Culture, Europe, People
Belgium: A Hidden Gem
By Fedorah Philippeaux
The small country of Belgium, bordered by The Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, and France is well-known for its high quality chocolate and its Belgian Waffles.
What is rarely spoken of however, is the hospitality and generosity of its people. Having lived there for five years, I can honestly say that the people of Belgium are among the kindest people you will ever come across in your travels. Belgian hospitality is perhaps not a subject often written about, so let me be one of the first to shed some light upon this topic.
When walking about the countryside which constitutes a great majority of the country, you will always be greeted by a smiling face and a “dag” meaning hello. As a femme noire, I can tell you that I have never felt “out of place” or been given nasty stares–when I was younger I would get stares of admiration and asked where I was from. I have found the people here to be kind and talkative regardless of the differences in culture, color, or language.
Another thing you will notice is that the Belgians love to serve and to socialize. The words S’il-vous-plait and Alstublieft which are used in serving are heard several times throughout the day. They will always offer you something to drink (coffee and beer are most common) and if you say no, they will put something on the table anyway. Sometimes I wonder why they even ask because the answer doesn’t really matter; if you’re there, they will serve you. Period. Socializing is an everyday activity so even the most introverted person will be forced into socializing on an almost daily basis.
The Belgians enjoy outings at the café several times a day. If they don’t go to the café, then off to someone’s house they go! Never expect to simply “drop by” a friend’s house because I guarantee you, they will keep you there talking, eating, and drinking. When reflecting upon all of the amazing people I met in Belgium throughout my travels there, one particular story comes to mind.
I was with my adoptive parents in Wallonia, the French province of Belgium, when we walked into a random restaurant on the road. Once inside, we were seated next to a lovely Belgian couple who immediately began to make conversation. After the preliminary “Hi, how are you”, the wife asked my adoptive mother and I where we were from (we’re both Black but my father is a White Belgian) and we responded that we were from Haiti. She proceeded to tell us that she and her husband had just adopted two little Haitian boys (this was right after the earthquake) and that she adored them. By the time we left the restaurant, she essentially knew my whole life story and the wife offered to email me Belgian recipes while I was in the US, so that I could try to recreate the wonderful meals I had eaten while in Belgium. That is not an uncommon story.
The Belgians love to share their culture with any and all who are interested. They are wonderful people who are always willing to give to others and to make you feel welcome. If you’re ever looking for a vacation with great people included, visit Belgium; you will enjoy the warmth of the people.
Born in New York but raised on 2 different continents with 3 different cultures, Fedorah is an avid traveler. She is of Haitian descent and is fluent in all 4 of her native languages; she is currently learning her 7th language. She has a Bachelor's in International Relations and hopes to someday work for the State Department. She enjoys singing/performing, learning new instruments, reading, travelling and Politics. She spent the last year in China, teaching English at Qinhuangdao University in Hebei. She is currently working on her Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies based in both the UK and Germany.