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Last updated : Nov 2009
Belgium Social Profile
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Food & Drink

Belgian cuisine is similar to French and is based on game and seafood. Each region in Belgium has its own speciality dish. Butter, cream, beer and wine are generously used when cooking. Belgian chocolate, waffles and chips and often served with mayonnaise, are famous. Ardennes sausages and ham are well known and very popular.

Restaurants generally have waiter service, although self-service cafes are becoming quite numerous. Restaurant bills include drinks, unless they have been taken at the bar separately. In the latter case these are settled over the counter. Tips are also included in the final bill, although an additional tip may be left at discretion.

The local beers are excellent. Two of the most popular are Lambic, made from wheat and barley, and Trappist. Fruit beers, such as Kriek cherry beer, are a speciality. Under the new law, the majority of cafes now have licences to serve spirits and beers and wines are freely obtainable everywhere and there are no licensing hours.

Nightlife

As well as being one of the best cities in the world for eating out both for its high quality and range, Brussels has a very active and varied nightlife. It has ten theatres producing plays in both Dutch and French.

These include the Théâtre National and the Théâtre Royal des Galeries. The more avant-garde theatres include the Théâtre Cinq-Quarante and the Théâtre de Poche. Brussels has at least 35 cinemas, numerous discos and many night-time cafes and these are centred on two main areas: the uptown Porte Louise area and the downtown area between Place Roger and Place de la Bourse.

Nightclubs include the famous Chez Paul, Le Crazy, Le Grand Escalier and Maxim. Jazz clubs include Bloomdido Jazz Cafe and The Brussels Jazz Club.

Programmes and weekly listings of events can be found in the BBB Agenda on sale at tourist offices and this also covers information on the many festivals that take place in Brussels itself. Tourism Brussels-Ardennes/Tourism Flanders-Brussels should be consulted about folk music or drama festivals elsewhere in Belgium – the most famous of which is the Festival of Flanders for classical music concerts. The other large cities of Belgium, such as Antwerp, Kortrijk, Ghent, Leuven, Liège, Mons and Namur, all have similar nightlife facilities.

Shopping

Special purchases include ceramics and hand-beaten copperware from Dinant, Belgian chocolates, crystals from Val Saint Lambert, diamonds, jewellery from Antwerp, lace from Bruges, Brussels and Mechelen (Malines), woodcarvings from Spa and bandes dessinées (comic-strip books) by a number of talented Belgian cartoon artists from Brussels.

Main shopping centres are located in Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Ghent, Liège, Mechelen, Mons, Namur and Ostend.

Shopping hours

Monday-Saturday 1000-1800/1900 hrs. Department stores often remain open longer, up to 2100 hrs on Fridays. Outside the main areas, some shops may close at lunchtime.

Special Events

The following is a selection of special events occurring in Belgium during 2005, for further information, contact Tourism Brussels-Ardennes and Tourism Flanders-Brussels (see Contacts section):  
January 21-30th 50th Belgium Antiques Fair.
February 6th - 8th Carnaval de Binche, Hainaut.
February 13th Grand Feu de Bouge, spectacular bonfire on the first Sunday of Lent, Namur
March 6th Carnaval du Laetare, Stavelot.
March 8th-September 8th "Made in Belgium", exposition celebrating 175 years of independence, Brussels.
March 28th 129th Cavalcade in Herve, Liege
May 7th Belgium Gay Pride, Brussels "Belgium Gay Pride, Brussels
May 14th-16th Brussels Jazz Marathon/350th Military March at Saint Roch, Thuin
May 16th "Matrimonial High Tea, Ecaussines
June 11-12th Days of the 4 Processius, Tournai.
June 18-19th 7th Napoleonic Bivouac at Waterloo, yearly reconstruction of a Napoleonic bivouac and the battle of Placenoit.
June 22-25th European March of Memory & Friendship, 30km march.
July 1st Ommegang Pageant, Brussels.
December European Christmas Markets, countrywide.
 
Social Conventions

Belgians will often prefer to answer visitors in English rather than French, even if the visitor’s French is very good. It is customary to bring flowers or a small present for the hostess, especially if invited for a meal.

Dress is similar to other Western nations, depending on the formality of the occasion. If black tie and evening dress is to be worn, this is always mentioned on the invitation.

Smoking is generally unrestricted.

Tipping

A service charge of 16 per cent is usually included in hotel or restaurant bills. Cloakroom attendants and porters may expect a tip per item of luggage.

A tip is generally included in taxi fares.
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