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Elio Di Rupo in signature red bow tie | © Luc Van Braekel/Flickr
Elio Di Rupo in signature red bow tie | © Luc Van Braekel/Flickr
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Delightful Moments When Belgians Took Everyone By Surprise

Picture of Nana Van De Poel
Updated: 1 November 2016
‘Only in Belgium.’ It’s a phrase that escapes the average Belgian’s lips about once every week, both in the form of exasperated sighs and delightful praises. From a grandiose flash mob to The Sound of Music song to a year and a half without a government, Belgium isn’t nearly as boring as you first imagined.

That Time They Hosted a Giant Flash Mob To A The Sound Of Music Song

It’s a regular, busy day in Antwerp’s central train station. Suddenly, Julie Andrews’ voice resounds through the beautiful halls. A dad and his daughter, delighted by the Do Re Mi tune, jump in to dance. Soon, they are joined by what first seemed unsuspecting bystanders of all ages but are revealed to be undercover dancers. Delighted spectators take out their phones as they film an entire school running down the steps to join the party. In no time, the entire grand hall is filled with people dancing in sync to the uplifting The Sound of Music track. This video will put a tune in your head and a spring in your step for the rest of the day.

That Time They Went Without A Government For 589 Days

And the world record for the longest period without a democratically elected government goes to… Belgium. The postage-stamp-sized land surpassed countries like Cambodia and Iraq in 2010-2011 when the formation of the government was complicated by extremely fragmented election results. The butting of heads between Flanders’ largest party (the separatist N-VA) and Wallonia’s largest (the socialist PS) made matters especially difficult. Negotiators appointed to bring the parties closer together came and went for close to 600 days, until finally the prime minister-to-be, Elio Di Rupo, succeeded in forming a coalition. As for the average Belgian, they amusedly looked on while day-to-day things were taken care of by an interim government.

The federal parliament, the site of many a negotiation during the 2010-2011 government formation | © Alex Guibord/Flickr
The federal parliament, the site of many a negotiation during the 2010-2011 government formation | © Alex Guibord/Flickr

That Time They Were The First Ones To Appoint An Openly Gay Man As Head Of Government

It may have taken Belgium a year and a half to form one, but its eventual government also produced the world’s first openly gay man to lead a state. And it wasn’t treated as a big deal either. To Belgians themselves, this was a non-story. Elio Di Rupo, the son of Italian immigrants (also the country’s first prime minister of foreign descent), had been open about his sexuality since 1996. While the international press wrote headlines on the charismatic figure with his trademark red bowtie, Belgium’s lack of hoopla functioned as a testament to how progressive the tiny country has been in terms of LGBTQ rights.

Today we are all family. #pride #belgium #Brussels #ElioDiRupo

A photo posted by Jure Tanko (@tankojure) on

That Time Dissatisfied Farmers Sprayed Milk At The European Parliament

You don’t want to get on a dairy farmer’s bad side. If their 2012 protest has taught us anything, it’s that they will combat injustice, like plummeting prices for their products, with any and all means at their disposal – tractors and thousands of liters of milk, to be more specific. About 2,000 European farmers flooded into Brussels on that fateful November day to demand better regulations and protective measures during an EU agricultural meeting. To make sure they were heard, the Parliament’s façade was colored white by 15,000 liters of fresh milk sprayed out of hoses. The police eventually had to use tear gas as even they weren’t safe from the white menace.

That Time A Belgian Anarchist Pied The French Minister Of Culture In The Face

Belgium’s reputation as France’s goody-two-shoes cousin got a little more debunked on a beautiful day in 1995. Brussels filmmaker and enfant terrible Jan Bucquoy hitting French Minister of Culture Philippe Douste-Blazy in the face with a cream tart might have been the best – and definitely funniest – thing to happen to the Belgian rebel scene in the ’90s. A comrade of famous ‘entarteur’ Noël Godin, Bucquoy defended his pie-throwing rights in court by referring to Belgium’s proud tradition of taking the mickey out of important figures by shoving sticky pastries up their noses.

Rebel artist Jan Bucquoy in his offices | © Miguel Discart/Flickr
Rebel artist Jan Bucquoy in his offices | © Miguel Discart/Flickr