Life in Belgium-Flanders

Bring a rain jacket! It’s wet! Samantha from NC, Year Program
Yawning with your mouth open is considered rude. Flemish people won't hold back their opinions and can be very blunt. Women generally clean like crazy. Dirty windows are considered a disgrace. Drinking, cycling, and soccer are the national pastimes. Aric from WA, Year Program
Everyone in Belgium likes to speak English. You have to insist from the very first week or month that you want to speak Dutch and not English. It will be very hard, but it is incredibly important to do this. Learning the language is integral to becoming immersed in the culture and enjoying your year. Bryan from OH, Year Program
Get a GoPass train ticket. It is a cheap way to ride the excellent rail network everywhere in BelgiumBryan from OH, Year Program
I had a difficult time adjusting to the family culture. The family seemed to always be together. Everyone, all the time. In my family in the US we do things with just two people to get to spend more one on one time. It was a little difficult to adjust to being with 5 other people all the time when we did family activities, but I came to really enjoy it.Ashley from PA, Year Program
Eat all your favorite Belgian food while you can. It takes time to make friends. Most Belgians are a little on the cold side at first, but once you become friends they are much friendlier. Krsni from CA, Year Program
As far as social life goes, I found it difficult to go out because I could never stay awake. Everything started late and everyone stayed out late. Ashley from PA, Year Program
Socially, the Flemish people are much less superficial; they're more upfront with how they feel, if they don't like you or are bored with a conversation, they don't humor you by pretending to be interested. It was hard to adjust to, but their sincerity became something I valued most during my AFS year.Colby from ME, Year Program
I found it difficult to adjust to using public transportation all the time. School was also harder and not as sporty and full of activities as my high school in America. My Flemish family also got together more often for meals. Elizabeth from MN, Year Program
People dress fancier in Belgium. I wouldn't have brought so many t-shirts if I had known that they were not socially acceptable to wear. Anna from MN, Year Program

The Essentials

Language Requirements

Applicants to the Year High School Programs in Belgium are expected to enroll in an online Rosetta Stone language course and study independently prior to departure on program.  The mandatory online course will be organized and monitored by AFS Belgium who will email registration and login instructions to each student.

AFS Belgium requires that each student completes at least one LEVEL of the course (not to be confused with one UNIT), before their arrival in Belgium for the program.  If this requirement is not fulfilled, then the student must reimburse AFS Belgium €48 (approx. $50-$55) upon arrival.

Additionally, after arrival, the local chapters will organize another 32 hours of Dutch langauge lessons.  

Digging Deeper

Language Resources
Cultural Resources
News and Media
Movies and Documentaries
  • Turquoise (2009)
  • Winky’s Horse (2005)
  • Crusade in Jeans (2006)
  • Pauline and Paulette (2001)
  • Illegal (2010)
  • Belgium Divided (2008)
  • Brussels Express (2012)
  • Flanders: A Cultural History
  • Belgium: Long United, Long Divided
  • The Story of Brussels
  • Belgium - Culture Smart!: a quick guide to customs & etiquette
  • The Sorrow of Belgium
  • Niccolò Rising
  • A Dog of Flanders

Note: The links and resources listed in "Digging Deeper" have been provided to AFS by people involved with our organization, including alumni members, volunteers, etc. AFS has not reviewed the resources in their entirety and presents them "as is" for your own information. As such, the sites, publications, films, etc. do not necessarily reflect the approval of nor the views, opinions, and/or values of AFS.