A few years ago, I wrote an article, 7 Things I’ve Learned About Loving a Belgian. The article picked up traction in a way that really surprised me. People’s messages and emails came pouring in; strangers took time to share their experiences with me with impressive candor and humor. Shortly after, I invited expat strangers from an Expat in Brussels Facebook group to give their honest input on loving a dating a Belgian. Over the course of a few days, 100 people from over 40 countries from around the world shared their stories with me, anonymously.
Below are the unedited highlights. Respondents from the UK, USA, and Spain were the most represented, and over half of respondents are or were based in Ghent, Belgium which is were we lived for almost three years. Despite the cultural challenges and learnings, over three quarters of respondents rated their personal experience a 7 or higher out of 10.
Top 5 Traits People Say They Appreciated Most About Their Belgian Partner
What Traits Do You Like Least? What Traits Would You Like To Change?
- Rigid / unspontaenous
- Binge Drinking
- Too Direct
- Sticking close to home
What have you learned from your Belgian partner about love that was new for you?
“To discuss every problem while it’s still small.”
“Showing love less through words and more through actions.”
“Related with his thought about equality between man and woman. He teach me too… that we have equal position in love. As a woman, I don’t need to be submissive. I can say “no” wherever I want.”
“That they take [love] very seriously very early on.”
“What being loved feels like. Also, the idea of introducing your partner to the family early in the relationship, I felt an integral part of the family right away and I saw it was the same for his brother’s girlfriend.It is a bit too much at times. I feel people here do not mess around too much but tend to engage in a long term relationship after only a little time.”
“He is great at having a fight and then truly forgiving and forgetting, which is not something I was accustomed too.”
“How we are less complicated about certain topics like meeting each other’s parents, or how it is not common for us to get married and buy a house by when we’re 25.”
Has your Belgian partner learned anything from you and your approach to romance and love?
“Yes he’s learned to be more open, I find most Belgians are a little reserved.”
“Yes my food and language. He used to send me romantic texts in Somali using Google Translate.”
“Independence, adventure, spontaneity”
“Yes, Spanish, to party like a Mexican and how to drink tequila.”
“I’m not sure if this is the thing from Thailand/Asia only but probably the way we talk/interact to each other. Don’t think there’s an exact word in English to explain this but we would change our tone of voice to something a little cuter and also our facial expressions. Let’s say it’s similar to how an adult talk to a cute baby.”
Are there stereotypes about Belgians that ring true to you? Any you find undeserved?
“I don’t think there are stereotypes that are undeserved. It is true that they move in serious relationships super fast and have kids quite young. They also tend to stick with the same long term partner even though they don’t necessarily think is the one. They are too clingy with their families and visit at least once a week.”
“That all Flemish people are racist/small minded..my husband and many other Flemish I know are not like that at all. The stereotype that Flemish people pretty much all speak great English is 99% true 😄 also, as a whole, I’d say they are more reserved until you get to know them”
“It seems to be often true that it is hard to find Belgian friends.”
“Not all Belgians have bricks in their bellies. (undeserved). That love goes through the stomach. (true)”
“…Like their obsession with the weather or being a little bit more closed minded, specially older people from Flanders.”
“Usually Belgians don’t move for work/family, they stay living in the place they were born and they die there; I didn’t know many other stereotypes about Belgians coming to the country.”
Was there a moment where you really felt the cultural difference in the relationship?
“When discussing money – who pays for what. Our ideas about who should pay for what were very different.”
“Yes…meals…we have only warm meals in our country…we like to cook and eat…and we do not eat sandwiches and soup everyday. 😊”
“Not taking the surname of the spouse and children getting the surname of the father.”
“Every time he speaks west Flemish and gives me animal names as pet names. I feel offended while he means to be caring. In French, we say something like « sweetly, my love, my darling » only. Not « my horse ».”
“We had those moments many times, but I’m not sure it’s related to the fact that he’s Belgian. One thing is sure: he knows that if we buy a house I want to install a bidet. (Ha ha talking about stereotypes)”
“Yes, parties with friends of theirs, never belonging to the group even after years of knowing each other.”
What advice would you give someone who’s just starting to date a Belgian for the 1st time?
“Just do as you feel 🙂 And it’s better to like beer :)))”
“You have to accept that sandwiches is a common lunch or dinner food.”
“Try to learn his/her language. It will be fun!”
“Understand how you/they feel about club/festival/drug culture…it’s not always obvious and there might be some red lines there.”
“I would suggest that they keep an open mind and don’t take things personally. I think Belgians in general can be very direct and it can come across more harsh than they intend it to.”
“Meet his family… If you don’t feel comfortable run away…At the end you marry them also. You will see them all your life so, has to be a nice relationship also.”
Anything else you feel like sharing about your experience?
“Yes, culturally I think it’s very important to make a difference between a Belgian who’s from the Dutch-speaking area, and a Belgian who’s from the French-speaking area of Belgium. Both cultures are really, really very different (personality, humor, and so many other things).”
“I was in love with a girl from Gent for 5 years, but was not brave enough to move to Belgium to build a life together. It’s over 5 years since we parted and I still miss her and deeply regret my decision.”
“I dated internationally for a while and I think my companion is really unique (and he’s not fitting in any stereotype box. All the friends of my partner are quite sensible people (quite the opposite of the macho/sometimes undercovered-gay culture in Italy). I find this amazing especially compared to the maschilism in Italy. Vive la Belgique!”
“For me it’s not about nationality, it’s about personality. So I wouldn’t make any conclusions based on my relationship with specific person about all the foreign-Belgians relationships.”
“This felt therapeutic.”