Did you know that Belgium is the European country with the most complex language legislation? But what does complex language legislation mean, and how does it impact training and development?
Belgium is comprised of four linguistic regions but only has three national languages (the Brussels-Capital region is bilingual). Legislation exists to protect individuals in the linguistic minority in each region--laws that may mandate the translation of your training materials, handbooks, and eLearning lessons.
Test your Knowledge of Belgian Culture:
- True or False? While English is the language of choice for politicians, it's not one of Belgium's official languages.
- Belgium is a:
- Democratic Union
- True or False? Given the diversity of the Belgian population, very little ethnic bias is evident in their culture.
Quick Tips for Training & Development in Belgium1:
- When seeking to do business in Europe, Belgium is a frequent test market as they provide an accurate representation of the age, income, and education of the average European Union Member. They also represent a smaller audience to test receptivity to your product and message.
- Most Belgians are Roman Catholic. Religious ideals and absolutes play into everyday decision making.
- Belgians are highly risk-adverse. Some attribute this to German invasions in the country's history. This lends to rigidity, a high value of structure and stability, and an emphasis on mutual trust. Keep this in mind when crafting your training materials and build rapport early on through consistency and a clearly communicated plan.
- Month-long vacations are common and may interrupt ongoing training classes or meetings.
- Use high-end graphics in your handbooks and presentations as Belgians appreciate visual examples.
- As there are three distinct linguistic groups in Belgium, be mindful of your audience and their unique customs. If you're unsure of what language is best to use, speak English and never discuss a preference towards French, German, or Dutch in particular. Language plays a large role in establishing relationships, so take care to determine if you can meet the linguistic needs of the entire population.
- There are several American gestures or postures that hold different meanings in Belgium:
- Standing with your hands in your pockets is offensive.
- The okay sign means zero.
- Pointing with your index finger is rude so be sure to gesture with your full hand.
Knowledge Answers from Above:
- True. Belgium's official languages are French, Dutch, and German and the prevailing language will differ per region. While English is widely used, it is not one of the official languages.
- Belgium is a Kingdom, a constitutional monarchy where the King is Chief of State.
- False. Class distinctions are prevalent and many individuals still hold ethnic bias.
1Morrison, Terri, and Wayne A. Conaway, Kiss, Bow, Or Shake Hands, 2nd ed. (Avon: Adams Media, 2006).