Belgian Business Culture – Tips for Business Travelers

Belgian business culture is quite formal, and meetings are well structured and focused. You should prepare, make appointments at least a week in advance, and distribute an agenda if you are the organizer. Business practices are a bit less formal and hierarchical among Flemish-speakers compared with French-speakers.
Punctuality is highly valued, so arrive in good time. To address your contacts, use Mr, Mrs or Miss in Flemish or German-speaking areas, and Monsieur, Madame or Mademoiselle for French speakers. It is unusual to use first names in business. English is often used for meetings if different language speakers are present. Business cards gets exchanged at the initial meeting.
Business attire is quite formal, with good quality suits being the norm for both men and women. Belgians have a good dress-sense, and sometimes judge people on the quality of their clothing.
Sometimes, negotiations are not conducted until after the initial meeting, which is for building a working relationship. Some initial small talk is often used to help establish trust. Don’t over-emphasize your achievements or experience, as self-importance is-disliked here.
Business negotiations are often held over lunch or dinner, but towards the end of the meal, following more general conversation. If dining with your Belgian business contacts, wait for someone to make a toast before you start your drink.
Belgians are receptive to new ideas, but decision-making can be a meticulous and slow process, and a range of parties including trade unions may have to get consulted. At the same time, your contacts will expect a prompt response to any requests, and deadlines are seriously taken to.
Gifts are not usually given in business in Belgium, but a small, good quality gift is appropriate if you get invited to someone’s home.

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