Belgium: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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The United States takes on Belgium in the Round of 16 matchup today. The country nestled between the Netherlands, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the North Sea has given the world Godiva chocolates, Jean-Claude Van Damme and the inspiration for the delectable Belgian waffles.

Discover more about the Belgium national team’s homeland while they take on our American boys.

1. Belgium Makes Waffles, Chocolate and Beer

Belgium produce a wide of variety of culinary favorites including the inspiration for America’s Belgian waffles. There are two popular waffle styles in Belgium: the Brussels waffle and the Liège waffle. The Belgian waffle as its known in American relates closely to the Brussels waffle which is rectangular, lighter, crisper and has larger pockets.

In the run-up to the U.S.-Belgium game, Waffle House called for a boycott of Belgian waffles as a show of support for the U.S. team, according to Today. Waffle House spokesperson Meghan Irwin spoke with Today about the boycott:

We’ve never served Belgian waffles at Waffle House, and we just want to support team USA. It’s just supposed to be really fun, and we want to just stand behind Team USA.

The world’s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev is headquartered in Leuven and has a portfolio of 200 beer brands, according to the company’s website. Chocolate companies Côte d’Or and Godiva also originated in Belgium

2. Action Movie Star Jean-Claude Van Damme Calls Belgium Home

International film star Jean-Claude Van Damme may be Belgium’s most well-known celebrity. The actor and kick-boxing champion starred in martial arts action flicks like Sudden Death, Universal Soldier, Hard Target and Bloodsport.

Watch his 10 best moments from Mojo in the video above.

Van Damme began his martial arts training at age 12 and in four years earned a spot on the Belgium Karate team under the tutelage of Master Claude Goetz, according to IMBb.

3. Belgians Speak Three Different Languages

The official languages are Dutch, French and German. The capital Brussels has two officials languages: Dutch and French. More than 60 percent of Belgians speak Flemish (closely related to Dutch) and 33 percent speak French, according to the BBC. German is spoken by only 1 percent of the population.

The three official languages can cause problems for residents who try to live and work in neighborhoods trying to keep their identity, as seen in the video above.

4. Poppies Grow in Flanders Field, Belgium

On May 3, 1915, Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote the now famous poem “In Flanders Field,” according to The In Flanders Fields museum. McCrae wrote the poem for his friend Alexis Helmer who died at the Second Battle of Ypres that took place in western Belgium.

Listen to a reading of McCrae’s poem above.

Thousands of poppies grow in Flanders Field where they were the first plants to grow in the “churned-up soil of soldiers’ graves,” according to BBC News. The small, red flowers have become the international symbol to recognize soldiers who have died in conflict.

5. NATO and the European Union Headquarters Are in Brussels

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Belgium was one of the founding members involved in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), and is home to many of the facilities. NATO was formed post World War II; its purpose was to unite nations and provide security against the Soviet Union. Belgium was a third-world, or neutral, nation at this time so it was advantageous for the US to provide security to Belgium in return for their joining NATO.

The European Union is also located in Belgium because it was one of the founders. Belgium’s role in the European Union has arguably played a large role in shaping Belgium as a country. The EU was created after World War II (like NATO) to create economic cooperation, but it ended up playing a role in not only the economy, but also politics and human rights.