They’ll show up on time for dates
Not unlike their upstairs neighbour Germany, Belgium is a land of the punctual and the organised. If wishy-washy plans and 11th-minute dates have you dreading the dating scene at the moment, a Belgian showing up on your doorstep three minutes before your agreed meeting time might be just the thing.
They know good food…
If the way to your heart is through your stomach, you’ll notice Belgians have a leg up here. With rainy days in big supply in the small country, its people have developed a fondness for heartening stews such as waterzooi, carbonnade flamande and other mouthwatering comfort-foods like mussels in white wine. The city of Ghent is well on its way to becoming Europe’s hip foodie capital and the number of Michelin-star restaurants dotted across the land is staggering. Date a Belgian and gleeful food outings await.
…and their way around a kitchen
Most Belgians have a great respect for grandma’s kitchen as well as knowing their way around their own. With cookbooks reliably dominating the country’s top 10 bestseller list, a romantic home-cooked meal is often a staple in a Belgian’s courting repertoire – one with the power to turn self-professed foodies into a melted puddle on the floor.
Expect a slow burn
Student hook-ups and Tinder aside, the average Belgian tends to move slow in showing his or her interest in a potential partner. Coffee shop experiences where your eyes meet over the milk pitcher and you walk away with someone’s phone number scribbled on a napkin are a rarity for them, and real-life meetings often happen through mutual friends. You’ll probably have laid eyes on each other a couple of times before a Belgian musters up the courage to ask you out, but at least you know they’re not just basing their decision on your pretty face. Slow and steady wins the race.
They don’t like game-playing
Don’t fret when late night booty calls and weeks of silence followed by confusing ‘thinking of you’ texts are suddenly much less frequent when on a Belgian dating streak. Whether you experience their lack of mind games as boring or a welcome relief, when a Belgian guy or gal had a great time with you, they won’t wait a week to tell you so. The terms ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’ can be spoken out loud after dating for a couple of weeks without fear of human-shaped holes in doors, and the whole dating process is generally more straight-forward than the romance mayhem in a place like New York City.
They’re progressive thinkers
Whether you’re gay, straight or something in between, there’s nothing keeping you from choosing a Belgian partner. Lively port city Antwerp has been a haven to LGBTQ folks for decades, and Brussels too has a nook of gay-friendly bars and clubs in the historic heart of the city. The small progressive land became the second in the world to legalise gay marriage in 2003, and same-sex adoption followed soon after.
Meeting them might be tricky
In a survey conducted in the early summer of 2017 for online travel agency Expedia, only 5% of Belgians indicated that they’d like to have a vacation fling during a beach holiday. This made them the least romantic holiday-goers of all 17 nationalities questioned. So when on the prowl for your future Belgian hubby or wifey, don’t mistake an exotic beach for a viable hunting ground.
But there’s no rush
Overall, Belgians don’t shy away from the single life. Currently, about a third of all Belgian households are single and that number is on the rise. It’s expected to reach 50% by 2060 (already the ratio in Brussels), which obviously will increase your chances number-wise. More importantly though, chances are your Belgian hottie will be with you because they want to be, not because they’re anxiously adhering to a predominant norm of coupledom.
Welcome to the family…
A necessary heads-up: most Belgian partners come with strong family ties. If you’re not up for Sunday visits to the grandparents or Christmases spent with nieces and nephews running around, best skedaddle before it’s too late. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a family-oriented mate, you’ve come to the right place.
…and the old friend gang
‘A melancholy lesson of advancing years is the realisation that you can’t make old friends’, Christopher Hitchens once said. Luckily, your Belgian partner has kept up with his old crew for the both of you. While Belgians might be slow to open up to new people, they tend to be extremely loyal in the friend department. His or her friend group will usually prove eager to welcome you into the fold over a couple of beers.
They don’t do phoney Valentine’s gestures
Though they’re aware of Valentine’s Day, most Belgians are far too level-headed to celebrate the commercial holiday in any sort of meaningful way. Which doesn’t mean your Belgian beau can’t be a romantic soul: they’re just more likely to celebrate substantial landmarks of your individual relationship. Whisking you away for a weekend trip or a fancy restaurant – remember that bon vivant streak? – for your anniversary is a much more Belgian tack to romance.
A guide to dating Belgian women and Belgian men
Before you jump into the Belgian dating game, understanding Belgian women and Belgian men can do wonders for your love life. Here are some tips to dating in Belgium.
Belgian dating has shifted to the digital world like elsewhere, as online dating in Belgium and dating apps have increasingly become popular. However, meeting someone at a bar or through a friend is still a common way to meet Belgian women and Belgian men, especially in smaller Belgian cities.
Dating someone from any foreign country can be complex. Different cultures around the world place different appreciation on what qualities make someone desirable. What might be considered romantic, polite or respectful back home, might not be well received when dating in Belgium.
You may notice differences between Belgium’s three language communities, and as you wouldn’t stereotype your own dating traits, nor is it possible to stereotype Belgian dating traits. But there are some general tips about dating a Belgian man or dating Belgian women that can help you avoid making a Belgian dating blunder.
Dating in Belgium
Belgians are known for being reserved and conservative, which can at first make them appear distant, unemotional or, sometimes mistakenly, disinterested. Belgians tend to be formal and closed when meeting people for the first time, and relationships can take a long time to develop; it’s not common to discuss personal matters, or at least at the beginning of your acquaintance. However, once all the aspects of your potential partnership (or even friendship) have been considered and approved, Belgians who enter a relationship are serious and thereafter comfortable with opening up.
On the other hand, a Belgian won’t mess around with ‘dating standards’ if they are interested – there’s no taboo around contacting someone straight away, calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend after one date or being invited to join them at a wedding. In this way, Belgians can be incredibly romantic.
Yet Belgians are not renown for being overly passionate or touchy-feely, although they make up for it by generally being hard-working and solid in nature. Their dependability and calm nature can make them great partners in times of crisis.
Good manners and presentation are also key when looking to impress someone, especially when dining. With access to an array of top Belgian foods and gourmet restaurants, an inner foodie hides in every Belgian; cooking skills, appreciation of fine food and proper table manners are great starting points to impress your date.
Belgians are also particular about their surroundings, and take pride in clean and well-maintained homes, as well as organisation in their social lives and careers. Thus appearing careless or irresponsible in your habits or manners are not generally attractive traits to Belgian men or women.
Punctuality is also a prided trait, and turning up late is a sign of disrepect. If your date is picking you up, this means being ready well in advance – they’ll likely be on your doorstep before the agreed time.
Meeting Belgian women and men
With Belgium’s long history of immigration, there is no typical stereotype of what Belgian women or Belgian men look like.
It’s typical for both Belgian women and men have active schedules and many committments – including with family – and it can be hard to get a place on their agenda. Likewise, your Belgian date is less likely to be available for last-minute plans or impromptu dates. Belgians tend to love their comfort zone – whether it’s their village, close friends or family – which sometimes can be hard to break into.
Introductions with strangers tend to be a handshake and formal language, while acquaintances will go for cheek kisses. Conversations are generally soft-spoken and calm, and many online forums talk about the ‘gentle’ nature of Belgian people.
Unlike in some countries, Belgium does not have a homogeneous culture. The country is divided into three language regions, where they speak Flemish/Dutch, French and Germany. Confusing Belgium’s distinct cultures or being unaware of Belgian history would not impress your Belgian date.
If you are ever invited to someone’s house, you should accept any drink offered by your host but don’t ask for one if it’s not offered. At dinner parties, it’s not uncommon that partners or husbands and wives are not seated together. Belgians also tend to be thrifty and don’t appreciate waste, so finishing all the food on your plate is important. It’s also common to take a gift when invited to someone’s home, such as flowers, wine or even candy, if children are there. By no means give chrysanthemums, as they symbolise death.
Belgian women know good food and how to enjoy a meal, yet will never forget to maintain their poise or table manners, which are also vital to reciprocate if you want to impress a Belgian woman. Similarly, if you opt to give Belgian chocolates as a gift or take a Belgian woman to a restaurant, low quality won’t win you any points – although Belgian women are not strangers to enjoying a good Belgian waffle or frites on the street.
Belgian women are typically independent, with Belgium boasting good wage equality and employment conditions. It is not a taboo for women to pay on a date, although Belgian women still appreciate chivalry and value politeness above all, so paying or taking a small gift will win you points. Belgian culture is typically modest, and Belgian women do not expect lavish gifts on a first date – add the Belgian trait of being thrifty, and it may even be seen as poor taste.
Despite Belgian women being socially and economically empowered, it hasn’t replaced the traditional family values in Belgium. Belgian women tend to marry early and in some homes traditional gender roles play out.
With the emphasis placed on manners in Belgian culture, behaviour is important to Belgian women. It’s important not to put your hands in your pockets, yawn or use toothpicks in public places. Your feet should never be put on chairs or tables. Your hands should also stay on the table during the whole meal, and never in your lap. If your manners are below par, you can expect to get judging looks from your date.
In fact, being courteous to everyone and waiting your turn in all interactions of social life is the premise that holds together Belgian culture. In this respect, losing your temper with Belgian women or raising your voice can be the quickest path to a break-up.
Neatness and order are highly regarded both in Belgian culture and appearances, and Belgian men are penchant to self-grooming, down to clean and tidy fingernails. Likewise, showing up in torn-jeans or very casual clothes to a date will unlikely impress a Belgian man.
Belgian men are known to be polite, soft-spoken and courteous. They will sometimes rise when a woman enters the room or stand on public transportation until women are seated, which is a sign of respect. Do not be surprised to get a ‘judging look’ by people in Belgium if you don’t adhere to social norms; they are especially keen on good manners in public places.
Belgian men are hard-working but also know how to enjoy a good work-life balance and dedicate time to their family. Family plays an important role in Belgium, with some Belgian men living with parents into their 20s or 30s, as well as visiting parents or grandparents weekly or even talking daily.
If you are invited to a group event or dinner party, it is common for Belgian men to shake the hand of the host, as well as everyone else in the room, or kiss the cheeks of women who are close acquaintances.
Marrying a Belgian
It’s not uncommon for married couples to work side-by-side in either business or farming. Instead of divorcing, couples who are in business together may remain legally married in order to protect their assets, while maintaining separate households with new partners.
Foreigners marrying Belgians may have to go through extra paperwork procedures to get a marriage approval. Read about getting married in Belgium.
Men and women usually marry in their teens and 20s, and begin their families early. This is why it is possible to find single men and women in their 30s or 40s, as they married young and are now divorced. Most families have between two and four children.
It is of course possible to live happily-ever-after with a Belgian; as the Belgians value good manners, if yours are not up to Belgian standards, try changing them to win their hearts or resolve issues.