Local Customs in Brussels
Brussels is a very cosmopolitan city so locals are used to encountering people from many different cultures and are usually open-minded and friendly. In order to behave appropriately and appreciate the differences of culture in Brussels, it pays to learn a few of the customs while travelling. These include such things as tipping, small talk, language and things you will see on the street.
At restaurants it is customary not to leave a large tip because a service charge is already included in your bill. If you felt the service was particularly pleasing you may leave €1-2 on the table at the end of your meal to show appreciation. You also do not need to tip hairdressers or taxi drivers. Places where you should tip are in toilets that are serviced by attendants – you will normally see a table with a saucer where you can leave the tip, which is about €0.50 cents.
Greetings and Small Talk
When greeting someone hello or goodbye, you normally kiss one cheek. If you meet a Belgian person for the first time it’s usually not customary to talk about ‘what you do for a living’. However, since many Belgians work in international environments, don’t be surprised if they ask you! Other topics to keep to a minimum are politics, language and bad comments about Belgium.
In Brussels the most common language is French. This is spoken in most service establishments such as restaurants, supermarkets, shops and airports etc. English is also widely accepted and many waiters do not mind conversing in both French and English depending on the diner’s native tongue. Business is normally carried out in English.
On the Street
Things you might observe on the streets which are perfectly normal include standing on one side of the escalator, dogs, kissing and cars cutting in front of pedestrians on crossings.
Especially in the metro stations when commuters are rushing from one train to another, be sure to stand only on the right-hand side and leave the left side for people who choose to walk (or run!) up and down the escalators.
Other customs to note are dogs, which are a common sight everywhere and it is not illegal to bring them into restaurants, cafes and public transport. Public displays of affection such as kissing in public is also quite normal, just try not to stare!
And finally if you are crossing a pedestrian crossing make eye contact and wave politely at the driver as you cross with care. Many drivers are in a rush and will not stop if they believe there is a chance to beat you across that crossing.