At the turn of the 20th century, intellectuals and artists in Belgium and the Netherlands were keen to define their respective national identities. One of the most striking ways of doing this was based on a paradox: in both Belgium and the Netherlands the idea came into being that their national distinctiveness actually lay in their being international. What set the Belgians, living in the heart of Europe, apart from the French or the Germans, so the thinking went, was precisely the fact that they were able to understand both the French and the Germans. And what made the Dutch different from the inhabitants of the major powers, it was emphasised, was the fact that they were attentive to the general interest, and not just their own national interest. This article focuses on the history of this remarkable 'international patriotism'.