Story Published in October 2015
Paul Van Halteren is a very famous Belgian in Chicago. He has been the honorary consul of Belgium for Illinois and Indiana for 10 years. He is known for his genuine openheartedness and his great devotion to Belgium. He moved to Chicago from Brussels in his late twenties.
He became honorary consul for Belgium in Chicago in 2005 when the General Consulate of Belgium in Chicago closed due to demographic changes. An Honorary Consul is a diplomat who represents their country without compensation and whose powers are restricted.
It is not possible to apply to become consul; someone refers you. When a diplomatic position opens up, the Royal Palace of Belgium asks for referrals. The Royal Advisors then review all the candidates and submit a selection to the King. The King nominates the final candidate. It is only then that a the candidate is notified of their nomination.
“Being selected for the position of Honorary Consul for Belgium in Chicago was a great surprise” says Paul. “I had to make some adjustments to my Condo to accommodate the requirements of an Honorary Consulate”. The city of Chicago installed a special limited parking spot by his residence. Paul installed a sign on his Front Door. He then hung a picture of King Albert II and Queen Paola in his hallway. “I updated the picture when Prince Philippe became King” proudly says Paul as he poses in front of the royal portrait.
Paul really admires and respect the royal family. “A Royal Family can be such an asset for a democracy. They have the country’s best interest in mind and they can not be corrupted. I love the Royal Family. I really think that a Queen or a Princess has cachet that a First Lady does not have: the Royalty comes with a unique prestige that is very valuable in international diplomacy”.
His primary tasks as an Honorary Consul is to further economic and diplomatic relationship between Belgium and the United States. His responsibilities also extend to attend Belgian events; welcome delegations and support activities of other Consulates present in Chicago. The Chicago is the 3rd diplomatic center in the United States: it is home to fifty General Consulates and thirty Honorary Consulates. The City of Wind’s diplomatic scene is very active. Paul sometimes has two or three events a week.
Honorary Consuls receive no salary and no budget to accomplish their mission. Paul has to balance his official professional life with his diplomatic schedule. It is sometimes hard to do but Paul does it with a very good heart. Over the years, he has managed to accomplish very much with very little.
Fortunately Paul is an excellent cook and loves entertaining at home. Great food and conviviality are essential to him. He grows some of his food on the roof-top terrasse of his building. His dinners for eight are really famous. Paul used to contribute to the price raffles of the Belgian American Club by donating “Dîner chez Paul” tickets that delighted the winners. Foreign visitors are often surprised to be hosted directly at his residence and are astonished he isn’t assisted by a chef nor waiters.
Apart from being a Consul, Paul is also a seasoned salesman and entrepreneur. He worked as International Director of Export for a company of dry fruits and nuts snacks for 20 years. His career took him all around the world and has taught him in the ins and outs of traveling.
Last August, he joined Travel Exclusive to put his 35+ years of business and leisure travel at work to offer à-la-carte luxury travels and incentives. He really wishes to help his clients take a step forward and finally realize their dream travel.