Come to Belgium

About Belgium

A few figures

Population
11,35 millions inhabitants per km2 (2017)
Superface area
32 545 km²
Population density
349 inhabitants per km2 (2017)
Capitale
Brussels
National languages
Dutch, French and German
Currency
the euro (EUR)
National Day:
July 21th
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
Come to Belgium

Let’s have a look on it’s 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.

Come to Belgium

School

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.

What's famous in Belgium

Comics

Around Brussels, have a look at the walls of the houses; you will discover a lot of frescos dedicated to the Belgian cartoon characters.

Tintin: Every year three million Tintin books are sold throughout the world. The adventures of this young reporter and his dog have been translated into fifty-eight languages and 22 films have been out of the books.

Spirou: With his faithful companions Fantasio, a journalist, and Spip, Spirou travels the world seeking always more unusual adventures. Spirou is also the first real popular magazine devoted to comics trips.

Lucky Luke: the cowboy who pulls the trigger faster than his shadow was translated into 30 languages for a total of 250 million copies sold around the world.

The Smurfs: those happy and carefree little blue dwarfs, living in mushrooms deep in the forest need to escape the traps laid by Gargamel.

What's famous in Belgium

Food

Belgian chocolate: the Belgian chocolate is famous all around the world. In 1912, Jean Neuhaus, a Belgian confectioner created the praline: a mouth full of filled chocolate.

French fries: the so-called French-fries could be called Belgian fries. In every corner of Belgium, you will find a French fries stall. Most families eat fries once a week. Mussels and French fries is a famous dish too.

Waffles: The first thing that the foreigners try when they arrive must be the Waffle. There are three kinds of waffles: the soft waffle that is eaten cold, the Brussels waffle that is eaten hot with whipped cream, chocolate or ice-cream, and the Liège waffle that is eaten hot or cold.

Beer: with more than 700 sorts of beers, we can say that it is a national drink. Some of them are still hand-crafted.

What's famous in Belgium

Famous Figures

Music: Jacques Brel was a very popular singer in the 50th, 60th and 70th. Some of his most famous songs had been covered by David Bowie and Sting.

Sport: Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters have been for a long time among the best players in the world. Thanks to them many finals were Belgians. Eddy Merckx had been cycling champion in the 70th.World-record holder for the number of victories, he is still considered by some people the best cyclist ever.

Painting: René Magritte was a surrealist painter well known for playing with the reality. His work influenced artists' generation like the Beetles. Rubens was a Flemish Baroque Painter. His masterpiece, The Massacre of the Innocents was sold for $76.2 million in 2002.

Writing: Since 1992, Amélie Nothomb has been writing novels for which she has been rewarded. Two of her novels have already been adapted to the cinema: Hygiène de l'assassin and Stupeur et tremblements. The most translated works in the world after the Bible are the books of the Belgian author Georges Simenon called Inspector Maigret.

Come to Belgium

Did you forget something ?

Check if you have accomplished all those things while you were on exchange !

  • Eat a belgian waffle
  • See a french/belgian movie
  • Read a belgian comic book
  • Go to a club
  • Learn a french card game
  • Having a phone call in french
  • Playing a new sport
  • Cooking a typical Belgian dinner for your family
  • Saying 'A tes souhaits' to a stranger who sneezes
  • Learning the Belgian national anthem
  • Going biking with some friends
  • Going for a drink on the Brussels' Grand Place
  • Tasting the sirup of Liège
  • Eating Belgian chocolate
  • Visiting a Christmas market
  • Eating some Belgian fries with mayonnaise
  • Going fo a walk in the Ardennes
  • Learning some french songs
  • Learning to use an Azerty and not a Querty
  • Kite-flying in North Sea
  • Taking part to a Carnaval cortege
  • Going on a boat in Bruges
  • Making some new friends from all over the world

Haven't done all of this while on exchange in Belgium?

Just one more reason to come back and visit!!!

Come to belgium

Come to Belgium

You want to learn another language, to discover another culture?

Thanks to its central location, Belgium is the real heart of today's Europe.

Only a few hours from Paris, London or Amsterdam by car, it could be the perfect place to experience a European lifestyle.

A SMALL COUNTRY BUT A BIG NATION!

When you think of Belgium, you probably think of beers, French fries or chocolate. You might as well think of cycling and comics.

But Belgium is much more than that. During your stay, you'll experience the natural warmth of the Belgians, their legendary self-derision sense and their ability to enjoy life.

A SMALL COUNTRY BUT A LOT TO DO!

During your exchange program in Belgium you will be staying with a Belgian host family. They will help you to understand the Belgian culture. You will discover how rich this culture is. Belgians are famous in many areas: music, painting, writing, sport and much more.

No time to be bored. The YFU's volunteers will plan lots of activities. Each year the inbound students visit famous cities like Paris, Cologne or Brussels.

WE'RE WAITING FOR YOU!

What to see, where to go?

Brussels

The capital is famous for its architecture (gothic, Art Nouveau and Art Déco). The Grand-Place is on the list of the UNESCO heritage. Soak up the atmosphere and walk around the place until you find Manneken Pis: a bronze statue representing a little boy having a pee. It was created in the early 17th century by Jérôme Duquesnoy. A legend says that Manneken Pis saved the city from a fire by urinating on the flames. Not far from Brussels, you can see the Atomium. It is like the Eiffel tower for the Belgians. Monument representing a magnified iron molecule, it was specially designed for the World Exhibition in 1958. Belgian engineer André Waterkeyn wanted to present the molecule of crystalline metal, enlarged 165 billion times! The structure is 120 meters high. The topmost ball contains a restaurant and a viewing hall. From there, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view over Brussels. Don't forget to have a look at the masterpieces of the architect Horta, three hotels and a house from the 19th century classified in the UNESCO list as word heritage.

Bruges and Ghent

Bruges and Ghent are well known for their medieval cultural heritage. Both cities are crossed by canals, and are unique in the world. No wonder why people call Bruges the "Venice of the North". More than this, the historic Center of Bruges is an outstanding example of a medieval historic city classified in the UNESCO heritage.

Tournai

The Romanesque cathedral of Notre Dame de Tournai has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Liège

Formerly the town was an important economic center in Europe. Today, Liège is the favorite place to go out. The characteristic districts, the river Meuse, which transects from South to North, the abrupt and wooded hills surrounding it as well as its marked relief, providing a multitude of original perspectives give the city an exceptional charm.

Namur

Since 11 December 1986, Namur has been the capital of Wallonia. The Walloon Government set up its ministerial offices on the banks of the river. This quiet town is a great place to go for a stroll.

The Ardennes

Situated in the south-east of Belgium, the forest is one of nature's unspoiled area, rich in fauna and flora. The government has developed the region to able people to take a walk. On Sunday, lots of families go there for a walk. There you can visit the "Grottes de Hans", you can taste beer and cheese made in the Chimay abbey, or lounge through the streets of Durbuy, a charming village.

The North Sea

The Belgian coast has a length of 65 kilometers. On the sandy coastline are 15 resorts, each with its own character and unique atmosphere.

Ostende is the easiest Town to reach by train. There you can go for a ride along the seawall using a bicycle or a « cuistax », a kart without motor.

Antwerp, is the second largest port harbour of Europe, and has yearly naval festivities. It has a world renowned diamond stock exchange. It's a very important cultural city from the 17th century. In Knokke, you will see the nature reserve called Zwin with its birds and exotics butterflies.

Events

The Carnival is a part of the cultural heritage. The Carnival of Binche (with the Gilles and their 24 Hour dance), Stavelot (with the Blancs-Moussîs) and Malmedy are spectacular.

In summer, Belgium celebrates music. There are a lot of festivals. Most of them are free.

In September, Belgium celebrates its national heritage. During two weeks, lots of museums, town houses and sites are free access.

Holidays

Here are the Belgian public holidays and the official school holidays (in bold)

  • 1st January : New Year's Day
  • February or March, 1 week : Carnival holidays
  • March or April, 2 weeks : Easter holidays
  • first Monday following the full moon after the 21st march : Easter
  • Monday 1st May : Labor Day
  • Thursday 40 days after Easter : Ascension Day
  • Monday, 7th Monday after Easter : Pentecost
  • July and Angust : Summer holidays
  • 21st July : National Day
  • 15th August : Assumption of Mary
  • November, 1 week : All Saints holidays
  • 1st November : All Saints' Day
  • 11th November : Armistice Day
  • December, 2 weeks : Christmas holidays
  • 25 th December : Christmas

Feast days

  • 8th May : Feast Day of the Brussels-Capital Region
  • 11th July : Feast Day of the Flemish Community
  • Third Sunday of September : Feast Day of the Walloon Region
  • 27th September : Feast Day of the French Community
  • 15th November : Feast Day of the German-speaking Community

Here are celebrated feasts that are not public holidays

  • 6th January : The Epiphany
  • 14 th February : Valentine's Day
  • 6th December : Saint Nicholas