Belgian F1 Grand Prix

01.09.2019 | Spa - Circuit de Francorchamps

Key Facts

Location: Western Europe.

Area: 30,528 sq km (11,787 sq miles).

Population: 11,323,973 (2015).

Population Density: 370.9 per sq km.

Capital: Brussels.

Government: Constitutional monarchy. Federal state comprising three autonomous regions.

Geography: Belgium is situated in northwestern Europe, bordered by France to the south, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast and the Netherlands to the north. There is 60km (37 miles) of North Sea coastline to the northwest. The country is divided into three regions: southern French-speaking Wallonia, northern Dutch-speaking Flanders and Brussels nestled between the two. Both Flanders and Wallonia are then subdivided into ten provinces: within Flanders they are West Flanders, East Flanders, Flemish Brabant, Antwerp and Limburg; within Wallonia they are Hainaut, Walloon Brabant, Namur, Liège and Luxembourg (not to be confused with the neighbouring country of Luxembourg). Flanders’ landscape is characterised by low-lying polders near the coast, changing to rolling hills and fertile farming grounds in the Flemish Brabant and finishing with the wooded Hoge Kempen − Flanders’ only national park − in the east. Flowing across this landscape is the country’s largest river the Scheldt, which enters Belgium near Tournai and flows out to sea at Antwerp. In contrast, landlocked Wallonia is dominated by intensive farming in its northern provinces, watered by the Sambre and Meuse rivers, with the terrain rising to form the hills and gorges of the Ardennes in the south. Belgium’s highest point is Signal de Botrange, at 694m (2280ft), located in the far east.  

Language: Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French and German. Dutch is spoken Flanders, the northern half of the country, and French is spoken in the southern Wallonia region. German is spoken in an eastern enclave. English is widely spoken in Flanders, but less so in Wallonia.

Religion: Mainly Roman Catholic (75%, although few attend regular mass), with small Protestant and Jewish communities.

Time: GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).

Social Conventions: Knowing which language to speak where can be tricky. Avoid speaking Dutch in Wallonia and French in Flanders. Most locals are laidback, but it can cause offence if you get it wrong in some circles. If in doubt, speak English. Outside of business transactions, it’s customary to kiss three times on alternate cheeks. Guests should bring flowers, or a small present, for the hostess if they’re invited for a meal and it is customary to wish everyone bon appetit/eet smakelijk at the start of a meal. Dress is similar to other Western nations: jeans and a smart top suffices for most occasions, including nights out. Smoking is banned in venues where food is served.

Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz. European plugs with two round pins are standard.

Head of Government: Prime Minister Charles Michel since 2014.

Head of State: King Philippe since 2013.

Recent History: Belgium as a nation only came into being in 1831, after France helped it wrest its independence from the Netherlands and Leopold I was inaugurated as the country’s first king. Over the next century it evolved into a parliamentary democracy with French as the official language of government. French influences also dominated the mainstream culture, making the friction between Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia at times very pronounced. The era was also marked by the rise of Belgium as a colonial power, and is remembered for the brutal treatment of King Leopold II (son of Leopold I) in the Congo Free State.

The country suffered four years of German occupation during World War I, seeing some of the most intense conflicts of the entire campaign and emerging in ruinous condition, something repeated when it again fell into German hands over World War II. It experienced good post-war economic growth, however, and state reforms helped it to recover stability, although there remain tensions between Flanders and Wallonia. The current prime minister, Yves Leterme, took office for the second time in November 2009.

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