Like many monarchies in Europe, Belgium is a conservative country made up of French, English, and German speakers.
The Western European country is known for its renaissance architecture and medieval towns. Its people are known to be polite, observant, and business savvy.
In this article, we are going to give you tips on how to conduct yourself appropriately while conducting business in Belgium and with Belgians.
It has been said time and again that when in Rome you do as Romans do. This is the only way that a foreigner in any state can be accepted by the locals and seen as an equal rather than a threat. This applies to business interactions as well.
It is important for any person visiting Belgium to know that the country is dominantly Roman Catholic and as such all their holidays and cultural festivals are represented by the catholic calendar.
We must also note that Belgium is a religious-tolerant country and has in the past accommodated other faiths, like the Jews who fled from Spain and Portugal during the Second World War.
Among friends, Belgians will touch cheeks and kiss air while greeting both men and women. However, in a business setting, Belgians will shake hands before the beginning of a meeting and at the end of it.
You will notice that at your first interactions with your business associates, the majority of the Belgians will take a social approach and seek to know you before they switch to business.
You may also notice an invitation for small talks which you can choose to freely participate in. You must however be careful of what you say or how you behave because even at those moments, you shall be judged for anything you may say or do.
With three linguistic groups in the country, there are distinctive customs on how to title people; for the English and Germans, Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms is expected to come before a sir name, and for the French, Monsieur, Madame, Madame- moiselle is also expected before a sir name.
You cannot use the first name while addressing the older generation, it is considered disrespectful and inappropriate unless you are invited by an individual to address them by their first name.
Like many parts of the world, the order of naming in Belgium is the first name then the sir name. However, people introduce themselves with their sir name first. If you are not sure which name is the sir name, it is better to ask than to get it wrong.
Belgians dress best on Sundays while visiting friends and relatives or while talking strolls.
In a business meeting, you will not only be expected to be dressed conservatively but your clothing must also be clean and well pressed.
You mustn’t converse with your hands in the pocket as this is considered to be rude.
It is also rude to use a toothpick in public and mannerless to snap fingers or point at anything with your index finger.
Whenever you are invited to a business meeting, you must keep time.
The Belgians business etiquette demands that senior people in an organization arrive later than their juniors or subordinates. Be sure to know your place so that there is no awkwardness with other people.
The talk about wealth and talent must be done modestly so that you do not sound proud or arrogant.
The open-door policy is not practiced in Belgium. People value their privacy. Office doors are kept closed and you must knock and wait to be admitted. Once you enter, you must remember to close the door behind you.
Although no one will expect you to bring gifts to a business meeting, your gifts will be accepted and opened in your presence.
If you choose to gift a business associate, you must not include your business card in the gift or brand the gift with your company’s logo.
Holiday cards are acceptable if you choose to send one to your associates.
These rules are a bit different when you are invited to a Belgium home.
You must bring flowers or chocolate when you visit. Please note that red roses are reserved for lovers and chrysanthemums for deaths or funerals. You must not bring those to a Belgium home.
If you have any gifts you must present them to your host before the meal is served.
Whether you are in Belgium or any other part of the world, you must be observant and respectful of people’s cultures and believes to get the best from them.