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Brussels expats invited to Flanders in Dialogue info evenings

10:45 18/03/2018
Flanders in Dialogue is a series of free events for foreigners living in Brussels to discover everything they wanted to know about that region across the border

From Flanders Today: The Flemish Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) is hosting its second edition of Flanders in Dialogue later this month. The twice-yearly events are opportunities for the department to talk to expats about all manner of Flemish culture and policies.

The English-language evenings are aimed at expats living in Brussels, though anyone with an interest in the topic is welcome to come along. The first edition took place last autumn and featured Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois talking about integration policy.

This time, the subject is a bit lighter: Cycling in Flanders. “We wanted to get past pure politics,” explains Jurian Van Parys of FDFA. “Many expats work for the EU or are otherwise busy with policy or politics at work all day. We want to give them something else after work.”

The idea behind Flanders in Dialogue is to get expats who live in Brussels more familiar with Flanders and Flemish culture. That can be politics, but it can also be anything else.

“It’s about reaching out,” says Van Parys. “We can write all the policy memos we want, but this is about showing the expats who we are and, in turn, showing an interest in their lives. We realise that not all expats in Brussels know Flanders very well – or not at all. We want to remedy that.”

Commuter or bikepacker?

It didn’t take long for the Flanders in Dialogue partners – FDFA, Vleva, de Rand and De Warande – to agree that cycling would be a perfect topic for this second event. “Not only does the Tour of Flanders take place just a few days later, but cycling is part of our tourism policy,” explains Van Parys.

Cycling is also a sport that people take part in themselves even more than they watch it professionally. This can’t be said of tennis, say, or football.

Cycling in Flanders will not only talk about why cycling is so popular in the region – as a professional sport, leisure activity and mode of transport – it will also introduce the audience to its crucial role in bringing tourists to Flanders.

Cycling tourists often head to the Tour of Flanders Center in Oudenaarde first. It hosts a permanent exhibition dedicated to the famous annual road cycling race as well as provides tourist information for how to get the best out of a cycling holiday. It’s director, Geert Joris, will be on hand to talk about what it has to offer expats.

Former pro cyclist Peter Van Petegem won the Tour of Flanders twice in the past and will also be present to explain what makes the race so unique. And Ben Weyts, minister of both mobility and tourism will talk about what cycling means to the region – and to him; he’s an avid cyclist himself.

Finally, Flanders in Dialogue offers the chance to see the Flemish government’s new building at Tour & Taxis from the inside. The striking Herman Teirlinck building, named after the 20th-century author and playwright, houses inner atrium gardens and is energy neutral.

26 March 19.00-20.00, followed by reception; Herman Teirlinck building, Havenlaan 88, Brussels. The event is free, but advance registration is required

Written by Lisa Bradshaw (Flanders Today)