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So much hate in Flanders, how can it ever survive?


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Don't be too dispondant Wooly. We have holidayed  a few times in Holland. Last time we were there our son spent most of his time with some belgian lads, they were flemish, but they spoke excellent french and english and were open and good natured. It's the youth we should be looking to, not twisted middle aged men.

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  • 2 weeks later...
It's irritation rather than hate, Woolybabana. The vast majority on both sides of the Belgian dispute remain civilised about it, and idiotic firebrands like Van Aelst remain firmly in the minority.

Idun is right about the importance of the young. But one of the things that worries the francophone establishment in Belgium is that young people within the Dutch (or Flemish) speaking majority are not learning French like they used to. As the French speakers have no real tradition of learning the Dutch language, that spells even more trouble for the future.

However, I do hope that Belgium hangs together. There are after all several factors suggesting that it will remain a single country for quite a while yet.

Anyway, there's no sign that this dispute will lead to violence, so the country has a real lesson to teach the world in living with and dealing with disputes peacefully.
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Always found it very interesting as to how many 'french' people were 'belgian' or partly belgian. So for me it is certainly not a negative. When we first moved to our village our first neighbours were belgian and good neighbours they were too.
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Most Flemings are very sensible about the political situation and are worried by the big mouths on the extremes, but I do wonder if Flanders will not implode.

Much of the industry that came in from abroad has been thinking of relocating abroad, such as the big Opel factory near Antwerp and I am not sure that they are now creating the jobs to replace those lost. So, there might well be a significant loss of talent to other countries, notably Germany and UK and, ironically, Wallonia.

In addition, Flemish itself is an artificial creation, based on Ghent, as there are hundreds of dialects actively spoken, to the extent that next door villages sometimes hardly understand each other, which to me signifies a country not really united. Once there is no common 'enemy' in the Walloons, I do wonder whether Flanders will not splinter still further.

It is all very well for the army and the airport to have been taken over as Flemish (Flemisied) but the former is a high cost operation which the new government may not be able to afford, and the latter is subject, more and more, to economies and to the emergence of alternative airports, such as Charleroi, Liège (doing quite well thank you very much) and Maastricht.


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I hadn't realised that the flemish were so 'splintered' with regards to language. So unlike France who 'centralised' everyone having to speak french, the Belgians, didn't with their flemish speakers. Have yet to meet a wallon who doesn't speak french as I know it, does it happen in Wallonie too, with local dialects?



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[quote user="woolybanana"]

It sounds a bit like  patois really, which is what it is. When you hear it, it sort of sounds like it ought to be French but isn't quite.



[:D] Like people from the old pit villages in Co Durham who speak pitamatic or broad geordies, where it sounds a bit like english but isn't quite[:-))]

When holidaying in Denmark I found it a little disconcerting. I could sort of hear english voices from a distance, quite a contrast from living in France you see, or even being in any other european country, and yet as I would get closer, it was danish and I couldn't understand a word, felt very odd indeed.

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Our vet whom I have known since being her first ever customer here and seeing her kids grow up is belgian flemmish and speaks it all the time to her family even though her english is faultless and french too,yet she never talks about politics and my boss who comes from Walloon speaking Liège often remarks about the difference between the two factions. All speak perfect french though which they have found necessary for their different businesses here in France and both sides and their siblings have also decamped here. Both agree on one thing though that the british and belgian attitude to working hard is the same and completely different from the french attitude of solely 35hrs and not a moment more.
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I'm not sure about that, Woolybanana. Why should Flanders implode? It seems to be doing rather well. A big part of the problem over there is that Flanders is bigger, richer and much more economically dynamic than Wallonia, where unemployment - and the social security bill - is a lot higher. I have never heard of a company relocation having anything to do with the political situation. The reverse if anything - the Flemish have a reputation for being hard workers and many of them speak three or more languages, so foreign firms like being based there.

As for Flemish being an artificial creation, that really is complete tosh, WB. You seem really to have swallowed the francophone narrative of Belgium. I'm no language expert, but I do know that in Flanders they speak Dutch. While the rest of the world calls it Flemish, they themselves call the language Nederlandse and it is written like standard Dutch. The range of accents and dialects is certainly somewhat startling to a foreigner, but they seem to understand each other pretty well.

All that said, the real trouble with Flanders is that it doesn't know its own strength. It is numerically and economically the dominant part of Belgium, but it retains an inferiority complex after a long period of French domination. If they were to stop being defensive, relax a bit, and get on with appreciating what all the Belgians have in common, they could play much more nicely.
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Flemish is definitely NOT Dutch, though they may call it such.

And it is still the case that two towns or villages a few kms apart cannot understand each other. Thus standard Flemish was invented, which is based on that spoken in the Ghent area.

As an example, this week, my daughter has been doing a very intensive Flemish course which consists of a number of stages in Flemish towns and cities. They have to do these places in order as they will not be able to understand the local language until they have built up to it, even though they have been learning standard Flemish. 

The idea that the Flemish are intrinsically harder workers than the Walloons is a myth put about by the Flemish and which, with due respect, you seem to have swallowed.

The Flemish have sold this myth to the world but frankly is is no more true than are the stories about Wallonia.

What is true is that there are many older workers who have been kicked out of the traditional 'hard hat' industries of the area, such as steel and coal, and who have never been able to be recycled, whereas Flanders started off with a clean slate.  Some areas of Wallonia could be compared to Liverpool and other UK regions after the loss of their traditiobnal industries.

Where Wallonia has a serious problem is the entrenched and very corrupt Socialist party and unions and the over elaborate and burdensome administrative system which has far too many layers and which has far too many time serving and idle staff who should all be put out to pasture.

You are right though, that the two communities should stop hating each other and realise that they do need to work together. After all, how many Walloons work in Flanders? Enough to keep the machine turning.


Have a peep at this conversation; it will cloud the issue suitably:


There is, by the way, reported research which says that Flemish is surprisingly close to French. Certainly much more so than Dutch. I am sorry that I cannot find it.

This PhD suggests that Flemish is being maintained for political reasons (Downloadable PDF)



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