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Life in Brussels

wicklow
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55 posts
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Life in Brussels

Hi All

I am considering taking a job in Brussels. I would like to hear from locals and ex pats about living there. I have never been to Belgium or Brussels.

I am female, 22 years of age and have just finished my degree.

I am native English speaker and I am completely fluent in French. Language wise would this be enough?

Is standards of accomodation good in Brussels? Expensive? I wouldnt want to rent anything on my own. Preferably I would prefer to have a room in an appartment or house sharing with someone? What could one expect to pay per week for this type of accomodation? How could I go about doing this?

Is the cost of living high in Brussels? I have heard mixed reports about this. Dublin where I come from is extremely expensive city and everywhere else I have been to has been much cheaper.

In Brussels I will be on lower wages than at home and it is for that reason I worry a bit about the cost of living. Does Brussels have Carrefour, Intermarche and Lidl?

Is there many English speaking expats in Brussels? Is public transport reliable?

I have many questions as you can and to be honest I don t know that much about Belgium. I spent an erasmus year in Lorient in Brittany in the west of France. I know Brussels would be a completely different experiance.

Would anyone advise a 22 year old woman to go there by herself? Is it a safe city? Is there any areas to be avoided?

I would really appreciate some answers.

Brussels, Belgium
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1. Re: Life in Brussels

I'm an English expat (female) who has lived in Brussels for more than 25 years, and I love it here. Cost is always a relative matter but Irish friends tell me Brussels is much cheaper than Dublin. We have Carrefour and Aldi/Lidl but local supermarkets GB and Delhaize are not expensive either. Clothes and shoes can be more expensive than in the UK, though, and the choice not as wide (Brussels is a SMALL city, obviously it can't offer the choice of London or Paris - but we are only 3 hours from one and 1 1/2 hours from the other by train). I am certain that going out is cheaper here although I don't know where people your age are currently going.

However, income tax is expensive, together with social security and separate health insurance they will account for 50% of your salary unless you are recruited on a "foreign cadres" package which is unlikely given your age (this scheme applies to foreign executives and middle-managers) .

here are very many English-speaking expats in Brussels, don't ask me where they go because I mix with an international crowd but you can look on www.xpats.com - which has a homeshare section in the free classifieds and a useful Q&A section. There is also a homeshare section on the Brussels Craigslist, or for French-speaking sites google Bruxelles colocation. Once here, a good resource for rentals is the local newspaper Vlan, or Brussels' English-language weekly The Bulletin, although that tends to carry more expensive properties, being aimed at foreigners.

Although officially bilingual French/Dutch, Brussels is 80% French-speaking and I hardly use my limited Dutch at all, although the fashionable A. Orts/St. Géry area has some Dutch-speaking haunts and it helps to be able to read it. Virtually all Flemings and many French-speaking Belgians speak excellent English and films are shown in the original with French and Dutch sub-titles ("V.O. s.t. bil."). Most people have cable TV which offers more than 30 channels in many different languages but beware than there is no competition between distributors, so which one you get depends on your commune of residence, the best for English (BBC1 and 2, nothing Irish) is UPC which serves Etterbeek, for example.

I would have no qualms whatsoever about safety, Brussels is safer than Dublin and the only areas to be avoided are the seedy areas around the South Station and to some extent (the area between the station and Place Rogier has gone up in the world) the North Station, although if you are particularly nervous, you might want to add the poorest communes in Brussels, which are Molenbeek and St. Josse. In these areas unemployed Moroccan(-origin) boys sometimes hang around on street corners and a blonde foreign woman might feel unsafe out late at night. I have also heard of occasional trouble between such gangs and local/expat drunks outside the Irish pub across from the Bourse. Most expats live in the Woluwes, Etterbeek, Ixelles (where the universities are) and Uccle, which all have pleasant residential areas, but your main concern will be price and handiness for public transport. In my area (Cinquantenaire), it costs 1000 EUR/m to rent a 2-bedroom apartment but of course there are cheaper possibilities.

wicklow
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55 posts
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2. Re: Life in Brussels

Thats great to have an answer so quick.

About the expats website I would prefer to make some Belgian Friends but when you are a foreigner in a city it can be quite difficult. It can take alot of time. Though in Lorient being blonde and a native english speaker made me very different and there were no Irish or even English apart from myself. I found myself used to being stared at in certain areas of the city. I found it very funny to be honest, So it wont bother me. . But I imagine Brussels would be very modern and cosmopolitan in comparison and used to seeing people from all over the world.

In the beginning I befriended other foreigners in a similar situation. By the end of the 9 months I had more friends than some people who d lived in Lorient all their lives. Its what you make of it I suppose. Though my socialising will depend on work and hopefully there will be some nice people. If not I ll probably look at the ex pats site.Though the start is always going to be lonely but always exciting.

I imagine Belgium would be cheaper than ireland. Whilst in Lorient I rented a room in a house for 150€ per month. I wouldn t expect that in Belgium but room only in Dublin starts at 400€ per month. Ideally I d love to share with someone Belgian or even a Belgian Family. Is it possible to live in the suburbs and commute by bus or train. Or is it a place where you really have to live in the city centre?

Money wise I would be hired by a Irish company and I think they have some way of avoiding the tax as its paid in Ireland or something like that. We have very low rates of tax. But I am not 100% sure of the ins and outs. Its a graduate programme.

Well i ll do alot more research and really think about it.

Thanks again

Sacramento...
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3. Re: Life in Brussels

Hi there,

You should really think about joining the users group on Yahoo "expats in Belgium". You can look it up under Yahoo user groups.

Whilst most of the people in this group are not Belgian, there a a ton in your age group (from all around Europe) and that can help you to meet some people and get started. Belgians tend to hang out with each other but they are not unfriendly as much as introverted.

To meet young Belgians you could try the club Parc Savoy which is located near the Bois de La Cambre in Ixelles. It is very easy to get to by tram, the 93 Marie Jose line (the stop is Marie Jose or the end of the line.)

It is a safe city compared to other major cities in the world, just keep an eye on your purse to beware of pickpockets.

If you speak fluent French and English you will survive just fine based on those two languages. All of the younger Flemish Belgians can speak English so you won't have a problem there. (In fact when in the Flemish part of Belgium, you would be wiser to speak English vs. French).

I think you will have a really fun time here. It is a great country for your first expat experience.

Brussels, Belgium
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4. Re: Life in Brussels

I still recommend you use the xpats website, as it provides a forum for the sort of questions that arise for anyone living in Belgium for some time, and not just travelling there, as with Tripadvisor: www.xpats.com/cgi-bin/interactive/qa.cgi

In addition, apart from student "kots", flat-sharing is not as common in Belgium as it is in some other countries, therefore if this is what you want to do, you may have to share with foreigners anyway. Incidentally, it may help you in your research to know that in Belgian French a "flat" is a studio or bedsitter, without a separate bedroom (which has to have a window), while an "appartement" has at least one bedroom.

wicklow
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5. Re: Life in Brussels

Ok that sounds like a good idea. I might also do some research on the lingo. I learnt French in France and I heard that Belgian French is a bit different.

Though to be honest I ve never had any trouble understanding Belgian French on tv and through my friends. Though there might be few words and expressions that are a bit strange. In any case I don t think it will be a huge problem.

Thanks for all the advice