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Belgium

The alliance with The Netherlands and Luxembourg became the Benelux Union in 1958, which, in turn, became one of the foundation stones of the European Community. Brussels is the headquarters of both NATO and the EU. Today, the anachronistic images of ‘boring Belgium’ have been well and truly banished over the last decade as the country promotes its key destinations, along with a string of new attractions. Easy to travel around, this pocket-sized country is divided into the Flemish north (Flemish-speaking) and the Walloon south (French-speaking). Brussels, the capital, is the heart of the country and the European Union.

Practical Information

Area: 30 528 km² (11 787 miles²)

Capital: Brussels. Population: 1.98 million

Population: 10.4 million

Currency: Euro (EUR symbol Eur) = 100 cents

Government: Constitutional monarchy. The Kingdom of Belgium was established in 1830. In 1993, Belgium became a federal state comprising three autonomous regions.

Tipping: A service charge of 16% is usually included in hotel or restaurant bills, although an additional tip may be left at the discretion of the individual. Cloakroom attendants and porters may expect a tip per item of luggage.

Legal drinking age: 16

Time zone: GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October)

Languages: Dutch, French and German

Additional descriptions

Belgium: Social customs

Flemish Belgians will often prefer to answer visitors in English rather than French, even if the visitor’s French is good. It is customary to bring flowers or a small present for the hostess, especiallyRead more if invited for a meal. Dress is similar to other Western nations, depending on the formality of the occasion. If black tie/evening dress is to be worn, this is always mentioned on the invitation. Smoking is generally unrestricted.

Belgium: Food and local specialties

Belgian cuisine is similar to French, based on game and seafood. Each region in Belgium has its own special dish. Butter, cream, beer and wine are generously used in cooking. Things to know: Most restaurantsRead more have waiter service, although self-service cafes are becoming more common. Restaurant bills always include drinks, unless they have been taken at the bar separately. In the latter case, this is settled over the counter. The majority of cafes have licences to serve spirits. Beers and wines are freely obtainable everywhere and there are no licensing hours. The national specialties are: Moules frites (mussels and chips/French fries). Endives with Bechamel sauce. Ardennes sausages, ham, and paté are renowned. Belgian chocolate. Waffles. There are over 400 beers brewed in Belgium, ranging from lagers and pilsners through to Lambic (made from wheat and barley), white and fruit beers, to Trappist monastery beers. Fruit beers, such as Kriek cherry beer, are a speciality. Famous names include Stella Artois, Leffe, Hoegaarden, Duvel and Chimay. Gueuze is a highly distinctive Brussels speciality.

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