Introducing myself as #Belgian during my studies abroad usually caused one out of the two following reactions: either the other person didn’t really know where #Belgium was, or they did, in which case they most often remembered it had something to do with #Brussels and think everyone speaks #French. In the first case, people would often be a bit embarrassed and apologetic, which prompted me to put them at ease and laugh it away – after all, my own geographical knowledge is close to non-existent so I’m not really one to talk. In the second case however, I’d be somewhat annoyed. I would tell them that yes, Brussels is in Belgium (1 bonus point), but no, not everyone speaks French (-5 points). I would tell them that I’m from Flanders and that I speak Dutch. This didn’t make much sense to a lot of people, understandably. Some people had heard of Flanders before, and to my pleasant surprise one person even referred to #Flanders as the northern half of Belgium. It was usually the language part most people couldn’t wrap their heads around. For those who wonder, I’ll try to explain, for those from home: please forgive oversimplifications and #historical inaccuracies.
The official language in Flanders is Dutch. Many bitter #political battles have been fought over this establishment, and for a very long time French was bon ton amongst the elite and therefore the #language used for official affairs until an equality law put an end to that in 1898. Important to know also is that one upon a time Belgium and the Netherlands used to be united, hence the shared language. There have however always been many varieties and #dialects, and the language differences between Belgium and the Netherlands have grown much bigger over the years, up until the point that we now officially speak of Belgian Dutch, or as the locals have it, Flemish. #Flemish is however still more regarded as a dialect and is not an official language, which is why we continue to confuse well-intended curious #foreigners with explications as intricate and long as our own dear #political system.