Flags, as the Urban Dictionary would have it, are "pieces of cloth that are taken far too seriously". A definition that, at least up until recently, did not hold for the Belgians. As I discussed in a previous blog, people here tend(ed) to deal with flags in a rather disinterested and nonchalant way. One example of this disinterest is the fact that the Belgian flag is used about as much as a chocolate teapot.

At least, it used to be. On this point, I now stand corrected by the veritable tapestry of Belgian flags adorning the streets. Apparently it was merely for want of a decent football team that the flag wasn’t much in evidence during the first, well, 15 years that I lived here(1).

Even during the governmentless period (the previous one, that is, in 2010-2011…), when many people hoisted the national flag out of protest against the country’s political impasse, the number came nowhere near the current 'extraflaganza'.

"This flag is brought to you by Jupiler"

The increased usage notwithstanding, the nonchalance in dealing with the flag does seem to persist though. If anything, it may even have 'aggravated'. Particularly striking, in this respect, is the commercial nature of many or even most flags: Belgian Coca-Cola flags, Belgian Brussels Airlines flags and – especially – countless Belgian Jupiler flags.

Someone wandering into Belgium by chance might be forgiven for believing that the nation’s flag isn’t just a tricolour of black, yellow and red, but that it, additionally, features a roaring black bull at its center (named 'Jupiler').

Interesting, from an 'expat perspective', are the discussions that this 'flagvertising' gave rise to, and – more importantly – the ones it did not give rise to.
Click here to read Jogchum Vrielink's blog in full on the Fans of Flanders website.