Belgium’s fascinating capital, and the administrative capital of the EU, Brussels is historic yet hip, bureaucratic yet bizarre, self confident yet multicultural to its roots. All this plays out in a city scape that swings from majestic to quirky to rundown and back again. Organic art nouveau facades face off against 1960s concrete developments, and regal 19th-century mansions contrast with the brutal glass of the EU’s Gotham City. This whole maelstrom swirls out from Brussels’ medieval core, where the Grand Place is surely one of the world’s most beautiful squares. Brussels is one of the most international cities in the world. 27% of the population is made up of foreigners, not including those who have taken Belgian citizenship. In following with its status as the Capital of Europe (the seat of the European Union), Brussels is also the location for 40,000 EU employees, 4,000 NATO employees and hosts about 300 permanent representations: lobby groups, embassies and press corporations.
Languages in Brussels and Belgium
It is an interesting fact that Belgians do not share one common language. There are three official languages in Belgium and an official language border has been established between the regions. In Brussels people mostly speak French but all public signs and documents are in two languages.
European institutions in Brussels
After being appointed the seat of the European Union, Brussels has become a hub of government activity. The European Commission, the European Parliament and NATO operate from Brussels and the European Council holds its quarterly summits here.
Brussels are world famous for this doughy delicacy and rightly so because the Belgians have perfected the art of making waffles and Brussels waffles is one type of waffles that is a favourite amongs locals and visitors alike. Waffles are still sold in vans on the corner of streets and in metro stations.
Local Customs in Brussels
Brussels is a very cosmopolitan city so locals are used to encountering people from many different cultures and are usually open-minded and friendly. In order to behave appropriately and appreciate the differences of culture in Brussels, it pays to learn a few of the customs while travelling. These include such things as tipping, small talk, language and things you will see on the street. When greeting someone hello or goodbye, you normally kiss one cheek. If you meet a Belgian person for the first time it’s usually not customary to talk about ‘what you do for a living’. However, since many Belgians work in international environments, don’t be surprised if they ask you!