Business culture : Belgian communication

Belgium-flag-140Belgium Business etiquette have different aspects of business practice, such as Business communication. Business etiquette can also include language, gift giving, face-to-face communication.

Questions such as verbal and nonverbal communication are addressed with a focus on normative business etiquette. Also included are information on Belgian work practices and habits that could be useful for trade negotiations.

Commercial communication

In the Belgian commercial label, there is a commercial communication; you may also notice a lack of communication during a business meeting that can have serious consequences on the success of the transaction. We have good relations with this country. In a foreign country, you can meet people from different backgrounds and their communication style will also be different. You need to be prepared because you are facing a shocking culture when dealing with business partners, embarrassing yourself and making uncomfortable contacts.

Most Belgians know their own value and are aware of their roots in their professional communication. The existence of parallel, Flemish, Walloon and German cultures in the country makes it important to speak to people in the language of their choice. The easiest way to avoid communication problems is to use English. It is interesting that Belgians are attached to their local community. It is not intrusive to ask for the origin of a person.

To create a positive image on the Belgian commercial label, it is important to master the first contact. The verbal and nonverbal aspects of business communication will be described.

In business communication, it is particularly important to note that it must be presented in the language of the community concerned.

Face-to-face Communication in the Belgium Business communication

Introductions depend on the circumstances of each situation. In general, the best practice is to introduce a third party. However, in some situations, you must introduce yourself. It is essential to shake hands firmly. When you shake a woman’s hand, it’s polite to wait for her to squeeze it gently.

Cultural differences

Belgians are counting on you to “break the ice”. In Belgium, it is necessary to choose a general subject avoiding problems. You can talk about Belgian cuisine, beer or chocolate. The topics for the other part are football, popular music, cartoons (Belgium has the highest rate of professional designers among the best in the world) or tennis. If you are French or Dutch, avoid making jokes at the expense of Belgians.

In commercial communication, Flemish Belgians focus on the task at hand. A young Flemish consultant who said: “When I send an email to a Walloon, I go straight to the point, but when my Walloon, she begins by asking me how I spend a good week – and then I wonder if it is why politicians tell me, is it just because we are different? Meet my Walloon friend, we have it and we have fun. ”

Belgian expectation

However, in their value systems, all Belgians have the same priorities: to avoid conflicts, to remain attached to the roots, to be wary of the authority (a German journalist married to a Flemish Belgian that “the Belgian backs down before any authority, he is a convinced anarchist “) and a good appreciation of the good things in life.

In professional communication, the foreigner expects a friendly, warm welcome from Belgians in business. The Dutch journalist Derk-Jan Eppink summarizes the generous character in his book Belgian Adventures, writes: “After much reflection, I am now convinced that a Dutch who comes to live in Belgium will never be Dutch, You are here: Home> Belgium> Belgium> Belgium, France: different truths: to understand that one is always right, but it is a little fair.

Language Matters in Belgium Business etiquette

Foreign languages in Belgium

The educated Flemish Belgians are more proficient in foreign languages ​​than French speakers. This reflects the fact that the country has a history of linguistic fault and has survived. This aspect is quite important in the business etiquette in Belgium.

Dutch-speakers in international trade will master English and French, and will master German. In most Flemish SMEs, English is the second most important language.

International reports show that Flanders, which teaches an average of 2.6 foreign languages ​​per student, is at the top of the European ranking. The recent success of similar initiatives in the French Community is creating new initiatives in Flanders. This article is available in English or French, but it is not yet published in French. Otherwise, the second most popular language is taught in Flanders from 13-14 years old.

So, an English class can be an option. It will be necessary to use interpreters to negotiate with Belgian businessmen. This can be considered a lack of trust.

Foreign languages in Belgian Companies

No matter what language the Belgians speak, be it Flemish, French or Walloon, the Belgians must trust them to be able to talk to foreigners. In addition, they will use the official form and show respect when talking to older family members and their colleagues.

For discussions with your Belgian counterparts, the following topics are secure and appropriate:

  • The weather – e.g. “Nice day!”
  • Food and drink – e.g. “Would you like a cup of coffee?” or “Are you hungry?”
  • Travel – e.g. “How was the journey?” or “Did you have a pleasant flight?”
  • Family – e.g. “Please give my best regards to your wife”
  • Entertainment – e.g. “Did you see the film last night on TV?”
  • Holidays – e.g. “When do you plan to go on holiday?”
  • Music – e.g. “Do you like pop music?”
  • News – e.g. “Did you hear about the demonstrations in France?”
  • Sport, particularly football, cycling or tennis – “I see the winner was a Belgian!”
  • General topics – e.g. “How was your day yesterday?” or “See you on Monday.”
  • If you know that your partner has a particular interest – such as a hobby, studies, work, cars – you can focus the discussion around the topic. The golden rule is not to attempt to find out too much personal information as this might be considered an intrusion into the privacy that Belgians value greatly.  

Business Relationships

The most important is to develop personal relationships, the Walloons a little more than the Flemings, which is important for both communities.

The Walloons are particularly “relationship-oriented”, more than the Flemish, who are more “task-oriented”. The difference between the two communities is a question of priorities: the Walloons are willing to develop the relationship to complete the task, the Flemish will focus on the task while investing in the relationship.

All Belgians have a strict line of demarcation between business and social affairs. The privacy of Belgians is “forbidden” to everyone except for family and close friends.

Depending on the size of the business, a transaction must be ignored as complete and confirmed in writing. It is essential to ensure that the terms and conditions of the agreement are included in the written document.

Making contact

In Belgium, the usual way to greet is the handshake saying for example “hello”. In a social context, two women can kiss each other. At the first meeting, Flemish and German speakers are more likely than Walloons. Anglophones in the Brussels region can be formal.

Normally, Belgians warmly welcome without being too intimate. During work meetings, the newcomer must go around the room.

The “intimate zone” of the Belgians is about 50 cm. At the first meeting, make eye contact while listening. Avoid intense eye contact as it can be felt as invasive.

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Personal titles

The titles and diplomas (engineer, etc.) are used sparingly in Belgium, without resorting to specific information from the British or Americans. With the exception of university professors and lawyers, professional titles are rarely used in contrast to practice in German cultures or some Northern cultures. First names must be used, preferably on the initiative of the Belgian side. Older members should have special attention.

Remember that if you venture into French or Flemish, you will be faced with the possibility of using it on your own. For more security, stick to your colleague’s address method.

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