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Belgium is most widely known for its delicious chocolates, many varieties of beer and French fries with mayonnaise. But the country has so much more to offer. A move to Belgium from the UK means you would be dealing with not one , but three official languages – Dutch, German and French. The nation’s constitution is also trilingual, on account of the different languages and communities. Belgium is home to several international organizations, as well as European Union institutions.
The capital city of Brussels is perhaps the best-known Belgian city. Belgium has an extensive public transport system, making it easy to live further away and still be able to commute to and from the workplace. But there are many Belgian cities besides Moving to Brussels that expats may be interested in.
Belgium does experience difficulties with illegal immigrants and for this reason immigration laws have been tightened in recent years. EU citizens are able to enter and reside in the country without any difficulties but non-EU citizens may face significant challenges basing themselves here as an expatriate.
Although the standard of living in Belgium is very high, this is accompanied with a relatively high cost of living. For expatriates relocating from Europe it may offer a cheaper alternative than their home country and the fact that the currency of Belgium is the Euro entails that expats living in the country can benefit from the strength of the Euro when traveling throughout Europe and abroad.
In Belgium you will find many styles from the tradition Flemish heavy wood furniture to the more familiar shops like Ikea. If you are looking for something more upscale or unique, you will be better off in shops serving mid to high-range budgets. Many expats bring their furniture with them, using van hire UK to Belgium or Removals UK to Belgium. Whatever you choice, it is worth looking at the styles of the buildings before you make your choice.
Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French).
Nationals of the European Union have the right to live and work in Belgium with the only requirement being to register for a residence permit once a job has been located.
Unfortunately it is much more difficult for non-EU nationals to find work as potential employers are required to gain the approval of the local labor office before they can hire someone from abroad.
Belgium is a good destination for those looking for work in public affairs or social policy. However, many people in the country are bilingual and if you are only able to speak one language you may not be able to compete with other applicants. Opportunities also exist in high skill areas such as engineering, and computing where labor shortages still exist, but again, you will be expected to be fluent in at least two languages.
Key facts every expat should know about Belgium
Moving to Brussels, it is a great place to live. It is also a good place for those looking for lucrative jobs or careers. Salaries are good and companies also provide legal protection and annual leave. It is home to a number of global organizations, such as NATO and the EU. Expats moving with family or with plans to start a family in Belgium will find Waterloo a good option. It is a small town located on the capital city’s outskirts and offers affordable housing and good schools.
Moving to Antwerp is an attractive choice for younger expats. Antwerp has a vibrant atmosphere and a variety of restaurants, clubs and bars. Those looking to study abroad will find Ghent to be a comfortable choice. A university city, Ghent offers cheaper housing and a number of restaurants and museums. Belgium has something for retirees too.
The city of Tervuren is a peaceful destination with a beautiful landscape, an excellent choice for those who wish to live in the countryside. Moving to Belgium gives Expats a choice of cities beyond these, and for those wondering where to move, here’s a guide to Belgium’s major cities.
A Move to Brussels would relocate you to the largest city in Belgium and an important one, considering that it serves as the administrative center of the EU. It is referred to as the capital of Europe and its population is comprised of varied nationalities. The city is a popular expat destination as it offers a good quality of life, pleasant weather and good job opportunities. Since it serves as the administrative capital of Europe, it also has a considerable population of diplomats from across the region. Those looking for a lucrative career will benefit from moving to Brussels. It is home to multinational companies and frequently hosts business conferences, which are ideal for networking. Brussels was impacted by the recent economic low but has recovered considerably.
A little-known fact among new arrivals is that the Belgian capital is a city of neighbourhoods. To best get a feel for the city and to choose a place to live in one of the areas and suburbs in Brussels, it’s essential for expats to understand its mosaic of streets and squares.
In the same way Paris has districts called arrondissements, Brussels has its communes. There are 19 different neighbourhoods with their own name and four-digit postal code.
Each commune is represented by local government officials, and this is the first authority to which all citizens and expats in Brussels turn when it comes to civil issues and local policies. This includes registering an expat's arrival, establishing residency, obtaining a driver’s license and addressing work permit-related questions.
Certain communes are more desirable than others. Choosing a particular location depends on where a person will work, study, and whether they have a family. There is really something for everyone in each of the 19 distinct communities in Brussels, Which is what makes moving to Brussels so popular. The following are some of the best and most popular choices for expats.
The city is steeped in history, but also has a youthful atmosphere with swanky eateries and great shopping sites. The public transport system is modern and efficient, making it convenient to travel around the city. Brussels also has quality healthcare facilities and many reputed international schools. Housing is readily available, although costs tend to be higher in the city center. More spacious housing is available on city’s outskirts. The one downside of living in Brussels is the traffic jams, an issue that can be circumvented by finding housing closer to work. Parking is always a challenge as most of these neighbourhoods are popular shopping, dining and market destinations. Some apartments provide parking and it is sometimes possible to park on the street during off-peak hours.
A well-preserved medieval city, it is renowned for its spectacular architecture. In the middle of the old town stands one of the most prominent landmarks of Brugge, the Belfort or Belfry, a medieval bell tower from the 13th century. Due to the old buildings and canals, the city still has a medieval atmosphere. One of the delights of living in Brugge is the joy of taking walks through its narrow cobbled streets, or better still, taking a boat trip on the canals. Bruges is often teeming with tourists but despite the crowds it has maintained a friendly, small town feel — with lower property prices to boot — appropriate for single expats or familes. There are also numerous restaurants, cafes, chocolate shops and a steady stream of horse-drawn carriages.
If you have children or prefer to stay away from the centre bustle, the districts in the outer ring beyond the canals are a good option. Sint-Jozef, Sint-Pieters, Sint-Andries and Sint-Michiels are four of the most popular residential neighbourhoods outside Bruges' downtown. You will find peaceful suburban retreats with lots of green spaces and even historic castles just a short ride away.
The capital of the province of Flanders, Antwerp is the hub of the global diamond trade. Moving to Antwerp offers a truly multicultural environment with an ingrained mix of nationalities. There is a well-sized population of British and American families and a good choice of English-speaking clubs and societies, plus several international schools. It is an important port city and is made up of the northern region, inhabited by the Dutch-speaking Flemings; and the south, inhabited by the French-speaking Walloons. Antwerp’s official language is Dutch, although most locals are fluent in both Dutch and French. Some also speak a moderate amount of English.
Antwerp has the highest population among all of Belgium’s cities and is also an economic and business center. The main driver of the local economy is the petrochemical industry. The city has a rich cultural heritage and has the distinction of being the former home of a number of famous painters such as Rubens and Van Dyck. Due to its central location, it offers the advantage of easy accessibility to the rest of Europe. Within the city, the infrastructure is impressive; the city is equipped with well-maintained roads, modern railroads, a metro and an efficient bus network. Moving to Antwerp is a great location for expat families due to its many public and international schools. Antwerp’s focus on fashion and cultural tourism has earned it the title of ‘trendiest city’ in travel articles. There are also numerous business establishments owing to the port and industrial development, plus a young population drawn to the university facilities and rising job opportunities.
The most popular locations for expats in the city centre are Muinparkwijk, with its affordable houses and gardens, and Coupure, full of old houses and a delightful river running through it. Patershol and Prinsenhof are lively central areas of winding cobbled streets, restaurants and museums but for a quieter central neighbourhood, south-east Visserij offers leafy paths along a waterfront and rows of terraced housing that adjoin grand manor houses and industrial lofts. Many families also make the decision to live outside the city limits in the surrounding villages, where they can enjoy a rural lifestyle with space for the children and easy access to the city.
Ghent University is among the top 100 universities in the world. The local economy is centered around Ghent’s famous port, the Port of Ghent, the third largest port in Belgium. Many global companies have their offices here, resulting in job opportunities for expats. In summer, Ghent hosts ‘Ghent Fests’, a festival that attracts almost two million visitors each year.
The student city of Leuven consists of the communities of Leuven, Heverlee, Kessel-Lo, Wilsele and Wijgmaal. Moving to Leuven puts you amongst the city's 90,000 residents along with almost 35,000 post-secondary and 11,000 secondary school students. A little over half an hour drive east of Brussels is the vibrant culturally diverse student city of Leuven. While its architecture is as beautiful as any Belgian city, the real draw here is its vibe. With a population of just under 100,000 and students attending world-renowned university KU Leuven numbered at almost 58,000, it's a hub of constant activity with fairs, market days, sports competitions, free concerts and music festivals happening year-round. During the day, residents can be seen lounging at the city's various restaurants, cafes and parks while nights are usually spent in the Oude Markt with friends and some beers.
Leuven also hosts many fairs, markets, concerts, music fests and sports competition, keeping the vibe in the city lively. Property and rent prices are generally cheaper in Leuven than its big-city counterparts, to cater to the international student crowd. Lower prices, however, come with steep competition so it's vital to do your research early before moving to Leuven. The city of Leuven is made up of five communes: Leuven, Heverlee, Kessel-Lo, Wilsele and Wijgmaal, all of which have much to offer.. But this has also led to stiff competition and expats should do some research on where they wish to live before they arrive here. Leuven is also a great place to learn or polish your Dutch, as the language is taught on a number of programs. The university also offers Dutch and other language courses for an affordable fee, and this is open to everyone, even those who are not students.
Liège is one of Belgium’s largest cities and also an important economic hub, especially in the region of Wallonia. It is also the capital of the French-speaking region of Wallonia. Those moving to Liège will know it is commonly referred to as the ‘glowing city’ due to the warmth and hospitality of its residents. The city has a rich cultural heritage and there are several significant historical monuments, such as the 16th-century palace of the Prince-Bishops of Liège. A Sunday afternoon in Liège will see most residents spending time at the market square or ‘Batte’. The city is also known for organizing a number of music, art and folk festivals, all of which take place in the city center.
The centre of Liège has a good stock of apartment buildings, and expats tend to gather around a cluster of streets including boulevards Frère Oban and Piercot, Le Mont St-Martin, Botanique, and Les Terrasses. Outremeuse, the island area in the middle of the Meuse river, is becoming a desirable area for its cultural character. The city centre is renowned for its busy folk festivals and varied nightlife.
Liège even has a vibrant nightlife due to its many bars and clubs, which tend to open rather late at night. Expats will be able to find accommodation in Liège in the form of apartment buildings. Most expats tend to settle down in the boulevards of Le Mont St-Martin, Frère Oban and Piercot, Botanique and Les Terrasses. The Outremeuse area set in the heart of the Meuse river is gaining in popularity too. Suburban living includes the university area of Le Sart Tilman and also Cointe and Embourg. Expat families can easily commute from surrounding areas if they want more space or school options, although accommodation can be harder to get.
The French-speaking city of Waterloo is a highly self-sufficient destination and those who live here have no need to travel to and from Brussels for things they require. How about moving to Waterloo, the city made even more famous by Abba? It’s a popular area for expats with a raft of international schools and cheaper housing options than Brussels centre. Housing tends to be big with ample land, plus there’s a good high street of shops and clusters of big out-of-town shopping centres. It has become particularly popular with Americans and Scandinavians. In fact, the city has the highest concentration of American expats in Belgium. Waterloo lies to the north of Braine-l'Alleud, the place where the Battle of Waterloo took place on the 18th of June, 1815, which led to the final defeat of Napolean. Waterloo is also the home of ASUB Waterloo, one of the most successful rugby teams in Belgium. Waterloo is divided into six districts, Faubourg Ouest, Faubourg Est, Chenois, Centre, Joli-Bois and Mont-St-Jean.