20 useful facts about Belgium to know before you go.
Food and drinks
1. The Belgian pride themselves in being great in all sorts of international cuisine- Make sure to try the street foods like the pita which is on every corner! Lebanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Portuguese, Brazilian, and the list goes on and on. They do everything well, except for the burgers, that is not their thing!
2. Tap water is good to drink, but most restaurants will only provide you bottled water.
3. Doggie bag is not always accepted/offered. In Brussels many restaurants do not provide this, look around before asking to take your leftovers home.
4. Traditional Belgium food includes the waffle of course, the fries (yes, the French didn’t invent that!), the croquettes and different types of fried foods, and the beers are simply insane. Some areas have specific traditional foods. In Ghent, the Ghent Noses are popular and sold from carts in the streets (a candy with a soft filling). The region of Flanders also have a specialty stew called Waterzooi. While in Brussels you will find some Belgium restaurants serving meatballs, the beef stew and some other dishes.
5. While you may have had Belgian beers in other countries, say the Stella Artoir in the US, it will taste very different if you drink it in Belgium (stick to the real local Belgium Beers because after that you will never want to drink other beers again).
6. Language is extremely varied. In Brussels, French is predominant, but you still hear everything else because it is such an international hub. You will also easily run into people who don’t speak French. If you go to the magical city of Ghent (more to come about this incredible city), you will hear mostly Flemish.
7. No tipping necessary, just round up the bill. Service is included in checks!
8. Casual is the way to go. Unlike other places in Europe that are fashion forward, Belgium is very laid back. Dress in jeans all day every day and you'll fit right in, regardless if you are walking around during the day or going out at night. Women tend to wear very little makeup if at all.
9. In a big city like Brussels, you will find Uber and cabs but most choose to ride public transportation. Though it’s not as cheap as one would imagine. For 3 € ($3.30 USD) you can ride for 1 hour. Or you can purchase the pass for 16€ and that gives you 10 rides. In the small city of Ghent, no Uber can be found, the city is small enough that it can be easily walked. Most people take their bikes everywhere, while some ride with public transportation.
Drugs, Alcohol, Prostitution and such
10. Cannabis in Belgium is illegal, though they act as if it was legal! Personal possession has been decriminalized since 2003 and adults over the age of 18 are allowed to possess up to 3 grams. There’s a reason why some call Belgium an alternate Amsterdam.
11. When you turn 16 years old, you can have beer and wine (for spirits you have to be 18), have legal sex and buy tobacco products.
12. Both Ghent and Brussels have their own “Red Light District”. While in Ghent it is just about 4 streets and a small area (also called Glass Alley), in Brussels the area is a bit larger. Prostitution has been legal since 1995.
13. Belgium, specifically where I went which was Brussels, Ghent and Brugges; is very open minded. Gay Pride month is huge all over the country on different days. It's a huge party which includes parades, DJs, competition, everyone dresses up and there is no judgement!
14. Internet can be a bit shady and some people choose a slightly cheaper plan and have a limited amount of data for their house internet services. If you are travelling and need Wi-Fi for work like me, make sure to inquire if they have unlimited monthly Wi-Fi. If not go to the BASE store and purchase a sim card for the Wi-Fi only.
15. The live music scene is daily. Some places make it a point to not have live music during the weekend so to not compete with other bars. You will see jams on a Tuesday and Brussels is a great place for bigger International shows throughout the year.
16. Belgium weather is extremely bipolar to say the least. At noon the sun is shining, and it might be 56 Farenheit (in May), and literally five minutes later, it starts to hail and the temperature feels like 10 degrees cooler!
17. In May, the sun was out until almost 10pm. During the summer, there is sunlight as late as 10.45pm.
18. Without looking at actual statistics, you will see three times more men (if not more) than women in Brussels. I noticed that the first night I spent in Brussels and then confirmed it by speaking with locals as well as spending an additional 4 days exploring Brussels at the end of my trip. It’s actually a joke among locals. The small town of Ghent shows a bit more of a mixed crowd. Being friendly can easily be misconstrued. So for the women-> be careful
19. Belgium is huge on immigration, and is known as the country of permanent immigration. The largest minority group being from Morocco, the next biggest group from Turkey. Islam religion is a minority in Belgium but it is the second largest religion after Christianity (58%).
20. Belgium is generally safe. Certain markets and certain neighborhoods with crowd may have small petty crimes like bag grabbing and pick-pocketing. Be on the alert.
Thanks for reading! Coming soon - My 3 week experience in Belgium!