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Residents are most proud of these Flemish municipalities: “Here you just get a ‘good day’”

“Pride and pride”, that is what the Laarne municipal council focuses on. She does this, among other things, through the municipal information sheet. “We interview well-known people who live in Laarne or who do something for the municipality and take a photo in a certain atmosphere. This way we ensure that people are proud and say ‘I am from Laarne, just like them’,” says Mayor Andy De Cock (Open VLD).

Laarne is one of the municipalities about which residents are most proud. 85 percent of residents indicate that they are ‘really proud’ of their municipality, compared to 67 percent in the Flemish Region. The municipality shares the throne of proudest municipality with Maarkedal, Bruges and Knokke-Heist. These figures come from the Municipality-City Monitor, a three-yearly survey by the Domestic Governance Agency. Last year it was administered to 135,000 residents spread across 300 municipalities and cities.

The mayor of Laarne is also proud of his municipality. “How could it be different. Our community is beautiful. We have the Kalkense Meersen, a beautiful castle and many brown cafes where it is very pleasant.” He finds pride in small things: “I often hear it from people from large municipalities: everyone is friendly here, you just get a ‘good day.’”

No dormitory community

There was already a perception among residents of Knokke-Heist that they were proud of their municipality. This is now also evident from the figures. Mayor Jan Morbee (Municipal Interests) sees pride as a logical consequence of everything his municipality has to offer. “For example, there are shuttle buses driving around our shopping center, so that people can travel from one store to another for free. We set the bar very high, both for individuals and for companies. We want to be the best at everything, that’s how we make a difference.”

The mayor of Maarkedal, Joris Nachtergaele (N-VA), also points out the importance of a strong social fabric. “We are not just a bedroom community, where people go to work and sit in front of the television in the evening. People know each other and care about each other.”

Nachtergaele says it is strongly committed to pride, including by maintaining local traditions. During Crazy Monday, the sense of community is further emphasized. “People walk through the streets masked all night and are allowed to enter houses where lights are on. There, the residents guess who is behind the mask and give their guests food and drinks.”

Small is beautiful

A proud community may also be a beautiful community. The Zwin is located in Knokke-Heist, Bruges is bursting with historic buildings and in Maarkedal the paths meander gracefully through the hills of the Flemish Ardennes. “Small is beautiful,” says Nachtergaele about his municipality. “People can easily identify with small and rural municipalities.”

That could even apply to the larger city of Bruges. Mayor Dirk De fauw (CD&V) sees a difference between his city and Antwerp and Brussels, which, according to him, suffer more from metropolitan problems. “I am someone who stands for a diverse society, but in Bruges we are less confronted with it than in other cities. For example, we don’t have ‘ghettoization’ here.” De fauw also sees a connection with safety. “I was recently confronted by someone who wanted to attack me. People on the street say: ‘how is it possible that someone does that in Bruges?’”

The mayor of Bruges notices that people are proud to “be a citizen of Bruges”. “Even people who live just outside the city, in municipalities such as Jabbeke or Damme, say abroad that they are from Bruges.”


Boom is at the very bottom of the pride ladder, with 31 percent who do not agree with the statement ‘I am really proud of my municipality’, compared to 11 percent in the Flemish Region. But residents of the least proud municipality abroad also proudly proclaim that they live in the Tomorrowland village. “That is the nature of the Bomenaar,” says Mayor Jeroen Baert (N-VA). “They complain and whine, but when it comes down to it, they are proud.”

Baert sees a difference between the “original Bomenaars” and the newcomers from the Antwerp periphery. The municipality saw its population change rapidly. City dwellers who are driven out of the cities by gentrification, among other things, find more affordable housing in Boom. According to Baert, they see the advantages of Boom, such as the abundance of greenery and good accessibility. Things are different for people who have lived there longer. “Older people no longer see the benefits. They saw the street scene change and often think of the period of the 60s and 70s, when the social situation was completely different.”

Breach of trust

Eeklo and Boortmeerbeek also score poorly. In the latter municipality, the share of ‘not proud’ residents increased from 17 percent in 2020 to 28 percent. Striking, because in 2022 there was a lot of fuss when plans for a potential merger with Mechelen were announced.

Mayor Karin Derua (Open VLD) understands that the “possible merger with Mechelen plays a role in these figures”. Yet she is surprised at the little pride there is about Boortmeerbeek. She states that the board made a “break with the past”. According to Derua, the breach of trust with the municipal council is not only due to the fierce opposition to her plans for a possible merger, but also because she is the first female mayor. “Not everyone can simply accept that a woman takes the lead.”

Just like Baert, Derua is proud of her community. “I was born and raised here. I will soon have lived here for sixty years. My parents and grandparents are all from here.” She also sees a warm community in Boortmeerbeek. “There is a great collaboration. When calls by the municipal council to support those in need, people immediately volunteer to deliver bread or go to the pharmacy. I see a lot of possibilities for the future.”

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