When you move to live in Belgium, you will need to get the administrative forms completed, insurance arranged, car details sorted out – all the little things that go to living anywhere. And when that is done – then it’s time to start really living and enjoying yourself. This article describes how British expats in Belgium live.
The best chance of a happy family life is to move to Belgium. Belgium was ranked the top place to live by expats, in a major survey on expats lifestyle. Britain came last of the 14 countries represented.
Maybe you are one of the millions of families in the UK struggling to make ends meet. Bills get bigger, traffic gets more congested, good school are hard to find and even the weather seems set against you at times. Although living in Belgium isn’t cheap – and biannual trips across the Channel to a British supermarket are well worth while, there are many advantages. And it is still cheaper than Britain for some things, like petrol.
The children seem safer, and they stay children for longer. It isn’t hard to find excellent schools – and, of course, the children also become fluent in French or Dutch – quite possibly in both languages. And in the holidays there are week-long “schools” where the children learn crafts or play sports – even young children can really enjoy them as they are geared to the relevant age. Sometimes your children might get very tired – it can’t always be easy to spend the day speaking French or Dutch and come home to an English speaking family.
Community spirit seems stronger, whether it’s with the locals or with other expats – and there are lots of forums and groups on the internet specially for expats. You do not need to be lonely after your move to Belgium. It is easy to integrate with the locals – and once you start using your French or Dutch, even at a primitive level, people will respond and are mostly friendly and helpful. One of the pleasantest ways to do this is to join a local club, either to continue with an old hobby or start a new one. It’s great language practice and you will make friends. The local library may have information on local groups near you – and they will also have guides to the area, possible in English, as will the tourist information center.
Belgium people like to talk – be prepared to entertain your builder to coffee, to spend a long time at the pharmacy putting the world to rights – and discussing family, schools, and yes, even the changeable weather with the bank clerk (you may even end up kissing her if you are a woman). Saying goodbye in Belgium isn’t a matter of a quick “tarra” and a brief wave – it’s a mass kissing exercise in which everyone participates from the babe on arms to granny in the corner. And when you enter a shop, you greet everyone with “bonjour”, and usually they all reply.
Outside life is very full, with people cycling, jogging, hiking and canoeing. Mass cycle rides where hundreds of families cycle a route cleared of traffic by the police and children paddle in the river of our local town as the fountains play. But walking your dog may be noisy, since Belgium country dogs guard their properties fiercely, and any dog walking past will set them to barking – which sets off the next dog – and the next….also, you have to beware the hunting season, in which warnings are posted in the woods.
Overall, the quality of life in Belgium is high, life is to be enjoyed, the weather is usually quite good and the people are friendly. The chances are that your move to Belgium will be successful and happy, once the boring administrative details have been sorted out.
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