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Belgium is well known for its beer, chocolate, and linguistic diversity. However, it is a lot more than that! Whether you are going to move to, or just visit Belgium, you may need some basic information about what living in this captivating country looks like.
We decided to help you out, by finding some accurate information about Belgian public and school holidays, car taxes, as well as shopping. Let’s get started!
PUBLIC HOLIDAYS AND OTHER HOLIDAYS IN BELGIUM
There are 10 national holidays observed in Belgium, yet two of them fall on a Sunday – Easter Sunday and Whit Sunday (Whitsun or Pentecost) – which gives Belgians ten days off, unless other holidays fall on a Sunday. Public holidays in Belgium include:
- Tuesday, 1 January: New Year’s Day
- Monday, 22 April: Easter Monday
- Wednesday, 1 May: Labour Day
- Thursday, 30 May: Ascension Day (40 days after Easter)
- Monday, 10 June: Whit Monday – the seventh Monday after Easter, also known as Pentecost Monday
- Sunday, 21 July: Belgium National Day (Belgian Independence Day) – commemorates the day Leopold I took the constitutional oath as the first King of Belgium in 1831
- Thursday, 15 August: Assumption Day (Assumption of Mary)
- Friday, 1 November: All Saints’ Day
- Monday, 11 November: Armistice Day
- Wednesday, 25 December: Christmas Day
Moreover, There are other Belgian holidays that are not typically acknowledged as public holidays in Belgium, yet some are widely celebrated around the country:
- Sunday, 6 January: Epiphany (Three Kings’ Day)
- Sunday, 31 March: Clocks go forward one hour as daylight saving time (DST) starts
- Sunday, 12 May: Mother’s Day (the second Sunday in May)
- Wednesday, 8 May: Feast of the Iris – Feast Day of the Brussels-Capital Region
- Sunday, 9 June: Father’s Day (the second Sunday in June)
- Sunday, 15 September: Feast Day of the Walloon Region (the third Sunday of September)
- Sunday, 27 October: Clocks go back one hour as daylight saving time (DST) ends
- Saturday, 2 November: All Souls’ Day – a Christian holiday, although public offices typically close
- Friday, 15 November: Dynasty Day, Feast of the Dynasty or King’s Feast – although not a public holiday, most government offices are closed
- Friday, 6 December: St Nicholas Day – when Sinterklaas/Saint Nicolas fills children’s shoes with presents
- Friday, 21 June and Saturday, 21 December: Solstice – longest and shortest days of the year
Language regions and their holidays
There are three official languages in Belgium: Flemish/Dutch, French and German. Therefore Belgium is split into three different areas: Flanders in the north, the Brussels-Capital Region in the middle, and Wallonia in the south.
Flanders is mainly Dutch/Flemish-speaking, in the capital region people are mostly bilingual, and they speak both Flemish and French, whereas Wallonia is mainly French-speaking. There are also eastern provinces where the majority of the population is German-speaking.
There is one regional public holiday in Belgium for each of the language-speaking areas:
- Thursday, 11 July: Celebration of the Golden Spurs (Day of the Flemish Community) – commemorates the victory of the count of Flanders and the borough militia against the king of France outside Courtrai;
- Friday, 27 September: Day of the French-speaking Community – celebrates the victory of the patriots against the Dutch army in Brussels in 1830;
- Friday, 15 November: Day of the German-speaking Community – the date a decree was published to prescribe the arms, flag, colours and community day of the German-speaking area.
Belgian school holidays
Although Belgium is divided into three different areas, the school calendar is the same throughout the whole country. There are five breaks during the school year: a week-long autumn and spring break, a two-week-long Easter and Christmas break, and a two-month summer break. The Belgian school holidays include:
- Autumn break: 28 October – 3 November 2019
- Armistice: 11 November 2019
- Christmas/winter break: 23 December 2019 – 5 January 2020
- Spring/festival break: 24 February – 1 March 2020
- Easter break: 6–19 April 2020
- Labor Day: 1 May 2020
- Leave of Ascension: 21 May 2020
- Whit Monday: 1 June 2020
- Summer holidays: 1 July – 31 August 2020
CAR INSURANCE AND TAXES IN BELGIUM
If you decided to relocate to Belgium, you should bear in mind all the costs and paperwork associated with motoring. There are a few taxes and other costs that you need to cover, such as registration tax, road tax, and insurance.
Taxes in Belgium
If you purchase a new or second-hand car (or any other vehicle) and you intend to use it on Belgian public roads, you need to pay a registration tax (BIV). This tax is obligatory and one-off. The amount of the tax depends on the environmental friendliness of your vehicle, its CO2 emissions and the power of the engine.
Another tax that you need to pay after you register your vehicle in Belgium is a road tax (taxe de circulation/verkeersbelasting) which needs to be paid annually. The amount of the road tax is based on the size of the engine and the intended use of the vehicle, namely if it is going to be used to transport passengers or goods. Also, there is a separate tax for scooters and mopeds.
Moreover, diesel or LPG vehicle owners will have to pay an additional annual tax.
What is more, there is an additional tax in Wallonia for cars equipped with a radio (with or without CD/cassette). Registration must be made to Service Radio-Télévision Redevances. Also, you have to keep the proof of payment and carry it in the car. In the Flemish and Brussels-capital Regions, there is no radio tax for cars.
Insurance in Belgium
As far as insurance is concerned, it is obligatory for all vehicles. The insurance in Belgium covers only the car, but many Belgians buy some additional insurance for themselves in case of personal injury. The minimum level of cover required is the third party, but the comprehensive cover is also popular.
SHOPPING IN BELGIUM
Normally, shops are open from Monday to Saturday, although some independent shops, supermarkets, bakeries and restaurants are also open on Sundays. Also, on some Sundays regulated by law, all shops are open as on Saturdays, for example, the two Sundays before Christmas and New Year.
For day-to-day grocery shopping, consumers can choose from a variety of supermarkets, many of which have an international food section. As to the prices, Colruyt remains Belgium’s cheapest supermarket for those who purchase basic, branded and home-branded products.
The next cheapest supermarket is Albert Heijn which, according to Test-Aankoop, is 2% more expensive than Colruyt. Red Market, Delhaize’s low-cost store, is the third cheapest.
On the other hand, the most expensive supermarkets include Intermarché, Match and Smatch, where the prices were 15% more expensive than in their competitors, according to Test-Aankoop.
It was estimated, that grocery shopping in the cheaper supermarkets can save you annually up to €300.
Other supermarkets, such as Aldi and Lidl and Carrefour don’t make much difference between basic and home brands. Their products are cheaper than other supermarkets’ home brands, but basic products are more expensive compared to those at other supermarkets.
Hopefully, you find the information included in this post useful before the final relocation. As we care about our customers, we offer not only the most competitive prices but also a bunch of accurate information to save you time and nerves!