It’s a typical Belgian tradition on a nice summer day at the beach: children making paper flowers, arranging them in the sand and then selling them to fellow beachgoers. You don’t pay in euros though, you pay in … shells.
I wouldn’t say it’s the rage in every Belgian seaside resort, but it’s definitely a tradition that goes way back: the first record of children making flowers out of crêpe paper and selling them on the beach dates back to 1922! Nearly a hundred years later you’re still very likely to spot some of these little ‘flower shops’ when visiting the Belgian coast. It usually is a family affair: the mothers, big sisters and grandmothers help make the flowers, the fathers and smaller children set up the ‘shop’ and sell the flowers to other children and passersby. Not only is it a fun, friendly and educational activity, it’s also a cheerful sight to see the randomly arranged flower bouquets sticking out in the sand with the colorful petals dancing in the wind. The price per flower? There’s no actual money involved, the children get paid in washed up shells. How much shells you need to collect depends on how generous the sellers are (some children understand the definition of ‘profit’ better than others) and also on the location. In some seaside resorts you might have to pay in ‘handjes’ (shells by the handful) and sometimes you might even have to deliver a certain quantity of a specific shell type. But of course, there’s always room to negotiate… Next time you’re at the beach in Belgium, keep your eyes open and your bucket ready!