How local are you? Sign up for Flemish Brabant’s Bucket List

Summary

Have you ever eaten a sandwich with cream cheese and radishes? Been to a music festival? Walked in the Sonian Forest? Then you’d better get busy because Flemish Brabant has your number

‘Make that a geuze’

Should you be living and working in Brussels for a limited time, don’t be like so many foreigners before you leave realising you didn’t see most of Belgium. To help you not fall into that trap, Flemish Brabant’s tourist officials have put together a Bucket List for you.

Brussels, as you well know, is fully situated within the province of Flemish Brabant. Cycle or drive a few minutes out of Brussels in any direction, and you’ll find yourself in a different world.

Southwest of Brussels, for instance, is Pajottenland, with gently rolling hills, farmland and wide open spaces. It’s actually sometimes referred to as “the Tuscany of Belgium”. It’s also known for the famous lambic beer, which is brewed in aerated conditions that allow exposure to wild yeasts and bacteria, and therefore can only be made in Pajottenland.

East of Brussels is what the Flemish call the Groene Gordel, or the Green Belt. Keep going to get to Hageland, home to fruit orchards and imposing castles. Flemish Brabant’s tourism department naturally wants you to get to know all this before it’s too late.

20 activities to tick off

“About 200,000 expats live in and around Brussels,” says Monique Swinnen of the tourist department, who notes that they make decisions about places to visit “largely online and through insider tips. With the Bucket List, they have a website customised towards helping them acquire a taste of our region’s local colour.”

The Bucket List has 20 activities for which the province is known, such as “visit a vineyard”, “cycle all the way around Brussels”, “snap a photo of Halle’s famous bluebells” and “visit a local village market”. They are all rather easy to achieve, except one… learn the language.

Our hope is that this will be a good way to acquaint expats with the tourist treasures of Flemish Brabant

- Monique Swinnen

That last one is less pushy than it sounds, as the website explains that locals tend to switch easily to English, but you shouldn’t let them. “Continue to answer in Dutch! Just explain that you want to practice.”

The website gives you the chance to brag about your Bucket List progress by sharing it on social media. You get a score of how “local” you are by checking activities off the list. (I got 70% local, as I realised with some horror that I’ve never visited a castle.)

The province, meanwhile, will be taking its Bucket List on tour. “We will be actively looking for events with high expat attendance,’ says Swinnen. “Our brand-new exhibition trailer gives us the chance to already give the expat community a taste of a few Bucket List activities, and our hope is that this will be a good way to acquaint them with the tourist treasures of Flemish Brabant.”