WORKING ABROAD / AUG. 13, 2014
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How to Master Business Etiquette in Belgium

Belgium has a rich history that is filled with both pleasant facts and sad states of affairs. The country has dramatically transformed since becoming independent from the Netherlands in the early 19 century. From being under German occupation twice to becoming an affluent country, living or doing business in Brussels has truly become a wonderful experience.

In addition to belonging to various international organizations, such as the European Union and NATO, Belgium has also developed a strong transportation network, industrial base and a reliable private enterprise system that many struggling EU states wished they had, especially with a half-trillion-dollar gross domestic product.

Benefitting from its central geographical location, Belgium has opened up its borders with the rest of the world and many Belgian companies have done business with foreign enterprises in various industries. Are you in the midst of embarking upon a new career path in Brussels or are you traveling there on business?

Here are five business etiquettes to know in Belgium:

Communication

In Belgium, there are three official languages: Dutch, French and German. However, Dutch and French are the primary languages spoken, with 60 and 40 percent of the population uttering them, respectively. Only about one percent of Belgium speaks German.

Belgians are often diplomatic and polite and tend to be indirect when they speak with people. This means that if they think negatively about someone they have encountered then they often refrain from telling others.

During conversations, Belgians stay within arm’s length of other people, but as individuals get to know each other better then this space starts to diminish. Touching of the arms and shoulders is a general custom in Belgium. Making direct eye contact is another important attribute in all parts of the country.

Dress Code

An important trait that almost all Belgians share is to look good and stylish. Men wear stylish conservative suits, while women will sport business suits with stylish accessories. Clean and polished shoes are expected from other people and jeans are not acceptable in the company of others.

Greetings

At an initial meeting, both genders shake hands and as everyone gets to know each other then light hugs and kisses become the norm. It should be noted, however, that women must be the ones to initiate the handshake and men have to wait. In terms of how many kisses and where, follow the Belgian’s lead.

Professional Titles & Business Cards

When meeting someone, always address the person by Mr., Mrs. and Miss followed by their surname. Once this is done then be sure to wait until you are permitted to address them by their first name.

Although there isn’t a certain way to distribute business cards, it would be prudent to have one side of the card translated into Dutch or French depending on what region of Belgium you reside in or visiting.

Punctuality

Being on time and prompt is greatly valued in Belgium. If you are late then you may offend the other person as they can get annoyed by your tardiness. When in Belgium, arrive at least 10 to 15 minutes before an appointment.

Belgium is a beautiful country and the landscapes are truly unique. It maintains many of the same customs that Westerners enjoy to date; give or take a few characteristics and traditions. If in doubt, always follow a Belgian’s lead. You’ll never get in trouble this way.

Have you previously conducted business in Belgium? Let us know in the comment section.

Photo by hansiline via Pixabay.

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