What Are The Differences Between Belgium And France ?


The French part of Belgium, and France, are often believed to be really similar to each other, yet there are differences to be seen. One prefers waffles to crepes, for example, but the differences stretch much further than that.

Indeed, even the French language differs depending on the side of the frontier you’re in. The most famous one lies in the number. Jokes about the complicated way to say « seventy » and « ninety » in french as « soixante-dix », literally sixty-ten and « quatre-vingt-dix », four-twenty-ten are not used in the french Belgian, the easier « septante », seventy and « nonante » ninety are used instead.

The funniest example of that might also be the word « pistolet » which can be used in a bakery to order a small type of bread, however if you used that word in France, people might be scared as for them it actually means « gun ». Also, in Belgium people use various words to say that it is raining depending on its intensity, those words are often not known or understood by the French.

Moreover, some jokes arise between the countries because of a different way to ask for something politely. French people as in most languages will ask someone as « Can/Could you give me a pen ». However in Belgium people will literally say « You know to give me a pen », to which the French often will funnily reply « I know for sure, but maybe I can’t ».

Culturally, there are also some major differences which strengthen as you drive away from the frontier France and Belgium shares.

First and most importantly the « chips » culture in Belgium. In this tiny country there are numerous small restaurant that sells primarily chips sided with some kind of meat or vegetarian options, but the main dish stays the chips. Though this can also be found in the North of France, usually the French tend to eat chips as a side. This can lead to weird encounters when a French person goes to these restaurants to please his/her Belgiuan friend and only comes back with one chips serving for four.

Also, they don’t say hello in the same manner. Belgians will kiss you once, but French will kiss you twice if you know each other well, which can sometimes make the Belgians look rude to the French.

On a more serious matter, education is different in both countries. Belgium has no admissions test for universities as long as you have your CESS or equivalence (equivalent to A-levels), except for Civil Engineering, but in France most of the good schools will ask to take a test before being accepted. This is why many French people go to study in Belgium but only a small numbers of Belgians go to study in France.

Another educational difference is the name of the different level in secondary school. In Belgium, after six years spent in primary school, students start over in « First Year » in secondary school until « Sixth Year » which is the equivalent of the English A-level. However in France, students only spend five years in primary school, and in secondary school will start in « Seventh Year » to finish in « First Year or Terminal », just before entering university. This is a huge language struggle when students  from Belgium and France talk to one another about school.

Those are only some of the difference between the French part of Belgium and France. They widen as you get further away from Belgium. Both countries’ varied histories have shaped the political system and cultural customs in differing manners.


Leave A Reply