian’ can be attached and made readily identifiable. However, according to my research, the main Belgian export is the Belgian waffles. Never mind Antwerp Diamonds and Belgium Chocolate - waffles are Belgium key trademark. Even thought that most Belgians don’t even know how to make waffles, they are internationally seen as the Waffle Gurus. You might disagree here with me but it’s more difficult to find a store with Antwerp diamonds then to find a recipe of Belgian waffles.

And let’s face it - it’s normal. After all, waffles are food and that is our first desire.

Other unknown Belgian Recipes include Vlaamse stoofkarbonnaden aka carbonnades flamandes (a beef stew with beer, mustard and laurel)speculaas (cookie), waterzooi (a broth made with chicken or fish, cream and vegetables), Endives with bechamel sauce, Brussels sprouts and Eel in green Paling In 't Groen (river eels in a sauce of green herbs)

The story would not be complete with out chocolate as a good second. Our Belgium Beer are already less known. Most foreigners just assume it’s their own local beer. The French for example translate the name Duvel to Démon. They tried to convince me that it’s French. The next step is a split of the company or an acquisition. Who knows?


Belgium culture: Business and Finance
As you all know, we Belgians are specialized in breaking our own companies. Think about Dexia and Fortis. We are giving 5 billion extra to Paribas to take over Fortis bank - and still Paribas hopes to get a nice 10 billion.

And that brings me to the fine and well-designed financial system in our dear country. It’s build on trust and the knowledge of the financial bourgeoisie. We are lucky to have Davignon who sold most of our Belgian crown jewels to foreign co operations.

We support them both to become the wealthiest people in the country while all the others accept their losses.

It’s not a problem at all. We like those two guys so much, we’d give them our last euro.


Belgium culture: The Monarchy

Belgian crown jewels… we actually have only one left and he lives in Leaken close to Brussels. Our king is so stressed these days. First it takes 6 months to form a government. Then the prime minister doesn’t want to do it anymore, and then he decides he wants to. Then again he says he does not want to… Do you know the poor man could not even go on Christmas holiday during this mess?

And this was then followed by a financial crisis that he even felt. He immediately asked for a raise. Anyways, he’s getting older but his son is ready to take over.And we are lucky to have him - Filip is a real national hero. In an interview he told the country that he would not allow the Vlaamse Blok to split up this country or they would have to go through him. Did you see him? He’s really impressive.And do you know his brother Prince Laurent? In 1996, several years of research and walks, he wrote a book about dogs entitled book “Suivez the dog in art and the city”.

Prince Laurent is very special. He has a degree in financial manipulation of the university of Knokke where the rector is the ex CEO of Fortis. His final thesis was about buying a villa in Italy with tax money without anybody becoming anxious.

He even did it - and nobody noticed a thing. Until, of course, he asked the military to renovate it for him. Only then did we discover several invoices from Belgian Expats for work done on an Italian island where there is actually no Belgian interests.

Well, I’m sure the military was happy to be there with the nice weather and all …

You know, I like Laurent. He is a real Belgian who sees the law weak enough to bend. And frankly, there is nothing more Belgian then that.


Belgium culture: The Belgian flag
The national flag of Belgium (Dutch: Vlag van België, French: Drapeau de la Belgique, German: Flagge Belgiens) contains three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), yellow, and red. The colours were taken from the colours of the Duchy of Brabant, and the vertical design may be based on the flag of France.Read more


Stories & Folklore

The foundation story of Antwerp depicts a giant, Druon Antigone, who lived in the Steen castle and terrorized the inhabitants of the region. The giant finally met his match when Salvus Brabo cut off his hand and threw it into the river Scheldt. Brabo decided to settle in the are - and soon a city was founded around the castle. The citizens called it Hand-Werpen (Throwing hands), which later became Antwerpen.

Dog of Flanders: The Story of Nello and Patrasche.
most tourists just don’t understand what dog of Flanders is all about, except the Japanese. Japanese people might not be too Familiar with Belgium but Flanders immediately reminds them of the “A Dog of Flanders” story. In Japan everyone knows exactly what happened to Nello and Patrasche in the cathedral of Antwerp on a cold winter night.


Belgian Culture through Comics .

As one of the few arts where Belgium has had an international and enduring impact in the twentieth century, comics are known to be an integral part of Belgium culture. Belgian comics are a distinct subgroup in the comics history.

European Comics bloomed after WW II, especially in Belgium, France, Italy and England. As most of you certainly know Tintin, few only could point Belgium as his native land.

Asterix In Belgium

Asterix In Belgium

Famous Belgian Comic characters.

The Smurfs -- and their infectious theme music have been forever ingrained into the pop culture lexicon of several generations.

Smurfs Smurf in Love Statue

Lucky Luke Lasso Statue

Lucky Luke is a Franco-Belgian comics series created by Belgian cartoonist, Maurice De Bevere.

Set in the American Old West, it stars the titular character, Lucky Luke, the cowboy known to shoot faster than his shadow.

Other famous Belgian comics include:

Tintin
Marsupilami
Lucky Luke
Bob and Bobette (Suske en Wiske)
Blake and Mortimer

To find out more about Worldwide Famous Comics from Belgium



The Belgian Music Scene
Jazz musician Toots Thielemans and singer Jacques Brel have achieved global fame. In rock/pop music, Telex, Front 242, K's Choice, Hooverphonic, Zap Mama, Soulwax and dEUS are well known. But one of the greatest contributions to the world of music was Adolphe Sax - the inventor of the saxophone. Another one of my favorites is Django Reinhardt, a Belgian Gypsy jazz guitarist, and one of the first prominent European jazz musicians.


Belgian Culture: The History

Pre History of Belgium
North-west Europe was inhabited by the Neanderthals. Leftovers and tools from 500 000 years ago have been found on several places. But it would not be before 4000 BC that the first villages up to 100 persons would appear.

Middle Ages. History
By the early 8th century a small village existed where now is Antwerp. Before long it was burned down by the Vikings but the Normans founded a new village and build a ditch around it.

Antwerp's Golden Age
At the end of the 15th century, Antwerp became more important then Bruges. Businesses were moved to Antwerp and the money followed. In 1400, around 18000 people lived in Antwerp. Barely 100 years later this would be 100 000 and with that became the biggest city of its time after Paris.

World War I
The area of Ypres was during 4 years from 1914 until 1918 the battle field in the big war also known as World War One. The front, they Ypres Salient, was mainly defended by British troops.

World War II
Germany attacked Belgium on the 10th of May. Within the first hours, the complete Belgium air force was destroyed and Belgium would be occupied by Germany until the 1st of October 1944. Read about the aftermath of Operation-Market-Garden

We still honor the British, Canadian and Polish soldiers that lost their lives around Antwerp! A memorial can be visited next to the ‘Steen’ castle. Also, there is a WWII Bunker Museum in Park Den Brandt- a German general’s bunker (WWII) rearranged as a museum.



Belgium Food (Try out some Recipes) is also an integral part of Belgian culture.

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