10 crazy facts about Belgium

Master your Belgian trivia

10 crazy facts about Belgium

Belgium is often called a ‘strange’ country. With three national languages, three very distinct regions and a statue of a naked boy urinating as a famous landmark, it’s not hard to see why. Here’s 10 facts you might not know about Belgium and the Belgians.

1) French fries are Belgian fries?

Belgians love their fries; slathered in mayonnaise, topped with fried egg or served with cooked mussels (moules frites). They may have also invented them and the name French fries was a mistake made by American soldiers in WWI .

2) Did they invent cricket?

A recent study  suggests that this quintessentially British sport may have actually been brought to England by Flemish immigrants in the 1600s; they are referred to in a poem as the ‘kings of crekettes’.

3) All things chocolate

Belgium chocolate is famous worldwide; it’s been producing chocolate for four centuries, has over 2,000 chocolate shops and is home to the world’s biggest chocolate factory. What makes Belgian chocolate so popular? Apparently it’s the quality of ingredients and the fact they still use 100% cocoa butter.

4) Compulsory voting

Voting for Belgian citizens over 18 is mandatory and those who do not participate face punishment (including fines and losing the right to vote). For expats who register to vote in local elections, this will also apply to you.

5) Born with a brick in the stomach / de belg heeft en baksteen in de maag

A bit of a strange saying, this refers to the stereotypical Belgian desire to build their own home. The number of ‘self-built’ houses in the country is very high and there is nothing stopping expats joining the trend. Some Belgian banks, like BNP Paribas Fortis, offer specific services for expats  to help.

6) World record holder

Congratulations to Belgium! It holds the world record for… the longest time taken for an independent state to form a government after elections. Not exactly the catchiest of records but a record nonetheless, in 2010 the country went 589 days without an elected government.

7) Progressive outlook

In 1795, Belgium became the second country in the world to decriminalise homosexuality and has been one of the first to legalise same-sex marriage and adoption. It was also the first country in the EU to elect an openly gay leader.  

8) Battlefield of Europe

Numerous wars have been fought on Belgian soil: from the defeat of Napoleon to bloodbath of Ypres during World War I. Tens of thousands of people travel to Ypres every year to visit the trenches and war memorials .

9) New York, New York

New York was founded by a Belgian. In 1626, Pierre Minuit bought the island of Manhattan from its indigenous inhabitants and formed a settlement. Today, its Belgian roots can still be spotted: Wallabout Bay derives from the Dutch Waal Boch and Hoboken is named after a district in Antwerp.

10) Beer glasses

Belgium is famous for its beer; did you know that each one has its own unique glass? With more than 1,000 Belgian beers, there are a lot of glasses to collect (if you don’t want to serve it in the wrong glass!)

There is plenty more to discover about Belgium.

This article has been published in cooperation with BNP Paribas Fortis; the bank for expats .

Further reading

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