On this Wednesday of Emma Meesseman Week, I won’t write about her specifically. I will later in the week with the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Qualifiers coming up tomorrow.
Instead, here are some things about Belgium that are well-known here in the United States that aren’t the Rode Duivels/Diables Rouges/Red Devils men’s soccer team, fries, waffles, mussels, chocolates and beer, the first few things I can think of. Belgians are really good at soccer and food by the way. But I wanted to find other things they are known for besides .... soccer and gastronomy.
So without further ado, here are some things the western European country is known for. Next time you meet a Belgian, maybe you’ll impress them with these things! At the very least, it could help you win a trivia contest. Let’s go!
- Belgium is home to the European Union and NATO — The European Union’s de-facto capital is in Brussels, the capital of the country. This is where the European Parliament, Commission and Council meet regularly. The EU is a multinational political, economic, and monetary union that consists of most western, central and eastern European countries. Many EU members are also in the NATO military alliance which includes the United States. Its headquarters is also in Brussels. In many ways, Brussels is like D.C. both for Belgium and Europe as a whole.
- SMURFS! — If you loved watching the Smurfs cartoons as a kid or their recent movies, they’re also Belgian! Les Schtroumpfs were created by Peyo, a cartoonist from Brussels. The blue creatures originally showed up in another comic strip, Johan & Peewit. The name Smurf comes from the Dutch translation of the same strip, De Smurfen. You can also find a Smurf ceiling painting near the Brussel Centraal/Bruxelles-Central train station. Who is your favorite Smurf?
- Tomorrowland — The annual EDM festival is held in Boom (pronounced Bohm), which is near Antwerp. The last two festivals in 2020 and 2021 were canceled due to the coronavirus but hopefully, they’ll be back this year. Most of the biggest EDM artists have performed there, even DJ Diesel. I think you’ll know who he is when you play the video.
- Most of the world’s diamonds go through here in some form — While we stay on Antwerp, over 80 percent of the world’s rough diamonds are purchased here. In the past, most diamonds were also cut here after being mined from other countries, often in Africa. It should be noted that the Democratic Republic of Congo was a Belgian colony and that helped play a part in Antwerp’s notability as a diamond city.
- It’s where U.S. and UK relations began to thaw to this day, at least geographically — If you are a U.S. history buff, you’ll know that the Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812 between the Americans and British in 1814. At the time, Ghent (and modern-day Belgium) were part of the Netherlands right after Napoleonic rule. The Southern Dutch (I know I’m getting scowls from the Belgians by calling them that!) later on declared independence from the Northern-dominated country in 1830 with the Belgian Revolution. Since the Treaty of Ghent, the U.S. and UK have had much stronger relations and have never declared war on each other ever since.
- “Alors on danse” — Kanye West made a remix of the song with Belgian singer Paul Van Haver, a/k/a Stromae. That song also helped Stromae become popular in Europe and the U.S. last decade. He has very recently released some new songs like “L’Enfer” (Hell in French).
- It’s where kids' music groups can have mainstream hits, at least within Dutch-speaking Belgium — K3 (pronounced Kah-dree) is a very popular Belgian girl group in Flanders, Belgium’s Dutch-speaking region, and the Netherlands. While its Belgian and Dutch members have changed over the years since 1998, they have become an institution where their songs are mostly geared toward children. K3 even have had their own TV series and cartoons, the latter of which is also in French. And they have top-selling albums in Flanders and the Netherlands, including several No. 1 hits like “Waterval” (Waterfall) after they introduced a new member, Julia. This song came after a reality show-based audition last year after another member decided to leave.
- Jean Claude Van Damme — The “Muscles from Brussels” got his breakthrough debut in Bloodsport and was in many movies throughout the 1990s.
- Technotronic — You have heard this song before at basketball games since the 1990s! Technotronic was a Belgian electronic dance music project started by Jo Bogaert. It also featured singer/rapper Ya Kid K who did most of the vocals on “Pump Up The Jam.”
- “Sexual Healing” was made here (Sorry for the double entendre!) — The late Marvin Gaye lived in Oostende (or Ostend) in the early 1980s, in part to get away from the IRS, and in part to recover from depression. He wrote some of his later hits in this western beach town, including the aforementioned song which became the biggest hit of his career.