This is something I’ve run into a few times by now, and it’s getting a bit annoying. This is a tip to everyone who builds a website and who wants to present localised pages to its users. This is a tip in particular to deal with Belgians.
Some think Belgium is a made-up country, used as a scapegoat to explain European drug and illegal arms trafficking, but nothing is further from the truth. What is the fact however, is that Belgian is a small fucker of a country, but it’s also a very complex one. How else would you explain a country of only the size of Maryland which has 1 federal government, 5 regional governments and 3 official languages. Yes, that’s right! 3 whole official languages, and a shitload of dialects too.
So if you get a Belgian on your website, what language do you give them? “French” is not the right answer! But for some reason, and I’m looking at you Yankees here, people tend to think we all speak French over here. To make matters worse, the wealthiest part of Belgium (Flanders) has Dutch as the official language, so you’re bound to have one of those hit your site anyway, and so you present him the wrong language. Boooh!
Honest mistake? Well, there’s another thing you should know about Belgians. We don’t like being addresses in the wrong language. You might have heard about those communitarian issues we’re having between the French and Dutch part, and so we don’t really like to be “mistaken” for being a part of the other side of the country. Don’t get me wrong though. I don’t have anything against our French-speaking neighbours. In fact, I love going over there and enjoy the countryside and the quarries for an occasional dive. But I just don’t like being addresses in French. You should study Belgian history to figure that out. Start around 1302 and you’ll get a clue.
So what I’d like to do, is choose my own language from now on. So I can pick Dutch, or English, whatever I want. But don’t force feed me French kthx.
Oh, and don’t mistake us for the Dutch either. They might speak the same language, but live in a completely different country to the North, and love to paint everything orange at certain times of the year.