belgium

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium...

read more

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium covers an area of 30,528 square kilometres, and it has a population of about 11 million people. Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups, the Dutch-speakers, mostly Flemish, and the French-speakers, mostly Walloons, plus a small group of German-speakers. Belgium's two largest regions are the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north and the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia. The Brussels-Capital Region, officially bilingual, is a mostly French-speaking enclave within the Flemish Region. A German-speaking Community exists in eastern Wallonia. Belgium's linguistic diversity and related political conflicts are reflected in the political history and a complex system of government.

Historically, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg were known as the Low Countries, which used to cover a somewhat larger area than the current Benelux group of states. The region was called Belgica in Latin because of the Roman province Gallia Belgica which covered more or less the same area. From the end of the Middle Ages until the 17th century, it was a prosperous centre of commerce and culture. From the 16th century until the Belgian Revolution in 1830, when Belgium seceded from the Netherlands, many battles between European powers were fought in the area of Belgium, causing it to be dubbed the "cockfighting arena of Europe," a reputation strengthened by both World Wars.

Upon its independence, Belgium participated in the Industrial Revolution and, during the course of the 20th century, possessed a number of colonies in Africa. The second half of the 20th century was marked by the rise of contrasts between the Flemish and the Francophones fuelled by differences of language and the unequal economic development of Flanders and Wallonia. This ongoing antagonism has caused far-reaching reforms, changing the formerly unitary Belgian state into a federal state, and several governmental crises, the most recent from 2007 to 2011 being the longest.

some cities

experiences (1)

have you spent time in belgium? share your experiences

9

brussels, belgium - anonymous' reflections after years there in their 20s

posted by anonymous on 10/22/13.

My experience with Brussels is a very personal one, from mere choice and not, for example, because of a job. And because Belgium doesn't have much of a reputation to compare to, like other big cities. And Belgium is a very unique country, economically, culturally, politically. While I've been here Belgium was without a government for over 500 days, mostly stemming from the bizarre cultural divide. The country is divided between the Flemish and Walloons. Their cultures, languages, and economics are so vastly different that nobody can reconcile differences. Imagine if the USA and Mexico were suddenly transformed into a single country with a single leader. Americans wouldn't want their tax money to go to people they have almost nothing in common with, and who aren't contributing nearly as much. I guess we can start to see a similar sentiment between Republican and Democrats, though I think that's less fundamental.

How much time have you spent in Belgium?

A little over 6 years.

How old were you when you came to Belgium? Where were you before?

I was living in Seattle, WA, USA. I was 27 when I moved here (34 as I write this).

What brought you to Belgium? What made you choose...

read more

 videos (14)

loading...
loading...
loading...
loading...
loading...
loading...

view all 14 videos

demographics

population

10,438,353 (July 2012 est.)

ethnic groups

Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%

languages

Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)

religions

Roman Catholic 75%, other (includes Protestant) 25%

age structure

0-14: 0-14 years: 15.8% (male 840,992/ female 806,961)

15-64: 15-64 years: 65.9% (male 3,466,245/ female 3,407,706)

65+: 65 years and over: 18.4% (male 802,018/ female 1,114,431) (2012 est.)

urbanization

97% of total population (2010)

life expectancy

79.65 years

obesity rate

10.8% (2001)

literacy rate

99%

average years of education

16 years

economics

cost of living

7/10 (medium-high)

economic overview

This modern, open, and private-enterprise-based economy has capitalized on its central geographic location, highly developed transport network, and diversified industrial...

read more

This modern, open, and private-enterprise-based economy has capitalized on its central geographic location, highly developed transport network, and diversified industrial and commercial base. Industry is concentrated mainly in the more heavily-populated region of Flanders in the north. With few natural resources, Belgium imports substantial quantities of raw materials and exports a large volume of manufactures, making its economy vulnerable to volatility in world markets. Roughly three-quarters of Belgium's trade is with other EU countries, and Belgium has benefited most from its proximity to Germany. In 2011 Belgian GDP grew by 2.0%, the unemployment rate decreased slightly to 7.7% from 8.3% the previous year, and the government reduced the budget deficit from a peak of 6% of GDP in 2009 to 4.2% in 2011. Despite the relative improvement in Belgium's budget deficit, public debt hovers near 100% of GDP, a factor that has contributed to investor perceptions that the country is increasingly vulnerable to spillover from the euro-zone crisis. Belgian banks were severely affected by the international financial crisis in 2008 with three major banks receiving capital injections from the government, and the nationalization of the Belgian arm of a Franco-Belgian bank. An ageing population and rising social expenditures are mid- to long-term challenges to public finances.

major industries

engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles,...

read more

engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass, petroleum

gdp per capita

$37,800 (2011 est.)

gdp growth rate

1.8% (2011 est.)

gdp composition by sector

agriculture: 0.7% industry: 21.7% services: 77.6% (2011 est.)

unemployment rate

7.2% (2011 est.)

population below poverty line

15.2% (2007 est.)

gini index

28 (2005) country comparison to the world: 121 28.7 (1996)