A few figures
Population: 10.584.534 inhabitants (2008)
Surface area: 32,545 km2
Population density: 315 inhabitants per km2 (2001)
National languages: Dutch, French and German
Currency: the euro (EUR)
National Day: July 21st
Government: federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch
Head of State: Philippe de Belgique
Time zone: GMT + 1 hour
Summer time, from the last Sunday of March to the last Sunday of October: GMT + 2 hours
Domestic electricity: 220 volts
Maximum distance between two points: 280 km
Peak: Signal de Botrange (694 m)
Anthem: the Brabançonne
Let's have a look on its history!
Belgium was originally a territory populated by the Celts. The Belgians entered history 2,000 years ago when Julius Caesar mentioned them in his book: "Commentaries on the Gallic War". "Of all people of Gaul the Belgians were the bravest" he wrote in order to justify the 5 years it took to conquer the region (in 51 BC).
Then the various states between future France and Germany were gathered in a single state by the dukes of Burgundy (1384-1443). These territories were named the Netherlands (Belgica in Latin). In the 16th century the Netherlands became independent. After being part of France and the Netherlands, the Belgians took their independence on October 4th, 1830.
About Belgians It is quite difficult to describe the Belgian population since it is divided into three communities, each of which speaking a different language. Nevertheless a considerable number of characteristics can be found in most Belgians. They are generally said to be good hosts and know how to enjoy life. The innumerable cafés and restaurants prove it. Besides, they are considered to be good workers. Family is one of the basic values of Belgian society. Consequently family life is very important. For example your host family will certainly eat dinner every evening all together and week-ends are dedicated to family activities. The society is based on solidarity and the social security system works perfectly. Family allowance, pension, medical insurance, disability benefit, unemployment benefit and paid leave are distributed to those who are eligible. The health care is among the best in the world.
Belgian educational system depends on the 3 communities: the French community, the Flemish community and the German-speaking community.
There are 2 sectors: the private sector and the public sector.
There are 2 education networks: catholic schools and official schools.
Nursery schools for children between 2 and 6 years old are not compulsory.
Primary schools for children between 6 and 12 years old last 6 years and are compulsory.
Secondary schools are for teenagers between 12 and 18 years old. It counts three grades that last 2 academic years. During first grade every pupil receives the same education program. The pupils choose the foreign languages. When they reach the second grade, they have the possibility to continue their curriculum in a general, technical, artistic or professional school.
Exchange students usually attend the 5th or 6th grade of secondary school to be around students of the same age. School usually starts at 8:30 and ends at 16:00. There is neither school on Wednesday afternoon nor on Saturday. The Academic year begins in September and ends in June.