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Belgium is a diverse country, very friendly with newcomers. What about its traditions, festivities, and lifestyle? This article shows you what to expect when moving to Belgium.

The rhythm of life in Belgium

Most employees work 8 hours per day. Working hours are usually flexible, which makes Belgium alive day and night. Shops and boutiques usually welcome customers from 9 or 10 am until 7 pm, from Monday to Saturday. Supermarkets are usually open until 9 pm on weekends. It's quite usual for shops to close at lunch, especially small shops in small towns.

Night-life is at the heart of Belgium's lifestyle. Several cinemas, concert halls, restaurants and other activities are accessible across the metropolis.

Belgium's traditions

Belgium's cultural agenda is filled with events. Many cultural, sport, and cooking events happen throughout the year across the country.

Binche carnival for example. It animates Binche city and its surroundings during a few weeks before Mardi Gras. Belgium's National day (July 21st): the country is celebrated with many parades. Anvers welcomes many cultural events during the summer. Throughout the year, Belgium hosts music and cinema festivals. At Christmas, the country is animated with Christmas markets, especially in big cities.

Carnivals are part of local folklore: Rhineland carnivals, Walloon ones and Laetare ones, happening during the Mi-Carême week. Those parades are so much part of Belgian's cultural heritage that school holidays depend on it.

In Brussels and Liege, puppet shows are also very famous. Classical plays such as The Cid or The Three Musketeers are played.

Daily life habits

Speaking Flemish, German or Dutch is automatic in most localities, especially in Flanders. Therefore, if you enter a restaurant, have to make a call to services, don't hesitate to say right away if you are French or English-speaking.

To salute one another, it is common to kiss two or three times on the cheek with friends, especially in Wallonia and Brussels. The Flemish population is less tactile and shyer.

As for meals, breakfast is usually generous, with salty and sweet dishes. Lunch (called "dîner" in Belgium) is light and on the go. Lunch breaks are usually very quick. As for 'supper' (evening meal), it is usually taken around 7 pm. Some restaurants close after 9 pm.

Belgian cuisine

Far from clichés dedicated to just beers and fries, the Belgian cuisine is very rich. Indeed, Belgium inherited of a very refined cuisine, especially in Flanders. Some 80 cheese varieties are to be found in Flanders. The region's savoir-faire is unprecedented when it comes to chocolate and pastries.

The most famous dishes in Belgium are 'the American', the "salade liegeoise", or Flemish carbonates. You can stop by the French-fry truck at snack time. If you like sweet things, you'll love the Liege waffle.

As for drinks, Belgium is undeniably one of the biggest beer producers. More than 1,000 different beers with 200 to 300 varieties exist. They offer different tastes, some more or less unique. The Flat Country is also a wine producer. The best Belgian wines are available in the finest restaurants and in supermarkets.

Belgian calendar

Most of the Belgian bank holidays are nationals, with some regional and communal ones. They depend on the cities, towns, or regions' traditions. Some are given only to civil servants. This is the case for the Iris festival day, in May, or the commemoration of the Eperons d'Or battle in Flanders.

Most popular bank holidays are New Year's Eve, Easter Monday, Labour Day, National Day, the Assumption, Toussaint, 1918 Armistice, and Christmas day. Among the less renowned ones are the carnival, Mother and Father's Day. They are all bank holidays too.

In total, there are 10 legal and recognised bank holidays throughout the year. In addition, there are a few national ones. The date varies each year (3 or 4 bank holidays.)

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