Public street furniture in Brussels

How do you enjoy a park or sight in Brussels? Most of the time with calmness and sitting on a bench, at a picnic table or next to a fountain.

In 1964, Jean-Claude Decaux invented the concept of “street furniture”. The main idea was to give a free access to the well – maintained street furniture to a society. However, in return, the advertisements should have been placed on such structures.

From the beginning, street furniture attracted advertisers because it gave them the opportunity to spread the commercials in the most popular spots.

The decisions on street furniture are made by local municipal governments in cooperation with private landowners. Therefore, the process of business entry might be over bureaucratized and time consuming.

Something stands out in all the parks and green areas, as well as sights in the cities of Europe. More and more places are decorated with street furniture.

The most known types of street furniture are:

– Benches
– picnic tables
– Fountain
– Sports area
– sun loungers

However, we will focus on benches in this blog. Brussels is famous for being especially attractive tourist destination due to its historical heritage and architecture. Yet regardless of the attractiveness of the place you cannot walk around the whole day. That is where benches enter the game. After two days spent in Brussels, the following findings can be drawn.

There are a lot of tourists and locals in Brussels. The city of Brussels is one of the 19 municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region and the capital of the Kingdom of Belgium with 176,545 inhabitants in the official city area. However, the urban settlement area extends beyond the city of Brussels to the Brussels-Capital Region with a population of around 1.1 million. Furthermore, there are approximately 5 million tourists every year. Therefore, they need places to sit down and enjoy the beautiful sights of the city. Nevertheless, we noticed that there are not many public benches in the city center. People are sitting on the ground and stairs.

Moreover, overall impression about the already existing infrastructure was rather skeptical. Since many benches in the central park and other central spots were either damaged or in poor conditions, they are hardly usable.


Another important finding concerns competition. With 250 employees JCDecaux is clearly one of the largest companies in street aesthetics in Brussels. For more than 50 years the company manufactures various products of street furniture.

Today, JCDecaux Belgium offers advertisers a vast range of Out-Of-Home (OOH) solutions:  2m² urban furniture, public bikes in Brussels, billboards, ‘Insert’ frames targeting pedestrians, ads in Brussels buses and trams, and a vast range of offerings in the Brussels metro, the country’s largest airports, shopping malls and the lobbies of Carrefour.

Considering the shortage of benches in the city center, their bad conditions nearby, no advertisements around the benches, it is a promising chance for a Swiss company to enter the street furniture market. With the Swiss quality they can contribute a higher standard to the public sector. This goes in line with an opinion of the young people who were interviewed in the street who indicated that they would like to see more interactive public furniture like in other capital cities (musical benches in Warsaw).

According to the Brussels Times article from April 2016, there are plans how to increase the public space and also the city experience. We noticed a lot of construction works in the city center. These areas are supposed for pedestrians in future. Therefore, there is an opportunity for a Swiss company to enter the market, starting with the city centre.

Illustration source: The Brussels Times.

Study Trip Brussels, Group 6


During our study trip, we received the assignment to apply the concept of Contextual Intelligence in reference to Brussels. According to HBR, Contextual Intelligence can be described as:

“The ability to understand the limits of our knowledge to an environment different from the one in which it was developed.”

The following subtopics will allow the reader to comprehend the highly complex topic of Contextual Intelligence in a simplified and easily understandable way with five selected frequently occurring happenings.

Beer Glasses

Belgium has a historical beer tradition. This is noticeable as many pubs are offering a large variety of different beers. Interestingly, this displays the notion of being able to choose, which is important to Belgians. Often each beer has its own beer glass, and it’s regarded as a cultural faux pas to drink the beer out of the wrong glass.

Refugees / Homeless

Last year, Belgium granted refugee status to a record number of 12,197 asylum seekers, which is almost double the number of the year before. Further 3,281 asylum seekers were granted protection. Although this number is high for Belgium, other countries including Germany or Turkey have taken several hundred thousand resp. several million refugees since 2015. Also, homelessness in Brussels is a growing issue with a lot of Youngster between 16 and 18 living on the streets.


Looking at the Jubelpark arcade in Brussels there is a striking similarity to the Arc de Triomphe on Champs-Elysee in Paris or the Brandenburger Tor in Berlin. Although from an architectonical point of view the similarity cannot be dismissed the intention of the construction of the arcade is different. In contrast to its peers in Paris and Berlin does the Jubelpark arcade not resemble a demonstration of military superiority but merely a symbol of architectonical ingenuity.


In contrast to our “Bürli and Bratwurst” Belgium people just love their seafood. Especially during the weekends the restaurant/market “Noordzee” is the place to be. Fresh fish, mussels, snails and everything a fish-lover would be looking for under the sea can be
found there – Bon appetite! 🙂


A big debate arises when Swiss and Belgians are asked about where the best chocolate comes from. Chocolate manufacturing has a long tradition in both countries and distinguishing which one is the better is a subjective assessment. The fact, however, that the founder of the most exclusive brand in Belgium is a Swiss, adds to the account of Swiss expertise in chocolate.


To sum up, Brussels is a beautiful city with its own very prestige customs and culture. Yet, one shall not forget that beyond the beer pubs, chocolate shops, and seafood restaurants also lays a Brussels is torn between past and future, Belgians and Refugees, poor and rich, EU and Brexit but the most important fact that will for always remain is:

The best Chocolate is from SWITZERLAND!

Group 2- Applied Contextual Intelligence

As contextual intelligence is an important part of the internationalization process, companies should not only rely on already available information on the Internet but also do their own research in order to gather first-hand information. Therefore, we conducted our own observation in Brussels. Exploring the city, we came across several interesting facts.

Atypical Street

Belgium has an atypical voting process when it comes to politics. Compared to other countries, every citizen is obliged to vote and therefore takes part in the elections. Those people who do not vote are subject to sanctions.


Beer is a tradition of Belgium and it also plays an important role in business. Many people for example, enjoy having a drink with their co-workers after a long day. Therefore, one should recognize the importance of beer culture.


According to Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, Belgium exhibits a high score in Power Distance, meaning that inequalities in the Belgian society is accepted and therefore, hierarchy is needed if not existential. The superiors, as you can see on the picture above, have privileges and are often inaccessible.


Terror threats have impacted the daily lives of Belgians and they are much more sensitive to it as a result. The security of the country, in particular of Brussels, is so essential as the headquarter of the EU is located there. Moreover, immigration has also affected the daily lives of Belgians.

Roman Catholicism

Roman Catholicism has shaped the country and kept it from being part of the Netherlands, therefore it holds an important symbolism for the country.

Work-life balance

Belgians like to enjoy work-life balance and will spend good money to do so. According to the guide, Belgians do not have a strong national binding due to its history, which included a large political involvement of its neighbouring countries. Therefore, Belgians rely on themselves, enjoying life and being united over food. In business it is important to observe and realize this important ritual. Doing so will help open many doors.

Altogether, it is important to spin a web of knowledge through thorough observation to look beyond a country’s culture and approach locals and experts if needed.

Msc IB Study Trip Bruxelles – Team 1

“Contextual Intelligence is a concept and a way to discern what is going on around you in real time. It is a way to be adaptive and responsive to unexpected, unforeseen change which is constantly around us. For a manager, it is critically important to stay ahead of those changes and maybe even be the implementer of change. Contextual intelligence is a way to do that. Contextual intelligence is being able to understand the world we live in. When we change environment, being able to adapt to this situational change is what contextual intelligence does.” – Dr.Matt Kutz, P.h.D in Global Leadership, author of the book “Contextual Intelligence” (2015).

Dr. Matthew Kutz’s Contextual Intelligence Profile describes a requirement of reframing ones thinking. Three aspects need to be integrated into your thinking; 1) starting to react to the world as a complex world and not a complicated world, 2) synchronicity: making meaning out of apparently irrelevant experiences/memories, 3) tacit knowledge: making use of the things we know to be true, but we don’t know why we know that (non- measurable knowledge) as opposed to explicit knowledge. Furthermore, Kutz defines 12 specific behavior in order to become a successful, contextual intelligent leader.

Our group would like to point out these 12 significant behaviors and visualized them with pictures from Bruxelles. The pictures are used as methaphors, the description is always below the picture: Enjoy!

1) Diagnoses context ‒ describes the awareness of and identification of the different variables that contribute to subtle or dramatic shifts in your surroundings.

The following photograph depicts Tintin and captain Haddock diagnosing a situation in order to take appropriate actions. This is comparable to an individual who has the ability to analyze his surrounding and adapt his actions behavior to the context.

2) Consensus builder‒ defines the articulation of the value of conflicting ideas, convinces people to see common benefit of different points of view.

Individuals who display these characteristics function as peacemakers such as on the photograph.

3) Change agent ‒ defines the identification of behaviors and attitudes that contribute toward maintaining the status quo and is able to address them in a nonthreatening manner.

Our group functioned as change agents as we encouraged this man to transfer his communication to a digital channel. In order to be more ecofriendly and increase his communication reach.

4) Effective use of influence ‒ describes projection of a desirable persona based on an accurate awareness of how others perceive you. Is aware of how your own actions affect and how others perceive you.

This homeless man’s begging appealed to our empathy so that our group had the feeling that we must donate something in order to be perceived in a positive way.

5) Multicultural leadership ‒ builds rapport by seeking to understand the values and motives of individuals and groups with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

This light and dark skinned hand represent multiculturalism and intercultural understanding.

6) Mission minded ‒ can identify your own behaviors and attitudes that influence how others perceive a group or organization you are representing.

This picture shows our group being ready for the mission ! 🙂

7) Influencer – Uses interpersonal skills to ethically  and non-coercively affect the actions and decisions of others.

The religion should be a symbol for having an influence on ones ethical behavior.

8) Culturally sensitive – Promotes diversity in multiple contexts and aligns diverse individuals by  creating and facilitating diversity and provides  opportunities for diverse members to interact in non-discriminatory manner.

This pictures is a methaphor for diversity, if female or male, European or Amerian, everybody is different.

9) Communitarian – Expresses concern about social trends  and issues (encourages legislation and policy when appropriate) and volunteers  in social  and community activities.

This picture illustrates a community, such as the chinese community carrying their own social trends, cultures and values

10) Future minded – Has a forward-looking mentality and sense of  direction and concern for where the organization should be in the future.

The arrow shows the future –> dont look back, look ahead!!  🙂

11) Critical thinker – Cognitive ability to make connections, integrate, and make  practical application of different actions, opinions, and information.

The group thinks not once, but twice! 🙂 Is the main square really made with gold????

12) Intentional leader – Assesses and evaluates own leadership performance and is aware of strengths and weaknesses.  Takes intentional action  toward continuous improvement of leadership ability.  Has  an action guide and delineated goals for achieving personal best.

Thank you!

Group 1






The Capital of Europe: From the Gutters to the Palace

Contextual Intelligence: How do Belgium and Switzerland differ?

While walking through the streets in the capital of Europe, it is clearly visible that not everything is like it seems to be. Homeless people, lonely children, rubbish and a high police presence dominate the centrum of the city. Nevertheless, enormous buildings like the palace of the king or the whole EU commission area enlighten the city. The following pictures illustrate the contextual intelligence between the capital of Europe and the neutral not-eu member Switzerland. 

Homeless Family:

This pictures illustrates the high discrepancy between the european elite who meet and live in the exclusive residences and the ones who lives with nothing. 

Rubbish on the Streets:

As seen in the picture, rubbish dominantes the streets. Contrary to Switzerland where streets are spotless and clear. 

Dunks and playing Children:

As the drunk men is sleeping on the playground kids are playing around him not realizing the gravity. 

Big Brother Brussels:

In the last decade the number of surveillance cameras increased to a total of 1365 spread all over the city. This illustrates the high level of anxiety in the country. 

Seafood instead of Bratwurst:

Despite the reason terror attacks, people in brussels are still enjoying life on the streets – drinking beer and eating traditional seafood dishes.

To summarise, it is not as shiny as you would expect from the so called capital of Europe. Brussels is a great illustration of all the problems the EU has to deal with, immigration, wealth gap and terror threat. Nevertheless, it impresses also with its rich culture and history influence by all big powers of Europe. Furthermore, the citizens still enjoy life despite the problems they face everyday in their daily life. 

Contextual Intelligence in Brussels- Group 8


Even though only 5% of the Catholic population attend the church, the importance of Catholicism is to a certain extent inherent in the Belgian society and it is demonstrated in values, beliefs, rituals, traditions and practices, hence, it should be taken into account when doing business in that country. It is worth mentioning that the Catholic church played an important role during the Belgian Revolution (1830-1831), which later led to the independence of Belgium.

Belgian Pride

Even though the country is separated by two cultures: Flemish and French, they come together when it comes to food. They are proud of their Belgian beer, chocolate and among others, the national football team.


The Kingdom of Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. Of the inhabitants of Belgium, roughly 59% belong to the Flemish Community, 40% to the French Community and 1% to the German-speaking Community.

As an attempt to integrate the Belgian community, signals and products are translated to the two most spoken languages in Belgium: Flemish and French. Foreign language competence is generally typical of educated Belgians, more so in the case of the Flemish than the French speakers. This reflects the fact that the country lies on a linguistic fault-line and has also had to negotiate and trade with other countries in order to survive. Thus, international negotiations in Belgium are generally conducted in English, although French may be an option.

Food culture

Through food, the Belgian people not only come together, but it also is a way of socializing which is a very important part of their culture. It is so important that it even influences the way Belgians integrate and it helps to keep them united. As for the business culture, having a meeting at a coffee bar and discussing business issues is not unusual in Belgium.


When doing business in Belgium, particularly in Brussels, companies need to bear in mind the fact that strikes take place on a daily basis. Brussels is the capital of the EU, which is why important institutions, such as the European Commission and the European Parliament are located in that city. In order to be heard, political activists who oppose to certain decisions from the mentioned institutions, organize demonstrations and strikes frequently. Hence, companies might be affected as well when employees participate in strikes.

Customer needs

Belgium had been a colonial power between the 19th and 20th century. The legacy of the colonial time is still visible nowadays when looking at the population of the country. Some people stemming from former colonies were granted the Belgian citizenship. Belgians with Congolese roots, for instance, do not have the same preferences, customer needs and purchasing behaviour, thus, companies need to address the customer needs and wants accordingly.



Erika Arcos

Julia Kessler

Milos Mihajlovic

Hüseyin Coban

Merve Yasaroglu

Msc IB Study Trip Brussels 2017 Group 7


Contextual Intelligence Brussels

The following paragraphs will give an overview of selected topics with reference to contextual intelligence in Brussels.

1.1     National Pride

Due to the country’s history, national pride is almost non-existent. Belgium either belonged to another country or was split into small states. Belgium is a strategical attractive country, therefore, many empires fought to take siege of the country and it was almost impossible for its inhabitants to feel belonging to a certain country. Furthermore, the country culture is rather mixed as a result of the high amount of foreigners.

1.2      Security

On March 22, 2016 Brussels was under attack by terrorists. Two bombs detonated at Brussels Airport and one in the city center in the metro station Maalbek, close to the European Commission. Since then, police and military presence has been increased in the city, as well as the airport. Thus, it is not uncommon, to meet policemen or armed soldiers in the city.

1.3      Food

There is a wide variety of food in the country. However, most known to foreigners are Belgian fries, chocolate, waffles, and beer. It is worth mentioning that there are more than 1000 different beer flavors. To fully understand the enthusiasm, the group tried all of the above food specialties. Despite their attempts, Swiss chocolate is still known as the best chocolate in the world.

1.4      Religion

Religion is not as important as it used to be in the country. The attendance has dropped to an all-time low, and churches are empty, even on Sundays in the city center. This was tested by visiting several churches within the city center. However, it still seems to be fashionable to get married in church in order to enjoy the traditional atmosphere.

1.5      Language

Due to the wide cultural diversity, there are three official languages in Belgium, namely French, German and Dutch. All street, shop and restaurant signs are written both in French and Dutch in Brussels. However, outside the capital the signs are only in one language, depending on the region either in French or Dutch.

1.6      Conclusion

After having investigated different layers of Brussels’ culture, the group was able to get to know the differences which exist. Hence, stereotypes and prejudices were transformed into experiences and a deeper understanding of the facets of such a multicultural city were developed. This experience allowed the group to apply the concept of contextual intelligence through experimenting with different aforementioned aspects.

MSc IB Study Trip Bruxelles 2017 (Group 3)

MSc IB Study Trip Bruxelles 2017 (Group 3)

International context

Brussels’ population consists of 70% foreign nationalities. France, Romania and Morocco are the most represented countries of origin in Brussels. By walking around the city center, one can see a high variety of cuisines from around the world as Indian, Chinese, Thai and Danish restaurants and Irish pubs just to name a few. Not least because of Belgium’s historic background (Dutch, France, Habsburgs etc.) but also through the diversity of the ethnicities in Brussels, the citizens are familiar with the adaption process of the way of living to an international context. Moreover, due to the fact that Brussels is the capital of the European Union people from around the world are living or visiting the city through the year.


Multi-lingual country

Belgium’s population is split between Dutch-speaking Flanders in the North and French-speaking Wallonia in the South, as well as a small German-speaking region in the East. If you spend some time in Belgium, you have to get used to switching between Dutch and French. This is an example of contextual intelligence because it reflects the complex history of the country, which belonged to different empires through the centuries and had a long history until it settle down as the Belgium we know today.

As an example street signs, in Brussels are made in both languages.


The role of religion

Christianity, and particularly the Roman catholicism is officially the largest religion in Belgium. However, the large number of immigrants brought new religions into the country. Islam is nowadays the second religion in Belgium.

In the past, catholicism was regulating several aspects of the daily life. Nowadays, this is no longer true. Less than 15% of people attend functions on Sunday. The picture taken inside the Church shows how the number of people practicing Catholicism today has declined, a sign of the changing importance of religion.

Safety issues

In March 2016 a terror attack took place  in the heart of Brussels and simultaneously in the International Airport of the city. Since then the amount of policemen has significantly increased and their presence is easily perceived when walking on the street. Belgians and tourists both need to adapt to new safety measures and more controls. Nevertheless, the amount of robbery that take place in the city has increased so people should watch very carefully their belongings.

It was interesting to explore this country since it is quite similar to Switzerland in some aspects but still somehow different.

Contextual Intelligence in Belgium – Observations by Group 5

Belgium is a country with a strong double identity: Flemish in the North and Francophone in the South. Far from being a mere linguistic distinction, this division is the result of centuries of historical events that gave birth to modern Belgium. Its capital, Brussels, is located between these two identitarian blocks and, also thanks to its bilinguism, it is the essence of the Belgian culture. Here, one can see how the Belgian identity transcends local and linguistic barriers and appears in the most typical, traditional and quintessential Belgian elements of the country’s lifestyle: not only typical products, such as waffles, fries and beer, but also everyday products, such as milk bottles and other staples, are branded with a proudly shown Belgian flag. This can be seen almost everywhere in Belgian shops’ windows as well as in other retail points such as foreign supermarket chains. The following picture was taken in a foreign supermarket chain’s store in downtown Brussels.

As can be seen, cultural heritage is important because it helps people connect with others who have similar backgrounds and provides a sense of unity and belonging; it may also infuse a sense of quality and excellence of a product. Thus, adding a Belgian flag on a product in tourist areas is an exampe of contextual intelligence in that it infuses a sense of goodness of the product within tourists: be it in supermarket aisles or in more traditional tourists shops, the Belgian flag reassures the customer, even on discounted items, as can be seen here:

Conversely, the same products are not branded as evidently in less touristic areas as can be seen in the following picture:

Similarly, Belgians are united, despite their cultural differences, under certain habits and traditions, which they value and regard highly. Belgians love to have their fries in paper cones and wouldn’t have them any other way. Selling fries in such containers is another example of contextual intelligence:

This is also true for fresh seafood, which is often eaten in open air squares in an on-the-go fashion:

In essence, Belgium with its internal differences and contrasts, can be quite challenging for marketeers; Brussels, with its bilingual, double-identitarian status is the perfect example of the composition of the Flemish and French dichotomy and how it is resolved through contextual intelligence.