If you would like to make a change in your life and move somewhere else, I give you 10 reasons why Brussels might be interesting for you. This European capital is often perceived as a bureaucratic knot, a city that is not really interesting and a place where it often rains. Well, not that far from the truth :-P. Despite this bad image, Brussels has a lot to offer and to guarantee you some quality time spent here.
10 Reasons Why is Brussels Ideal for Expats
1. You do not feel as a foreigner
Due to the fact that Brussels is a home to the majority of European institutions and international associations, many people of different nationalities live here, so you can easily merge in. The local mentality is very open and even Belgians will welcome you warmly. Almost each nationality has its own community here and the permanent representation or regional offices organize lot of cultural and networking events for their compatriots. For easy networking and making friends you just need to be in a right moment on a right place – for example the legendary Thursday’s ‘Place Lux’ (square in front of the European Parliament where Eurocracts mix with locals) or Wednesday’s ‘Chatelain’ (after-market drink outside), or other places such as ‘Saint-Géry’ in the very city center or the square called ‘Flagey’ at any time.
2. Rich cultural and event scene
Brussels has a very rich cultural life and Belgians like to go out and have fun, no matter what age. During all the year long you may visit various museums, concerts, great vintage or flea markets, design events, various exhibitions, comic strips events etc. In the spring, summer and autumn, there are very good festivals, events in the city parks, streets, and squares such as exhibitions, concerts, parties, historical and dance performances. Very popular is also the city beach called ‘Bruxelles les bains’, where you can find South-American cocktails and Spanish tapas, play volleyball or dance salsa and enjoy holiday atmosphere after working hours. In the winter, you will enjoy the Christmas market and events around the Grand Place.
3. Strategic position for travelling
There are 2 airports close to Brussels. Both airports offer many interesting destinations and many low-cost flights. Brussels is also very well connected with other European cities by the high speed trains – in order to have an idea how close you are: Amsterdam (2h), London (2h20’), Paris (1h30’), Luxembourg (1h30’). The railway hub is one of the most developed in Europe, the trains are comfortable and you can do trips for half-price during the weekends. In the summer, do not forget the Belgian coast! If you are lucky, you may get a car from your employer as a part of your compensation, as this is quite common practise in Belgium.
4. Lot of nice parks and green spaces
You will be surprised but half of the Brussels’ Region is covered with green spaces – parks and forests. Some of the parks are big enough for a bike ride in a nature. When the weather is nice, parks are alive and various events take place there. Some of the parks you will definitely love are: ‘Parc du Cinquantennaire’, ‘Bois de la Cambre’, Parc Leopold’, or ‘Parc de la Woluwe’.
5. A bike friendly city
There are bike paths marked on the roads, so you can easily come to work or meeting friends by bike. If you do not have your own bike, does not matter, as there are Villo (city bikes for rent) stations on every corner and you can get one just by charging your public transport card. You pick a bike close to your place, ride to your destination, find a station and leave it there – so easy!
6. Rich architectural heritage
In Brussels you will find all styles of architecture; from Art Nouveau and the most beautiful square ‘Grand Place’ to modern Institutional buildings or the famous Atomium. In the whole city, you will especially find many Art Nouveau buildings, out of which 4 masterpieces of Victor Horta (famous Belgian architect from Gent) have been added to the UNESCO list.
7. Local specialties that made Belgium Famous
Would you like to taste more than 400 artisanal beers? (Btw, I am Czech who never drank beer before, but life in Belgium has changed me. The artisanal and trappist beers are just awesome!) Another thing to eat in Belgium often is (Belgian) fries (unless you are a vegetarian) – they taste differently than you probably know them – that’s because here they are fried in animal fat which makes them tasty. Belgian good quality chocolate and especially the famous pralines take an important part in Belgian economy and culture. Why is so special? Just taste it – pure chocolate cocoa! Waffles from Brussels or Liege – with various toppings or just like that, warm with caramelized sugar, something you will love too. Sea food is also something to eat here often.
8. Gastronomy and tastes from all over the World
There is a huge choice of good restaurants. Even if you go to a very simple ‘brasserie’, you will still receive good food with professional service. Brussels has been enriched by hosting foreign cultures, so you will find restaurants from all over the world. You can easily buy foreign products in small shops – Moroccan, Turkish, Italian, Greek , Bulgarian, Polish, Spanish, South-American, Thai, etc.
9. You will learn French and/or Dutch quickly
If you are motivated, you can learn French and/or Dutch during your stay. There is a lot of choice in the courses offered (and the prices are somewhere even subsidized) and you can practice with you friends and colleagues or in the media.
10. Affordable Housing
Housing is much cheaper than in London or Paris. In order to have an idea: the average wage in Belgium is 2,369 EUR net (I guess the wages of EU officials are included in this study, so more realistic view: as young an unexperienced and working somewhere else than the institutions you might have around 1500-1800 net). And the renting prices vary from +/- 500 EUR for a room in a shared apartment, +/- 700 EUR for a studio/small apartment to a bigger flat from 1000 EUR.
But Brussels is also called Bermud Triangle of Europe. Plenty of people that come here for a certain time, they stay much longer than they expected and sometimes to take the decision to leave definitely this wonderful place takes several years. 🙂
What about you, where have you lived or where are you currently living and what do you appreciate about the place?