Belgian Tipping Protocol, Belgian Gratuities, & Belgian Culture
- DO dress conservatively.
- DO wear dark, conservative suits with white shirts and silk ties to a business function, if you are a man. Men should wear laced-up shoes, not loafers. Business suits or a blouse and skirt are acceptable for women. Shoes should always be polished.
- DON'T put your elbows on the table, but do keep your hands on the table and not in your lap.
- DO allow the host to give the first toast. The guest of honor is expected to give a toast later.
- DO finish all the food on your plate. Not doing so is considered wasteful and impolite.
- DO place your knife and fork at the 5:25 position once you are full to indicate that you are done eating.
- DO open your gift upon receiving it.
- DON'T give expensive gifts.
- DON'T give chrysanthemums. They are associated with death.
- DON'T give alcohol unless you are giving it to a close friend.
- DO give flowers in odd numbers, except for unlucky number 13.
Visting Someone's Home
- DON'T ask your hosts for a tour of their house.
- DO bring flowers or nice chocolate for the hosts, and bring something for your host's children, such as candy.
- DO arrive on time. It shows respect.
- DON'T remove your jacket during a meeting.
- DO be punctual! If you are running late, call immediately with an explanation. Lateness sends a message of unreliability.
- DO expect the first meeting to primarily be for getting acquainted and developing a trusting relationship. However, don't forget that business meetings are still very formal affairs.
- DON'T call a Belgian businessperson at home, unless there is an emergency.
- DON'T bring a gift. It's not customary to exchange gifts at business meetings in Belgium.
- DON'T try to schedule a meeting in July and August, which is when many Belgians take vacations. The week before Easter and the time between Christmas and New Year's should also be avoided.
- DON'T be confrontational. Belgians appreciate subtlety.
- DON'T snap your fingers.
- DON'T slap someone on the back. It's considered offensive.
- DO remember that the "OK" sign means zero in Belgium.
- DO shake hands with all who are present, including children.
- DO shake hands again when leaving.
- DO exchange cheek kisses with a friend you know well. Start with the left cheek, then kiss the right, then back to the left. However, men don't kiss other men. They always just exchange handshakes.
- DO understand that German, Dutch, and French are all widely spoken in Belgium.
- DO speak English if you are unsure of which language is spoken in the region you are in.
Tipping in Belgium is not obligatory as service charge is always included. However, people often give tips as a sign of appreciation. Usually, this is done by paying in bank notes with a total value slightly higher than the price of the meal and telling the waiter/waitress that they can keep the change.
Our Belgian Tipping Recommendations
- Taxis and Limos: Tipping recommended, Round up to next bill/large coin