Doing Business in Belgium

Business Etiquette belgiumFor the business traveller, doing business in foreign countries can bring with it cross cultural communication challenges. Understanding and appreciating a country's business culture, protocol and etiquette is important in nurturing good business relationships.

This guide to doing business in Belgium offers some basic pointers on how to do business more effectively by moulding your means and ways to accommodate the target culture. It is not intended to summarise all 'doing business tips' nor meant to stereotype. It simply highlights some key areas for consideration when doing business in Belgium.

Meeting & Greeting

Belgians shake hands when meeting, although among friends the 'air kiss' is traded times on alternate cheeks. Wait for your Belgian counterpart to initiate the move to this level of intimacy.

There are three languages used in Belgium - German, French and Flemish. With German and Flemish speakers use the English terms Mr., Mrs. or Miss. With French speakers, use Monsieur, Madame or Madamemoiselle. First names are only usually used between friends.

Business cards are usually exchanged upon meeting. Try and have any cards translated into the target language of your counterpart.

Business Meetings

Doing business abroad inevitable involves business meetings or negotiations. To book an appointment in Belgium, phone or write at least a week in advance. You will most probably be given a time and date rather than having to suggest one.

Punctuality is vital in Belgium. Unless there is a very good reason, lateness is simply considered bad form. First meetings are usually used for 'getting to know you' purposes. However, some may get straight down to business, so be prepared for both possibilities. A little bit of small talk is recommended simply to establish some sort of relationship and build trust.

Agendas are always a good idea for meetings. Belgians like a meeting to be well structured and focused. Ensure the meeting does not have interruptions such as phones ringing, trips to the lavatory or frequent coffee breaks - your counterparts will most likely want to get business done as soon as possible.

During negotiations one should not rely solely on facts, statistics and other empirical evidence. Indeed, appealing to personal feelings and sentiments can be just as effective.

Dining Etiquette

Dining is a good way of relationship building. Belgians usually eat dinner between 7-8 p.m. Use dinners to engage in talk on a personal level. Business can be discussed but wait for your counterpart to initiate the conversation.

Be sure not to start drinking until the toast has been made. Glasses are raised twice during a toast; once during the verbal toast and then after exchanging glances.

Doing Business in Belgium

The above examples point to a few areas one must take into consideration when doing business in Belgium. Such tips are meant as a safety-net for those doing business there to help avoid misunderstandings and promote better communication.

Business Culture Guides

We offer free guides to doing business in many countries. Please visit Business Culture Guides for a full list.

Interested in some training? We offer cultural awareness training on Belgian culture for business.