Belgium flag Belgium: Business Environment

Business Practices in Belgium

Opening hours and bank holidays

General Information
Kwintessential: Belgium
Business culture Belgium
Commisceo Global, Belgian business culture as per Commisceo Global
Opening Hours and Days
Banks and public offices are typically open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Monday to Friday).
Retailers are typically open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Monday to Friday), but some close on Monday in the morning.
Supermarkets are  typically open from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Monday to Saturday).

Most employees work eight hours per day or 40 hours per week.

 
 
 

Public Holidays

New Year 1 January
Easter Monday Monday after Easter
Labour Day 1 May
Ascension 39 days after Easter
Whit Monday Monday after Whitsun
Flemish Community Holiday 11 July
Belgian National Day 21 July
Assumption 15 August
French Community Holiday 27 September
All Saints' Day 1 November
Armistice 11 November
German Community Holiday 15 November
Christmas 25 December
St Stephen's Day 26 December
 
 

Periods When Companies Usually Close

Summer Vacation 15 July- 15 August
Easter Holidays April
 

Business culture

The Fundamental Principles of Business Culture
Belgium is not a homogeneous country with one national identity. However, all business cultures in Belgium are characterised by compromise, negotiation, common sense and an egalitarian approach. Mutual trust is also much prized by Belgian business people.

The hierarchical system varies depending on the regions. In Flanders, business organisation is generally horizontal and simple, and participatory management, active consensus and delegation of responsibility are common. Walloons tend to prefer structure, formal organisation, clear hierarchical systems and directive leadership.

Generally, Belgian business people prefer doing business with those they know. However, establishing a personal relationship is not a prerequisite for business negotiation. First meetings are usually more socially than business oriented and are set for building trust. The majority of business meals are held in restaurants, pubs or cafes and provide an important opportunity to develop a strong relationship.

First Contact
Although third-party introductions are not necessary, they are often useful to facilitate business relationships. Appointments should be made a week in advance by either phone or in writing. The time for the meeting is generally set by the person you want to meet, usually mid morning or mid afternoon. You should avoid scheduling meetings during July and August, which are prime vacation times, the week before Easter and the week between Christmas and New Year.
Time Management
Punctuality and respect for deadlines are paramount. Meetings are usually well structured and efficiently run, and a pre-set agenda is followed.
Greetings and Titles
When meeting someone for the first time, give a brief handshake and maintain eye contact and a distance of approximately one meter. Once a business relationship has developed between men and women three kisses on the cheek may replace the handshake. Men always shake hands. To address your Belgian counterpart, you should use standard courtesy titles followed by the surname. First names are generally reserved for close friends. The Dutch forms of address are “Meneer” (Mr), “Mevrouw” (Mrs) and “Mejuffrouw” (Miss). The French forms of address are “Monsieur” (Mr), “Madame” (Mrs) and “Mademoiselle” (Miss)”. Little importance is given to academic and professional titles.
Gift Policy
In a business context, gifts are usually not exchanged. They are opened when received.
Dress Code
Belgium dress code is conservative. Men should wear dark coloured, sober business suits with white shirts and silk ties. They should only wear laced shoes and avoid loafers that are too casual. Women should wear business suits or sober dresses. Polished shoes are an integral part of a professional image.
Business Cards
Business cards are often used as introduction and are exchanged without formal ritual. Having one side of your business card translated into French or Dutch will show your respect and understanding of the linguistic heritage of your Belgian colleagues. You should present your business card so the recipient can read the side with their national language.
Meetings Management
During meetings, it is usual to engage in small talk before discussing business. You should wait for your Belgian counterpart to initiate the business discussion.

During presentations, it is advised to use high-quality graphics and to provide clear facts and figures. Indeed, Belgians are professional and pragmatic and will appreciate a convincing and detailed presentation. In general, Belgians have good compromise and negotiation skills.

Belgian should appreciate a direct, though nuanced, logical communication style, and have a flexible approach to forging win-win deals. You should avoid any confrontational or high-pressure tactic. It is important to maintain eye contact with your interlocutor, as it is a sign of courtesy and interest.

Food is important and if conducting business over a meal, it is better not to try to discuss the details of a business transaction until coffee is served at the end of the meal. The person who extends the invitation pays the bill.

Sources for Further Information
Business culture Belgium Enterprise Ireland

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Latest Update: December 2022

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