Similarities between Belgium and Britain


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Having lived in both countries, and a few others in Europe, I'd say that Belgium is one of the most similar country to the UK, and especially to England.

Similarities between the two countries abound.

Apart from a common national liking for chips, beer and beef steak, from a geographic viewpoint, the climate of Belgium is the same as in Southern England, and so is the landscape (Flanders is flat like East Anglia, while Wallonia is more like the Downs).

Belgian people have a strong affinity for their house, so the saying "an Englsihman's house is his castle" could fit them perfectly too.

As for clothes, the fashion style in Belgium is much more similar to Britain than to almost any other countries (from English-style suits to youth fashion).

The political system is also similar. One big capital, with a lot of devolution of power to the states (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, vs England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the UK) and different parties for each state.

Apart that Belgium is also a parliamentary monarchy, the first king of Belgium (Leopold I) was the uncle of both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (who were first cousins).

Belgium was also the first country to industrialise on the continent, and Ghent was called the Manchester of the continent. After WWII, Belgium's steel and coal industry also collapse like in Britain.

In the Middle Ages, England exported most of its wool to Flemish cities like Bruges, Ghent and Ypres, that made cloth and tapestries with it. Many cities in East Anglia (eg. King's Lynn) have had so close historical connections with Belgium in the late middle ages that it had an effect on the architecture as many Belgians settled there.

The first ever printed English book was printed in Bruges, while the legend of King Arthur and the Holy Grail developed from manuscripts taken by Abbot Dunstan of Glastonbury to Ghent (after which French court poet Chretien de Troyes wrote his famous book). Also note that Edward III's two sons, Lionel of Antwerp and John of Gaunt, who respectively founded the houses of York and Lancaster of 'War of the Roses' fame, were born in Antwerp and Ghent, both in Belgium.

Linguistically, English comes from Anglo-Saxon/Old Norse and Old French/Latin. The two main languages in Belgium are Dutch (the closest modern relative of Anglo-Saxon) and French, and as many people are bilingual (esp. in Brussels) that makes it very easy for Belgians to learn English.
Most Belgiums seem to regard themselves as European, while most British tend to regard themselves as English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish or British.
Gaijin 06 said:
Most Belgiums seem to regard themselves as European, while most British tend to regard themselves as English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish or British.

True, but most Belgians also regard themselves as Flemish, Walloon, Belgian or European the same way as Brits often see themselves English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish or British. :p
I never thought about those similarities before Maciamo! I definitely agree about chips and beer! Mmmm :homer:

But I also agree with Gaijin06 that Belgians seem much more Europe-friendly than Brits - but that's probably because Brussels is practically the capital of Europe. If London were in that position I'm sure Brits would be more Europe-friendly.
Tsuyoiko said:
But I also agree with Gaijin06 that Belgians seem much more Europe-friendly than Brits - but that's probably because Brussels is practically the capital of Europe. If London were in that position I'm sure Brits would be more Europe-friendly.

According to the polls, 44% of the Brits are very or fairly proud to be European, against 63% in Belgium, 71% in Ireland and 81% in Italy. So, the Belgians are not among the most pro-European in the EU. In fact, they are almost exactly in the EU average. That's probably because lot's of people feel Flemish, Walloon, Brusseler or even belonging to their hometown before feeling European.
That surprises me. There is a perception here that Belgians are the most pro-European. That's why I prefer hard facts over popular perceptions any day! Thanks Maciamo.
hi, this might be an old post but after reading this i would like to give my own opinion about the differences between Belgium and England.

First of all, I am a Belgian living in South of England, living here now for more then 7 years.

I agree there are a lot of similarities like those you have pointed out.

"Most Belgiums seem to regard themselves as European, while most British tend to regard themselves as English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish or British."

I kind of agree with this statement but not totally. How many times did i have the argument to extremists in belgium saying they werent belgian or europen but flemish.. sounds stupid to me as the flandres is located in belgium and europe. there is no way around that..

the different with english people saying they are not european is that those statements don't always come from extremists.
-or they are confused with EU and europe, which are both different!
-or they just dont agree with the politics of the EU, but then again that links to the previous point.
the stubbornness makes the english not look further then their own island thinking england is on its own

but lets face it,.. its not at all.

Belgium is a very small country, it is indeed like a compact version of england,.. the flat south which can be compared to the north of belgium and hilly north, compareable with south of belgium.

one of the main differences between both countries are within the language.

in belgium u go to the walloons and you can forget almost about getting around speaking anything else then french
i think in the whole of england that is near enough the same. Ok, english is a popular language,.. but really,.. not everyone speaks it and not anyone should speak it unless u live in an english speaking country

when u go to the flandres,.. there is the main difference. speak to a belgian that cant speak english, that person will try with all his power and willingness to speak anything that looks like english with the necessary signlanguage

an example: on my last holiday in belgium i went to a chip shop. it was in the flandres,.. the person behind the counter was flemish, me

she knew i could speak dutch, still she helped me further in english.

in the walloons, the person just looked funny at me because my french was not good enough(i did try my hardest) and normally my french is just about good enough in other shops.

try going to england and speak a different language,.. good luck! you soon have people looking at you with frowning eyes.

which country is more modern? i'd say belgium, how things work, how you shop, how banks work.. u really need too see it to find it out for yourself how different( i leave that up to you)

the reason why i say that england is not on their own is aswell because of how england seems to work..

on one hand they like to do things different,.. their own way.. like keeping the pound, but still being joined in the EU,
on the other hand english likes to follow other countries oppinion,.. like,.. first saying yes, we will use the ID card system,.. then America isnt joining in,.. and guess what,.. hmmm.. lol

anyway i could rant about this for hours and hours but the more i write the more i sound anti english which is not true!!
i love england, i dont live here because it is same as belgium , because it is not!
I have never been to Belgium, but my father did quite often when he was younger. Genuinely he seems to have liked it very much, apart from experiencing the Flemish/Walloon divide a couple of times. Although i did see a bit of Belgian comedy recently (was Flemish i think though), and that was really funny - it was a practical joke sort of show, but they seem to have a good sense of humour.

Hushtalk, i also agree with what you say, especially about the stubbornness. I don't know all of the reasons for this - But regarding the EU, we weren't asked whether we wanted to join what is now the EU, a political union - one that is barely democratic. I'll try not to get on a rant about this, but the EU seems very 'tacky' - that's the only way i can explain it. It feels like the replacement of countries with proud histories with a political construct, 'Euroland' where everyone can do Euro this and Euro that and be only European. This is not the fault of the people in general, just a very small number of people with a lot of power.

I see what you are saying about being Flemish and European for example, or English and European. I think it is sort an instinct for us at the moment to separate ourselves, say in a similar way that Scandinavia is a part of Europe, but nonetheless has it's own 'sub-heading'. I would be proud to see myself as European, but as it is such a broad term, it is pretty meaningless, and so it isn't surprising that people will often prefer to identify with their particular country and it's legacy.

Also it is heavily relative on where you are. For example i don't see why laws made outside the UK would supersede those made in the UK, for use in the UK, it just doesn't make sense. I'm sure much of Europe would be up in arms if we suddenly decided that we would be making Laws for European countries directly, and rightly so, it is not our place.

I think it largely comes down to regionalism though. I see for example in Britain that in the past, people from one county would be opposed to, for example, giving their own money or time to help people from more than a couple of counties away, because as far as they were concerned, that problem was not theirs even though they were in the same country. In short, people were concerned with local affairs and their own lives, why should they be overly bothered with the situation a hundred miles away unless they knew it was going to affect them? I think it is the same to some degree with Europe and the EU - The EU might be ready to form itself into a single nation state - but a lot of the people aren't. Also people are very reactionary, and the media don't help this at all. It seems to have taken centuries in the past for national identities to be formed, and despite the extremely fast moving pace of modern times, it won't happen overnight if it does happen.

It's not as if our politics is any better either - Top level politicians are and always be their own entity i think - It seems that whatever fervour and ideals they had starting out is lost by the time they find real power. The only politicians i would trust are the ones who have relatively little power - they are the most honest.

I personally have a great respect for other European peoples, the EU is the new ruling elite, and i feel particularly empathetic towards those on the continent who are opposed. But anyway back to the topic! :]

It's interesting, Britain and England seem to be breaking down somewhat - Especially when you think about the Cornish independence movement for example, the referendum on Scottish Independence or calls by some people to have an English parliament at Winchester.

I think with the language, it is just because we have got used to being a sort of 'lingua Franca', so generally people don't see the need to learn other languages, but some do of course. I wouldn't a non-English speaking country unless i had at least more than a basic grasp of the language, given the option. And i wouldn't even consider living in another country without being fluent or close to fluent in their language, purely out of respect. Sure, i could go abroad and shout at people in English words, and it would probably work sometimes because many people have an understanding of the language internationally, but i would rather not. :]

In an ideal world, a trading union, and a central 'moot point' for European countries to discuss vital international matters relative to Europe, after all communication is key. Drives for political union i feel is taking things much too far. It's pretty interesting that an Empire dreamed of many times before by way of warfare is now being achieved through politics. It's very unnerving.

Sorry, off topic i know >.<.

Very interesting thread Maciamo - In particular i had not thought about the Dutch/French being spoken and it's connection with English, i suppose technically Belgium should be the linguistically closest country to Britain then :].

Kind Regards,
Sam Jackson
The relationship of Belgium with France is a bit similar to that of Scotland with England.

Both Scotland and Belgium have mixed Celto-Germanic ancestry, but both are divided in more Celtic highlands (Wallonia in Belgium) and more Germanic lowlands (Flanders in Belgium). Originally both regions were Celtic, both were partially settled by the Roman soldiers to protect the northern borders of the empire, and both were eventually invaded by several waves of Germanic invaders, who had almost the same origin. Belgium was first settled by Franks and Saxons in late Roman times, while it was the Anglo-Saxons in Scotland. Later the Vikings invaded both regions and a few settled there permanently. Over time all Belgians and Scots acquired mixed Celtic and Germanic ancestry, although Celtic ancestry remained stronger in the highlands. Nevertheless there isn't any Belgian or Scot with pure Celtic ancestry nowadays.

Historically the larger southern neighbour (France or England) was richer and more powerful and tried to impose its will on its northern neighbour. England tried many times to invade Scotland, and France did the same with Belgium (Southern Netherlands), although both were ultimately unsuccessful.

Nowadays Scotland is richer than England (except London), and Belgium is richer than France (except Paris). It can be argued that Scottish English is richer thanks standard English thanks to its unique words and idioms used in conjunction with standard English. The same is true of Belgian French, which possess man words and expressions that don't exist in standard French, while all standard French words are used or understood in Belgium.

One interesting way in which the Scots and Belgians diverge is that the Scots feel united as a nation despite the Highlands-Lowlands dichotomy, while Belgians feel divided. I believe that the sole reason for this is that Gaelic isn't spoken in Scotland anymore and that all Scots now speak English (as well as Scots for a section of the population). Language is one of the most important determining factors in cultural and national identity, far more than genes or history.
Bavaria (southern Germany) derives it's name from the Boii of Bohemia (Czech Republic) that migrated south wards; amazing....

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