I arrived in Belgium today and will start my trip in the French-speaking part (Wallony) of the country. Today in Li?ge, I will visit Namur and Louvain-la-Neuve before entering Dutch speaking territory (Flanders). Today, I am asking the Belgians in Li?ge about national pride. Most frequent answer.. a big sigh. Some even start by listing things they are not proud of.
The list of things to be unproud of include the government and the national football team. The football team because it did not qualify for the 2008 World Championships. The government because Belgium has been without a proper government for almost half a year now. Dutch- and French speaking parties are not able to reach an agreement, leaving the country in the biggest identity crisis since its independence from The Netherlands in 1830.
..are big fans of self-derogatory Belgian humour
Made in Belgium
After the initial hesitance, the list of Belgian favourites starts invariably with Belgian chips, les frites belges/Belgische frieten, Belgian beer and Belgian chocolate. Belgian chips go with a wide variety of sauces and can be bought at many a street corner. Beer also comes in many different types with bi?re trappiste/trappistenbier known for having the best quality and taste. Chocolate can take all sorts of different shapes, with the most well-known being square or round: Belgian bonbons pralines are mouthwatering. Also from Belgium: the cartoons of Tin-Tin, Bob et Bobette (Engl: Spike and Suzy) and Gaston Lagaffe.
Vincent (20) and Justine (19) mention tennis players Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters as sources of pride. Both entered the international tennis arena in the late 1990s and for many years since reigned the discipline. Justine Henin is still active, Kim Clijsters resigned at early age to settle down and start a family. Cyclists are also popular, with Eddy Merckx as historical representative and Tom Boonen as a more recent talent. Also, the female national basketball team can also count on sympathy, as they have booked some impressive results over the last few years.
Sophie (26) is proud that Brussels is the capital of Europe. `It shows that Belgium is a trustworthy and stable country`, she says. She likes the main market square in Brussels, and to the same extent adores the Belgian landscape. Her favourite region is the Eastern part of the country. The forest and hills in the Ardennes region attract many tourists from Belgium and The Netherlands alike. Cross-country skiing is popular in winter, while summer is perfect for hiking, cycling, canoeing or survival activities.
Caroline (24) and Samantha (24, both in photo) thinks Belgians have the right to be proud of their sense of humour. `We like to laugh and smile a lot. Belgians like to laugh at themselves and are also fond of comedians who make fun of themselves, fellow Belgians or simply events that are in the news`, they say. They mention Fran?ois Pirette, Beno?t Poelvoorde as French-speaking comedians, but have to admit that they don`t know any Flemish ones.
Belgians would have a hard time without a good sense of humour, because many of their neighbours like to joke about them. North of Belgium, the Dutch are mocking about them, while the French in the South do the same. Belgians may get annoyed about that, but they for sure have their opinion about their neighbours as well. Caroline and Samantha say the French are much more serious than the Belgians, and also much more chauvinistic. Julien (22) and Mathilde (22) take it a little further. They call the French way of speaking snobbish and the French themselves rather static and arrogant. When they watch French TV, they laugh at the main French channel TF1 because of its pretentious and commercial style.
The Dutch, who joke about Belgians for being clumsy and slightly dumb, are said to drive too slowly, oftentimes because of their caravans. They are furthermore said to bring entire fridge-loads of food with them so they don`t need to spend money locally. There are no particular reproaches made to the German, but they are nevertheless joked at for combining socks and sandals.
The nationally acknowledged inferiority complex does not apply to music. Belgium has numerous bands who are successful abroad. They risk being thought of internationally as either Dutch or French, but, no, they are not. Johnny Halliday, Jacques Brel, Arnaud, K`s Choice, Hooverphonics, Zita Swoon, Novastar, Superlux? they are all as Belgian as one can be Belgian. It takes some time to get Belgians started about liking their own country. But once they start, you will quickly believe that Belgium is a very pleasant place. If only they`d also think of multilingualism as something to cherish, the Belgian would have a much better time with each other.
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