So, you’re going to study in Belgium? Here are 9 interesting facts.
Apart from having one of the best combinations of food traditions in Europe, and being the home to the electronic music industry, Belgium is sometimes thought of as quite a boring place, with inhabitants typically preferring their comfort zone to the high life.
If you decided to go study abroad in Belgium and you’re afraid that you will be bored out of your mind, then keep on reading, because here are nine interesting facts about Belgium you probably didn’t know yet…
- It is one of the most socially progressive countries in Europe
This small European country is one of the most progressive in terms of adoption, relationships, and sexuality in general. Belgium is stated as one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world and even legalized child euthanasia last year. On top of that, the wage gap between men and women is the smallest in the world. A final note for students: there is a club at the University of Ghent especially for students that like BDSM!
- Its capital, Brussels, is incredibly multicultural
Brussels is a city of the world, with almost 40 percent of its population being international. You will meet many diverse people from a lot of different countries and cultures. Belgians have adapted easily to these influences, with many kebab, tapas and grill food places all over the city, and country.
- Belgians love to cycle
Public transport is not extensive in Belgium, because everyone, including students, owns and gets around by bike. That’s also why a lot of students rent a room, even if their family home is only an hour from campus! Even they go out socializing and clubbing they get there by bike as well, riding in big groups to the local pubs and clubs.
- They love a cup of coffee
Belgians are absolutely crazy for coffee. There are frequent rainy, grey days throughout the year, and residents love to get cozy in one of the many cafes and enjoy a hot cup of quality coffee. Despite being such a small country, Belgium is the sixth largest importer of coffee in the world.
- They make unique and eccentric television programs
Belgian television makers have won multiple prizes for their famously original formats and Belgians are crazy about it. The television program The Mole (airing right now), for example, is in its second season and won a Golden Rose. Contestant must work together to complete various challenges to build up a significant cash prize for the winner. Whilst one of them, “the Mole”, has to try to sabotage them all.
Another popular program amongst students is called Temptation Island. On this show, couples are send off to individual tropical islands full of beautiful single women and men, and have to try not to cheat. Guess what happens?
- It’s a really safe place
Even after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and its link to Belgium, Belgium is considered one of the most peaceful and safest places on earth. Homicides rates in particular are extremely low. I guess when you live in the country with some of the most magnificent castles, enchanting natural beauty and medieval architecture you don’t really feel like murdering someone. And if you do feel like it, have a Belgian waffle with lots of cream and chocolate sauce.
- The culinary scene is amazing
Not only does Belgium offer some of the best steak, fries, beer and homemade mayonnaise in the world, there are many incredible local dishes too. Try Vol-au-vent, which is basically an oven baked pastry filled with chicken, mushrooms and a creamy sauce, served with fries (of course). Or the dish that epitomizes rural Belgian cooking: endive and ham in a cheese based sauce, grilled in the oven. Another true classic of the nation’s cuisine is Filet Americain, which is raw minced beef served cold, mixed with lots of herbs and a raw egg. You can see where to eat the best Filet Americain here.
Because Belgians are known to like a good meal, you can find decent food on most university campuses. If you love to indulge in comfort food, it’s the perfect Erasmus destination for you.
- Their political system is incredibly complicated
The expression ‘a Belgian compromise’ was invented to describe the solutions the multiparty governments come up with to solve political problems (yes, they have more than one government). Clear resolutions are very hard to come by.
The reason behind this is that the country, as tiny as it is, has numerous parties with many different ideas about how Belgium should function. Therefore, every election there are coalitions formed out of the more than 16 main political parties (they speak three different languages – Dutch, French and German – presenting some linguistic problems as well).
- The amount of castles is very high
Belgium has more castles per kilometer than any other country in the world. It’s definitely worth a day trip to Ghent, Bruges or Antwerp to experience the broad history of this country. Train tickets vary between 10 and 20 euros for a whole day of travelling.