Speaking of people – Fleming and Walloon in Belgium

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Two years ago I was following my Dutch course in Leuven, where I had to make a small presentation in the class, the topic I chose was: The difference between Flemish and Walloon. I remembered my classmates were laughing like hell about the statements I made, but they also admitted that the statements were quite true, recently talking with someone reminded my presentation at that time, that is why I decided to translate them in English for this blog.

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If you are interested in my original Dutch text, leave a comment I will share.

Maybe before I talk about the difference, a small introduction could be interesting for people who don’t know much about Belgium.

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As you can see, Belgium is divided geographically and linguistically into 3 regions: The northern region is called Flanders where people (the Flemish people) speaks Flemish, the southern region is called Wallonia where the people called Walloon speak French, and of course the Capital Brussels where people are expected to speak both languages, there is also a small part of people near German border where people speak German, but unfortunately I never met any of them.

The complexity of Belgium is more than just people and language, there are also historical, economical and political reasons. I will just write about the difference in people today. If you are interested, you can check this article for more info.

I have worked in Belgium for 4 years so far and I have had personal and working relationship with both Flemish and Walloon. Honestly speaking, it is quite surprising how different they are and sometimes you begin to wonder if they really are from the same country!

1. Flemish people are more punctual

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I remembered when I just joined this consulting company in Brussels, I organized an activity to go to an amusement park called Walibi with my new colleagues. In doodle everyone filled in their availability and eventually a date was set. One day before it happened when we were talking about buying the tickets, most of the Walloon said that they would not be able to make it because the weather might be bad the next day.

As an organizer I sent out an email to check with everyone if we should reschedule it because of the weather condition. However, my Flemish colleagues replied: “Let’s stick to the original plan because we already planned the rest of the weekends.” In the end I enjoyed a whole day in the amusement park with my Flemish colleagues in rain, and it was quite fun!

Not only the Flemish usually stick to the original plan, they also are really punctual for the appointments, even for coffee or dinner, usually you can expect the Walloons or French people having 15 – 30 minutes delay.

2. Walloons are more spontaneous

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I have been living in Flanders for 7 years, now I have developed a skill that is “To enjoy time with myself”. I could go shopping myself, go to have a coffee alone, or go to gym by myself, it is not because I am not social or what, it is simply because the Flemish people literally plan everything beforehand in their time slot, it is almost impossible to have any Ad-hoc activity.

If you phone a Flemish friend to go for a coffee NOW, he or she would think you are crazy, if they are nice they would ask “tell me what is the emergency!”.

If you run into a Flemish friend on the street, after greetings, they would say “ah it is nice to see you, let’s plan something so we can go for a coffee next time”, then immediately they open their calendar and try to find a time slot. Nice, aren’t they? And to be honest, I am also a bit Flemish in this sense.

On the contrary, if I feel like to have a coffee with my French speaking friends, I could call them and meet them the same day, and even if they have other engagements, they would say “why don’t you join us?”. In general, the Walloon people are more open and easier to accept new people in the group.

3. Flemish people are more economical

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When I was working at my first client, there was no canteen or restaurant in the company for lunch. But there are tons of snacks and restaurants around.

What amazes me is that: 1. How much Belgians like sandwiches, they can have it everyday for lunch! 2. Flemish people always bring a sandwich lunch box from home, however, the walloons/foreigners always go outside to buy a sandwich or eat outside.

Flemish often talk about saving money and buy a house, the walloons often talk about going out for a drink, dinner or movies together.

4. Flemish people are more conservative

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When I just moved to Belgium, it was quite difficult to make friends with the locals (i.e Flemish) because both Chinese and Flemish are quite closed, they like to stay in their comfortable circles.

As a result, during the first year, I did not become real friends with any Flemish people. Luckily during the second year, with the effort from the professors, we began to get more integrated because we were encouraged to form international teams for projects and labs.

I am really lucky that I made some really good friends from there and once the Flemish people became friends with you, they are there for your whole life.

5. Walloons in general enjoy life more

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It seems there are not much deadline for Walloons in life. They can stay outside for dinner until 1 or 2 o’clock if they like to, they are never stressed about finding a girlfriend, getting married or buying a house and so on.

On the contrary you might already know, the Flemish people like to plan things, they usually have some sort of deadlines for their milestones in life.

It is quite interesting to meet all kinds of people in Belgium, being a foreigner in Belgium is not easy but definitely worth the effort. You can meet and become friends with people from all kinds of other countries like Lebanon, Portugal, France, Romania, India, Russia, Canada, Czech Republic, Spain, Italy and so on, and believe it or not, my friends are awesome!

Get to know more about Flemish people.

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5 comments

  1. It’s really amazing how you lead your life there. Sounds like you are surrounded by friends from every corner of Europe 😀
    Actually, I am very amazed by you to view things and summarize people in this way since I am not this kind of people good at classifying people cuz I believe everyone has his/her own character.

    1. But just to share with you that Shanghainese is not as exclusive as hearsay, especially the young generation. I know several young Shanghainese and none of them act like the stubborn image, but open minded and friendly instead.

      1. Hey Qiao,

        Glad that you visit my site again 🙂
        Indeed people have different characters, my summary is just very high level with comparison between Flemish and Walloons, and of course there are also exceptions, but really not much.
        Different or not I think most important is that people enjoy their lives.

        Yeah indeed I am really proud and thankful that I have so many different friends and how awesome they are 🙂

        Btw, want to write some things about life in Shanghai?

        xx
        Lin

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