Intercultural communication

Greetings

Greeting someone can have different meanings.

A short handshake is the usual greeting among people who don’t know each other all too well. Both men and women shake hands when they do not know each other. A more informal way of greeting is to kiss three times on the cheek. Of course a handshake is still okay. It depends on what you feels good to you.

A cuddly toy is common among friends. But also here, not mandatory. It often depends on your group of friends and environment.

Giving and receiving gifts 

Gifts are very common in Belgian society.

When you celebrate your birthday, you will almost certainly receive a gift from your parents, close family and close friends.

For births and marriages, a birth list or wedding list is often drawn up by the brand new parents or newly married couple. Family and friends can choose from the list what they want to give as a gift.

On holidays, gifts are an indispensable part of life. New Year and / or Christmas gifts are distributed. Children receive gifts at Easter and Saint Nicholas.

When you are invited to the homes of Belgians, it is common to bring along a small gift for the hostess or gentleman. This could be flowers, chocolate, or homemade biscuits. But it doesn’t really matter what you bring,  it’s all about you being attentive.

You should probably not bring chrysanthemums with you. They are mainly used to place around the graves at cemeteries during All Saints to honor the dead.

Gifts are usually opened when they are received.

Table manners 

Table manners are continental – the fork is held in the left hand and the knife on the right while eating. We (almost) never eat with our hands, only when the dishes require to do so.

When there is a toast with drinks, everybody waits to drink from their glasses until everyone is served,  or until the host raises their glass.

Indicate that you have finished eating by placing your knife and fork parallel to your plate, with the teeth facing up, with the handles facing right.

Expressing one’s praise for a meal is a sincere compliment.

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