What do French people think about Belgium and the Belgians?

(asked by Dan from somewhere)

Recently you were asked what the French thought of the Quebecois and that question triggered a similar one in my mind: what do the French think of another bilingual, quiet country: Belgium? Aside from Tintin and French fries, I’m sorry to say I don’t know much about them, but I wonder what citizens of the Hexagon think of them?

Thanks again for your blog!

Well, first let me say that even if you say you don’t know much about Belgium, at least you know that Tintin and French fries come from there and not from France, believe me, that’s a rare thing among English speakers.

I don’t think the French think anything in particular about Belgium. The fact that Belgium has three very distinct communities prevents people to have a general opinion about the country I guess.
But they have opinions (or not) about the different communities.

Let’s start with the smallest and less known community: the German-speaking one. It’s pretty easy with them, most French people don’t even know it exists, and the ones who do, don’t really think anything in particular about them.

Then you have the Flemish-speaking community. French people tend to not think much about them really either, except some sort of mistrust because they know that most of them are Francophobes (not really against the French, but against the French speaking Belgians), so they cannot be trusted, but as long as they don’t direct their Francophobia against France, they are tolerated.

The French-speaking community now. Well, when a French person talks about a Belgian without being more specific, they mean a French-speaking one (a “Walloon”), after all, they’re the only ones that really matter to them.
First of all, I think the French consider Walloons as the closest thing one can find to a French person abroad. And it’s true that among all the French speaking communities in the world, Walloon Belgians are the one that’s the closest to France, culturally speaking that is, even closer to the French than Québécois are (even though they used to be French).
To tell you the truth, I have two good French-speaking Belgian friends, and if it was not for their accent, I’d forget they’re not French. Of course, that’s not exactly true, if you dig a little bit, there are differences, but they’re really slight.
Actually, many famous people in France are indeed Belgian, but people tend to forget it, that’s how French they seem.
There are even some French people that think that if Belgium were to split into two halves (which may or may not happen someday), the French speaking part should be merged into France.
Personally, I think they should decide, not the French (well both countries should decide together if the situation occurs), but very often when I describe Walloon Belgians, I humorously say that they’re just French people that fell on the wrong side of the border someday.

Apart from that, as the French care about the fine things in life, Belgium is also revered for having the best French fries (of course), but also the best beers in the world (by far).
As you mention Tintin, one must also mentions that if comic books are considered an art in France (they are) it’s mostly thanks to Belgian comic books.

Also, people there seem more relaxed and hedonistic than in France.

I don’t really have much more to say about Belgium really. One the one hand because I don’t feel it’s that different from the nearby regions of France and on the other hand, because I don’t know much about the subtleties of its culture.

And if French people want to pitch in and say what they think about Belgium, please feel free, as well as any Belgian reader if they want to give their two cents.

Finally, I must tell you to visit this post from “Stuff Parisians Like”, it’ll give you more insight on how Parisians (and not all the French in general) see Belgium and the Belgians. And if you don’t follow that great blog that “Stuff Parisians Like” is yet, here is your chance to do so.

More Questions Answered:

Frenchman Written by:


  1. Leesa
    August 22, 2009

    Hi David,

    I raise my Chimay Red to you…


  2. boulet
    August 22, 2009

    Maintenant j'ai envie d'une Faro. C'est malin.

  3. Eli
    August 23, 2009

    adore the frites - simply the best in the world.

    Too many years ago to remember I first tasted them and have been a fan ever since!

    Not a beer fan - also not a fan of Brussels! But Charleroi and Liege are amongst my favourite cities in the world

  4. Autolycus
    August 23, 2009

    But surely, for Parisians, at least, Belgian accent = comically provincial (well, I suppose for Parisians that's true of anyone from anywhere else). My very first exchange visit as a schoolboy was to a very ordinary family in Paris, who taught me how various Belgian sounds were deeply hilarious: and I noticed the same assumption in the film Diner des Cons. Is that also true of the attitude to people from northern France?

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What do French people think about Dutchmen and other Northern-Europeans?

(asked by Michel M. from the Netherlands)

I hope you can answer my question.
My question is: What do French people think, in general, about Northern-Europeans? By ”Northern-Europeans” I mean Dutchmen, Germans, and Swedes for example.
I’ve heard that French people think that Dutchmen and other Northern-Europeans have a ”cold personality”, that they are less ”chaleureux” than the French (Cause France, is the country of ”amour”). Is this true?

Yeah, I guess this is a general stereotype about Northern Europeans. But then, I don’t really know if all the French have the same preconceived (mis)conceptions about Northern Europeans as some of them live pretty near France.

I guess Southern French people will have the general feeling that Northern Europeans are colder, but they’ll have that feeling about Northern French people as well.
Whereas Northern French people may have a more detailed view of Northern Europeans, and think that Southern Europeans are more welcoming, but that their friendships are more shallow too and those kinds of things, of course, they’ll also think that of Southern French people.

I don’t think I can go into more details with just the label “Northern Europeans.”

If you go down to more details, let’s say, each nationality, preconceptions will be more precise.
I guess one can say that the French think that the German are colder, more logical, and more organized, the Swedes are tall, blonde, gorgeous women (there are no men in Sweden according to the French) and that the Dutch are the most liberal people on this planet and are much more relaxed and easy going than their neighbors (must be the pot).

I don’t think I can answer with more details without falling into the national caricatures or on the contrary without saying the usual: the more you know a nation, the more you realize what’s true and not true about preconceptions, and that they don’t apply to all people, but I think that’s stating the obvious -even though I’m not sure it’s always that obvious for everybody if I trust some comments I get sometimes (see yesterday in previous post for example)

Frenchman Written by:


  1. Ben
    March 17, 2009

    The stereotypes about the Dutch are also the following:

    * They often go to France for holiday
    * They are scrooges, don’t want to spend anything and don’t enjoy life
    * They accept weird ideas such as a “pedophile party” which is not understood elsewhere.

  2. Anonymous
    March 17, 2009

    The Dutch is( are ?) a wonderfull people. The best people one can meet in Europe including UK. I give them the gold medal. (I’m french). The first words I learnt in Dutch was : ” ik ben blij”. ( “I’m happy”, something like that). Dank u.

  3. Susan
    March 17, 2009

    Here in the Touraine, I would say that Ben’s summary of the stereotyping of Dutch people is close for the first two. I have never heard anyone suggest the third one.

    The main comment one hears is that the Dutch come on holiday, but don’t spend any money locally. They bring all their own food. No one can understand why you would visit France and not eat the local food! If they have a maison secondaire here, they furnish it with items they brought with them from Holland.

    These are the stereotypes of course, and I am not French, so I am just reporting what I hear around me in France.

  4. Ben
    March 18, 2009

    About the “pedophile party”: just look at the results of a Google search:


    [But in America too there are parties that would better not exist, such as the “American Nazi Party” (yes it unfortunately exists)]

    This party is referred to as “pedophile” by some of the most serious newspapers, and it is not a joke at all.

    My “not enjoying life” is related to saving their money too much and not spending anything in France. For example, while in France, they won't go to bars/cafés.

    But of course those are stereotypes and all the Dutch people I know are extremely enjoyable 🙂

    Ah, I add another stereotype: they are fond of biking.

  5. Valérie
    March 19, 2009

    Hello “AskAFrenchman”

    What a strange nickname. I use my first name, but maybe I should have made a nickname saying “AskAFrenchWoman”, LOL.

    I don’t know what I think of Dutch, Germans or Swedes. Nothing much different than French in my opinion. At least nearly all of them speak English, not like us who mostly can’t understand anything all the millions of tourists coming to visit Paris say.

    It’s really embarrassing I think. I know my English is not good, but at least it’s good enough that I can help tourists if they have problems taking the Métro and finding places, or even understanding signs.

    But Whynot would know more about Dutch tourists because he lives down south of France and he said there are many foreigners there, and especially from north Europe. Here in Paris, it’s not so, we get many people from Asia and everywhere in the world.


  6. boulet
    March 19, 2009

    What strikes me about German and Dutch, which they seem to have in common, is a tendency to behave like they own the place when they go on vacation. it’s how it feels at places where they visit en masse. I remember seeing colonies of Dutch on the coast of Spain and German hordes in Mallorca who really had attitudes that would be considered despicable in their own country : loud, obnoxious, littering beaches with empty bottles, playing mind numbling loud music, no intention of discovering the local culture… In some parts of Mallorca, near beaches, you won’t find Spanish food at all. Sausage, beer, fries and titty bars (where sometimes they bring kids !) make you feel like the place turned into a nightmare. They even have a political party there if I’m to believe the locals.

    I have met and enjoyed my share of decent Dutch and German, it’s not my intention to pretend they’re nations of rude brats. But when they gather in hordes for vacations it’s scary.

  7. Non Je Ne Regrette Rien
    March 19, 2009

    many of the French I know (in the Dordogne) cast the Dutch as untrustworthy. As far as Germans are concerned … don’t even go there.

  8. Anonymous
    May 21, 2009

    It seems to me that all tourists are alike. In groups, no matter what nationality, they’re obnoxious. Be they Dutch, German, American, whatever.
    I do remember though, as a teenager on vacation in middle France (about 30 years ago mind you), I was greeted coldly, until they learned I was Dutch, not German.
    I was very much welcomed as a Dutch person, really not very much had I been German.

  9. Jean-Marc
    May 30, 2009

    As a Belgian I see this cult of ‘the warm south’ and ‘the cold north’ from another perspective, which shows up how ridiculous it is. I am North of France, but South of The Netherlands and we are generally regarded as cold, ignorant farmers by the French and civilised Zuid-Nederlanders by the Dutch.

    Curiously the French-Speaking Walloons (also north in regard to France) are not seen as cold, must be the language bond.

    To contradict myself though, many Belgians think the Dutch are ignorant, penny-pinching louts.

  10. maria
    August 23, 2011

    I have the same feeling, eurpeans are colder people, their dont show their emotions. Too bad…

  11. mark saniez
    November 12, 2011

    I am UK born and I’ve lived in the UK 16 years and in GERMANY 3 years too and since then i’m living in THE VOSGES MOUNTAINS (in the border line with germany and switzerland in FRANCE.
    Really all of this is nonsense because you’ve got “good people and imbeciles everywhere! in the world .
    Ilke the french-I like english cuisine -and i like german culture (i’m allways in lederhosen I’ve got 11 pairs of them sorts and bundhosen with the matching suspenders,why because I think it’s great ( even women look even better in this outfit then men do!.
    Really I have absolutly no problem with anyone ( when you come to think of it do we not descend from our two original parents “ADAM AND EVE!!

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