This brief article from a Belgian website on some characteristics of Belgian French ends with:

Et pour finir, ce que vous ne devez surtout jamais faire devant un Belge : mettre des “une fois” à la fin de la phrase ! D’abord ce n’est pas une expression si utilisée en Belgique, mais surtout nos amis belges comprendront que vous vous moquez d’eux ! À éviter donc si vous ne voulez pas passer pour un Frouze (un Français, de manière péjorative) !

I don't understand why ending a sentence with "une fois" would be considered teasing if the addressee is Belgian. The article does seem somewhat tongue-in-cheek, so perhaps it's a joke; in that case, I don't get the joke. Can somebody toss me a clue?

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    Decades ago, I worked in Florida with a Belgian lady, whose English was impeccable. Except that she had a habit/verbal tic of ending English sentences with "one time". Feb 2, 2021 at 10:33
  • Nvm, I have deleted my comment. It just seemed odd, because her English as so perfect otherwise. Otoh, friends tell me that I have verbal tics in German and Spanish ( それは人生です (Sore wa jinseidesu) ;-) Feb 2, 2021 at 13:43
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    It sounds so typically Belgian to French ears that there is even a French comedy named "Il était une fois, une fois", whicb tells about a French man that tries to scam people by pretending he is a Belgian prince. "Il était une fois" is the traditional phrasing at the beginning of fairy tales, equivalent to "once upon a time", and they have just added the tag "une fois" to hint at the Belgian "touch".
    – Greg
    Feb 3, 2021 at 8:52

1 Answer 1


Adding une fois at the end of a sentence is a common way for French to make fun at Belgians because it is a stereotypical ending. Doing it became extremely popular during the seventies and eighties because of some of Coluche's sketches and jokes that were sometimes taken too literally.

Of course, the Belgians are not happy when people make fun or their accent, a deplorable French habit that was recently given a name, glottophobie, and also when people make them look like idiots, but who would be?

This is surely even more annoying since this une fois is not even common among the majority of French-speaking Belgians (Walloon), but rather a characteristic of Dutch speakers (from Flanders) when they speak French or from French speakers from the Bruxelles region, under the influence of the eens (i.e. once) that Dutch sometimes insert into to their sentences. See this page for more details.

Note that it is not just using une fois and mimicking the Belgian accent that made this inappropriate, that's the accumulation of histoires belges (Belgian jokes) that not only made fun of the accent but were also quite disrespectful towards Belgians if taken litteraly. While self-mockery is doable in small doses, it can't be the only topic of every conversation referring to Belgians. It might be compared to blonde stories. If you are a blonde girl and the only thing you hear about you are blonde jokes, you surely aren't going to be happy.

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    @verbose youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=4K_3aq2dChU Feb 1, 2021 at 13:17
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    Note that the character in this moovie (Le dîner de cons) plays a dumb Frenchman who imitates (badly) the Belgian accent.
    – jlliagre
    Feb 1, 2021 at 13:32
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    @verbose projetbabel.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1189
    – Dimitris
    Feb 1, 2021 at 14:14
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    I am a native speaker of Dutch from Flanders and I can tell you that "eens" simply doesn't go at the end of a sentence in Dutch. It goes after the auxiliaries hebben (have) or zijn (be) in sentences that use the present perfect. So when people from Flanders speak French, it is not clear to me why they would add it at the end of a sentence; I assume they would tend to put it after the auxiliary.
    – Tsundoku
    Feb 2, 2021 at 10:20
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    Belgian here, and what I perceive as a bad Belgian impression is that the Belgian "une fois" has a limited and specific use (as Jiliagre said, it is the same as the Dutch "eens"). It is used to moderate an order (ex: "viens une fois ici"), or to say something like "when the occasion arises" (ex: "je te montrerai une fois, quand je passerai chez toi"). The bad French impression will set a "une fois" in just any sentence (often at the end, I guess it is easier...), which makes no sense to Belgian speakers. Ex: "il fait beau aujourd'hui une fois" would mean zilch in Belgian French.
    – Greg
    Feb 3, 2021 at 6:17

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