Most expats relocating to Brussels find it relatively easy to settle down in this international city, which is not only the capital of Belgium but also one of the “EU capitals”. People are usually open-minded and friendly. When greeting someone hello or goodbye, you normally kiss one cheek. The population in Brussels is about one million. Over 27% of the country’s population is made up of immigrants.
Brussels is divided into 19 municipalities which are separate administrative areas. Each of them has their postcode and government officials, like a mayor.
Due to its proximity to the coast, Brussels has a mild climate that results in gray skies and rainy weather. The climate is humid, temperate and coastal.
You should be aware of the city’s bilingual status. The most common language is French, that is spoken in most service establishments. Plan to learn French and rate it as an asset, no matter how long you intend to stay. Belgians appreciate your endeavors to communicate in French. Business is commonly carried out in English.
In Belgium, foreign employees are assigned with a work permit and labor card within ten to fifteen days. As such, Belgium has one of the most active and most flexible systems in Europe. Belgium is more flexible towards qualified personnel. There are three types of work permit:
- Permit C – 1-year validity, unlimited employers, non-renewable – typically issued to foreign nationals with a limited residency status (e.g. refugee, students, etc.).
- Permit B – 1-year validity, single employer, renewable – this is the most common work permit. If you change employers, your new employer must apply again for a work permit. You are entitled to renew this permit every year. After 4 renewals and 5 years of residency in Belgium, you will be entitled to a Permit A.
- Permit A – Unlimited duration, unlimited employers – allows you to work for any employer (in Belgium) for any duration.
Please note that additional documents must be presented with your application, depending on the type of visa you need for moving to Brussels.
If you are employed, you will be obedient to pay social security in a transaction for Belgian welfare benefits. Belgian social security system is bureaucratic, but not difficult. Your employer will probably take care of the formalities and subtract grants from your wages.
Belgium has a very extensive social security system. Foreigners also are entitled to certain allowances to social services. Social security system is based on the payment of social contributions on your income from work. The self-employed can also claim social security, paying quarterly contributions. Here you can check what you are entitled to under the Belgian social security system. Belgium has signed social security agreements with several countries outside the EEA. These include Algeria, Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, Congo (DR), Croatia, India, Israel, Japan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Morocco, Montenegro, the Philippines, San Marino, Serbia, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay, and the USA.
Belgium’s healthcare system is a key tenet of the country’s social welfare scheme. Once registered, all residents are covered for at least subsidized medical care. Employees pay obligatory social security contributions and are usually expected to join a health insurance scheme run by one of the private or mutual insurers.
The opportunities for education and outings accessible to families living in Brussels are countless, causing the city appealing and child-friendly. There are many children’s activities in Brussels, particularly intended to seize their imagination. The first choice you must make as a parent is whether to integrate your child into the local system or take benefit of the many international schools in Belgium.
Like in many other cities some neighborhoods are more desirable for living than others. Most expat families with young children recognize Etterbeek municipality the best neighborhood in Brussels. Probably because in this commune you’ll find the highest number of schools and institutions in the entire country. The Belgian school system can seem puzzling at first, due to the variety of childcare and education options in Belgium that families can choose from.
Brussels Ville or Brussels City is the biggest commune. Most expats working or studying in the capital choose to rent an apartment here, not only because they can walk to work, but also because of its fun nightlife. Whatever you decide Brussels is a great city to live in, with a lot of green space, offering a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Belgium is home to many famous comic artists like Tin Tin, Lucky Luke, Gaston, Gil Jourdan, and Marsupilami. The city of Brussels is paying tribute to some of the most loved comic heroes. Nowadays more than 50 colorful mural paintings can be spotted around town. And that is just one of the curiosities you will enjoy in this great city.
In Belgium, food is a big deal, from chocolate to beer and waffles, Belgian food is some of the most loved in the world.
Waffles are traditional street food eaten with your hands. There are two kinds of waffles, both originating in Belgium, Brussels waffles and Liege waffles. Apart from the fact that these two waffles are both, well, waffles, they couldn’t be more different. The Liege waffle is small with rounded edges, whereas the Brussels waffle is larger, and has a rectangular shape. Moreover, the Liege one is thicker and contains little clumps of sugar, whereas the Brussels one is lighter and is sprinkled with icing sugar.
UNESCO has listed Belgium’s beer culture among the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It is clear to you that even if you are not a beer lover, you just have to try it in Belgium. There are even several beer museums to be found across the country. You would have to write a particular text just to list the most popular Belgian beers. These are just some of the most notable for us: De Ranke XX Bitter, Duvel Tripel Hop Citra, St Bernardus Wit, 5.5%…
You’ll never hear a Belgian call them “french fries”. There is a debate about who invented the fries, but once you eat them in Belgium, they’ll never taste
as good anywhere else. Fried potatoes are somewhat of a Belgian national dish. The secret to the perfect Belgian fry is two-fold. The freshly cut potatoes must be fried twice. At a lower temperature to cook the inside to a soft, fleecy texture, than fast at a higher temperature to cook the outside to crispy sweetness. Mayonnaise is the classic topping, although many Belgians love andalouse—a blend of mayo, tomato paste, and peppers mixed together.
Of course, we should not allow ourselves not to mention the famous Belgian chocolate. Belgium is known all over the world for making phenomenal chocolates. It is heaven for chocolate lovers. The Belgian chocolate industry is almost 400 years old. The first thing to consider seeing when coming to Brussels is the Brussels Museum of cocoa and chocolate. It’s fantastic information that Brussels airport is the world’s biggest chocolate shop, selling over 800 tones annually.
Belgium is a great country to live in, providing excellent living conditions. Excellent social and health insurance and care for every member of society. Excellent conditions for both family life and fun.