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YOUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO LIVING IN BELGIUM

GIUM L E B T A EXP 5 1 0 2 E D I U G L A V I V R SU

E V O L , K R O W LIVE,

ENT, , EMPLOYM EDUCATION ENTERTAINMENT N, RELOCATIO ORE! AND MUCH M

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WELKOM, BIENVENUE AND WILLKOMMEN TO BELGIUM! Moving abroad is an exhilarating, life-changing experience. That is, once the practical aspects are settled. It first can be a daunting process while you try building a new life in an unknown language and culture. Where do you begin?

3 > INTRODUCTION

The Expat Survival Guide assists your first essential steps: finding a home and job, organising permits, setting up finances and healthcare, and enrolling in education. It offers practical information on getting started in Belgium and directs you to the people, companies and institutions that can help you along the way.

14 > HOUSING: Should you rent or buy?; Finding a

6 > SURVIVAL CHECKLIST 7 > RELOCATION: Residence permits; Relocation

providers; Embassies and consulates. home; Renting; Buying; Accommodation agencies; Where to live. 24 > FINANCE: Banking; Taxation; Insurance. 32 > FAMILY ESSENTIALS: Marriage; Divorce. 33 > EDUCATION: Education system; International

As the growing pangs subside, our newly redesigned website www.Expatica.com complements this guide with relevant news in English, weekly features from experienced expats, and essential lifestyle information for getting out and about in Belgium. You’ll find plenty of support with our housing and job search tools, ask-the-expert service, free classifieds, A–Z listings, events, expat dating, and a thriving online community. Our goal is to provide all the information you need to settle with ease into your new Belgian lifestyle.

schools; Higher education.

ENJOY LIVING IN BELGIUM!

taxis; Driving and parking.

48 > EMPLOYMENT: Finding a job, Work permits;

Labour law; Recruitment agencies; Social security. 52 > HEALTH: Healthcare system; Health service

providers; Emergency numbers, Fitness clubs. 57 > SETTLING IN: Connecting utilities; Telephone,

internet and television; Main providers. 60 > TRANSPORT: Public transport; Airports and

64 > OUT AND ABOUT: Bars; Cinemas; Weekend

The Expatica Team

breaks; Libraries; Shopping; Food from home. This guide is published by Expatica.com, a leading media organisation providing a complete resource for international living.

Published February 2015 – In memory of Antoine van Veldhuizen. Expatica Communications B.V. Wilhelminastraat 15 2011 VH Haarlem Netherlands www.Expatica.com | expaticaservice@expatica.com Editorial: Casey Marriott Layout & design: Benjamin Langman Publisher: Mark Welling Advertising sales: sales@expatica.com Distribution: survivalguide@expatica.com Photos: ©Shutterstock.com

70 > LISTINGS: Public holidays; Expat groups and

clubs; Religious services. 72 > ADVERTISERS INDEX

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronically or mechanically, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior written permission from the publisher. Requests for permission should be addressed to Expatica Communications BV, Wilhelminastraat 15, 2011VH Haarlem, the Netherlands. Expatica makes great effort to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this guide. However, we do not take responsibility for errors or omissions or any damages, howsoever caused, which result from its use, and make no warranty of claims as to the quality or competence of businesses or professionals mentioned. Users are advised to take care when selecting professional services and to use common sense when adjusting to new life in a new country.

BELGIUM EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE 2015 | WWW.EXPATICA.COM

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INTRODUCTION

IN LOVING MEMORY ANTOINE VAN VELDHUIZEN Antoine, Managing Partner of Expatica, and his family were on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 when it crashed on Thursday, 17 July 2014. Antoine has meant a great deal for Expatica. He is the personification of the Expatica Family and co-developed Expatica almost from the very start. His boundless and infectious energy has led to many initiatives and successes, among which the “i am not a tourist” Expat Fair, which will celebrate its 12th edition in 2015. It is impossible to mention everything he has done for Expatica and the international community over the last 12 years. He always stood for Expatica, the Expatica Team, its quality and its readers. His knowledge of and contribution to the international community will be missed. Years ago, we changed Expatica’s tagline to: ‘Live. Work. Love.’ When these three words popped up during a brainstorm session, Antoine and I looked at each other and knew instantly: “This is it.” Without any further discussion, they were added to the Expatica logo. Still, it wasn’t until Antoine passed away that it hit me: ‘Live. Work. Love.’ not only fits Expatica’s mission perfectly, these three words flowed together seamlessly in Antoine’s life. Above all, Antoine was a family man. He talked about his beloved wife, sons, brothers and parents very often and very warmly. Typically, Antoine the family man also created a family feeling within Expatica and kept it alive over time. In the many heartwarming reactions from former team members, Expatica readers and clients alike, almost all of them mention the warm and sincere connection they had with him. Antoine will forever be part of the Expatica Family, forever known as its most important, energetic, loyal, likeable, committed, sympathetic, best member with the loudest laugh. The time and sincere attention he gave people, his passion to help others grow and flourish, and his urge to do the right thing will always be an example to those who knew him. Mother(-in-law) Christiene, Simone, Quint, Pijke and Antoine were widely loved and will truly be missed. Our thoughts and hearts go out to their family and friends. Mark Welling – Expatica Communications BV Family and friends of Pijke, Antoine, Christiene, Quint and Simone started the charity foundation PACQS in their memory. Please take a look at www.pacqs.nl for more information. 2

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INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION

Multicultural Belgium is an ideal place for relocation abroad. It may be a small country in size but Belgium plays

Belgium has an excellent standard of healthcare,

large in international scenes and consistently

too. High quality medical care is widely available,

ranks among the top places to live in the world.

enhanced by large university hospitals. It’s also

Belgium’s multicultural makeup gives its capital

considered cheaper than the US, and shorter

Brussels an edgy vibe with an array of global

waiting times means Belgium is becoming a

services and facilities on offer to ease in even the

hotspot for medical tourism from surrounding

newest expat.

countries.

On the surface, Belgium offers many attractions

It’s also relatively affordable. Brussels, where

in spades. It’s the home of the European Union (EU), a short trip to a number of international capitals, and has three official languages (French, Dutch and German) and a sizeable international community. Beyond that, it’s also famous for fries, Tintin, chocolate, and beer.

many expats choose to base themselves, is cheaper that other western European capitals such as Amsterdam, Munich, Vienna, and Zurich, according to Mercer’s Cost of Living rankings. On top of that, the country boasts a good public transport system with a smooth-running

BELGIUM IS IDEAL FOR EXPATS

integrated network of buses, metros and trams.

Belgium consistently scores well in all the main indicators of good living. Belgium has a high life standard and ranks among the top 10 in several indicators of the OECD’s Better Life Index, with the average household wealth above the OECD average. Besides that, the international presence in Brussels is second only to New York, with some 1,500 institutions employing around 3,000 diplomats, and a base of more than 2,000 European headquarters of multi-national organisations. For those coming to Belgium for a limited period, there is no shortage of furnished apartments, or so-called ‘aparthotels’. For longer stays in Brussels, there is a wide choice of rented and

EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY When it comes to eating establishments, the country is proud of the choice and quality of its restaurants. In fact, Brussels ranks among the top European cities with the most Michelin stars. In total, the Michelin Guide for Belgium 2014 featured three restaurants with a three-star rating, 17 restaurants with a two-star rating and 101 restaurants with an one-star rating. But it’s not just highbrow dining that the Belgians excel in. According to a 2012 survey by VirtualTourist.com, Brussels was the only western European city in the top 10 destinations in the world for street food.

owner-occupied housing, both within the city’s

Belgium is unlikely to disappoint on the cultural

19 communes and in the suburbs, ranging

and entertainment front. Besides impressive

from studio apartments to villas. Further afield,

museums, a lively theatre scene, and some of

there’s an equally wide choice of property in

the most picturesque historical towns in Europe,

more rural residential areas, and growing expat

Belgium has more castles per kilometre than

communities in Belgium’s other main centres,

any other country in the world. There are also

which are covered in this guide under the

a number of colourful festivals, not least the

Housing section.

folkloric, UNESCO-recognised Carnaval. BELGIUM EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE 2015 | WWW.EXPATICA.COM

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INTRODUCTION

If you’re a beer drinker, you’ll find yourself in the capital of great beer. All major cities and towns have bars of all types, from trendy lounges to old Flemish hostelries serving an array of the besttasting and most interesting beers in the world. In fact, in Belgium, beer is even a ‘religious’ affair, with Trappist monks having brewed and sold their own beer for centuries. A PLACE TO RAISE CHILDREN Expats with young families will be happy to know that the country has one of Europe’s most extensive childcare networks, with almost all young children attending organised daycare, rated as high quality and decently priced. The Belgian educational system offers parents a huge choice, including a range of international and language schools. Check the Education section for a guide to schooling. Another useful group is the not-for-profit Brussels Childbirth Trust (02 215 3377, www.britishinbrussels.com), an organisation for expats that offers advice and arranges meeting groups and support for both parents and their babies and/or children.

Second, the country’s bureaucracy can be very challenging due to a complex system of government, relationships between the different language groups and a talent for overcomplicating things. But if you find the challenge of understanding the differences between region, language and ethnicity complicated, you’re not alone. Some years ago the soon-to-be prime minister of Belgium sung the first line of the French national anthem – after being asked to sing the first line of the national anthem in French. Oops. THE BELGIAN LIFESTYLE Still, a combination of high living standards and great international communities, schools and other organisations, plus an excellent array of choices for dining, entertainment and travel, means that Belgium more than holds its own against other major expat destinations. With your Expatica Survival Guide in hand, you can be equipped to take full advantage of the many opportunities Belgium has to offer.

BELGIAN WEATHER AND BUREAUCRACY By all key indicators, Belgium is a great place to live but it is not all sugar-coated waffles. The first is the weather. An old Belgium joke says that the country has great weather – about 20 times a day. There is a significant amount of rain all year round and that can be frustrating. But it can also be overstated – if you are from the UK you’ll be happy to hear that Belgium actually has less average annual rainfall, according to the World Bank.

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TASTE THE CULTURE Film, concerts, theatre in the neighborhood

SPEAK THE LANGUAGE Dutch courses, workshops for children, practice opportunities

MEET THE PEOPLE Clubs and activities for children and adults

DISCOVER THE REGION Randkrant and local information

www.derand.be Check out our English, French and German pages or pay a visite to our centres ‘de Rand’, Kaasmarkt 75, 1780 Wemmel T. 02 456 97 80 - info@derand.be BELGIUM EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE 2015 | WWW.EXPATICA.COM

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SURVIVAL CHECKLIST

SURVIVAL CHECKLIST

Before the fun of exploring begins, there are some essential tasks to get through when you first land in Belgium. Use this checklist alongside the information set out in this Expat Survival Guide to help simplify starting your new life in Belgium. More information is provided on www.Expatica.com. REPORT TO IMMIGRATION You should register with your local commune in the first week of arrival. This will kick-start the necessary processes for legal residence and to get the relevant ID card for your stay in Belgium. Get ready for paperwork and make sure your documents have all the right stamps and translations. If you’re not sure which permit you need, we provide a quick overview on page 7. EXPAT BENEFITS Find out if you are eligible for the special expatriate tax exemption, particularly if you are temporarily assigned to work in Belgium. Information on the Belgian tax system is detailed in our Finance section. OPEN A BELGIAN BANK ACCOUNT It is handy to have a Belgian bank account because some places don’t accept alternative cards. Opening a Belgian bank account will require your passport or residence ID, and proof of address. FIND A HOME Our Housing section will help you decide whether to rent or buy and offers tips on where to live in Belgium and mortgage options for expats. Due to the peculiarities of the Belgian rental market, long-term contracts can actually be more flexible than short-term ones. See page 14.

EDUCATION Should you send your child to a local or international school? What learning opportunities are available to expats? Get the lowdown on education in Belgium on page 33. JOB HUNTING Read page 48 to first see if you need a work permit for Belgium. Once you have your permit (or don’t need one), our job-hunting tips and information on Belgian labour law will help you get started. HEALTH Did you know it is mandatory for residents to register with a health insurance scheme in order to get a health card and refunds? Do you know what to do in an emergency or how to find a hospital, doctor or dentist? Our Health section guides you through the Belgian healthcare system. GETTING AROUND Find out about driving rules and regulations in Belgium, if you can exchange your driving licence, and how the Belgian public transport system works. See page 60. MEETING THE COMMUNITY If you’re finding everything a little overwhelming, take heart: many others have been in the same position and made it through. Get active and make new friends for extra support. Read about Belgium’s entertainment scene, expats groups and clubs and weekend getaways in our Out and About section at the end of this guide.

HOME BASICS After finding your home, you’ll need to sort out a broadband connection and water, electricity and gas services. We list the major suppliers on page 57.

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RELOCATION

RESIDENCE PERMITS

Many administration functions are carried out by the local communes. Belgium is run on a local level by communes, through which most administrative functions are carried out. The country currently has 589 communes, the result of an amalgamation exercise in 1975. It might sound like a sizeable number, but it is far from the 2,739 communes that existed when the Belgian State was created in 1831. Since 1975, immigration into Belgium has been heavily weighted towards professional workers and those with higher levels of education, as well as students. Successful residence applications heavily depend on the purpose of stay, for example, if you have found a job, have been accepted onto a study course, or you have a spouse or relative living in Belgium. Depending on your nationality, or that of family living in Belgium, you will be required to undertake certain registration procedures after you arrive by visiting your local commune. This will kick-start the necessary processes for legal residence and to get the relevant identity card for your stay in Belgium. EU/EEA/SWISS NATIONALS AND RELATIVES All nationals from Switzerland and the European Economic Area (EEA) – EU plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway – may live freely in Belgium, but EEA nationals need to have a ‘melding van aanwezigheid’ (notification of presence), plus a registration certificate if planning to stay more than 90 days. The process for Swiss nationals is slightly different, of which the local commune can advise. Although EU citizens have free movement within member states, this procedure is necessary to put you in the foreign population register. To register, all EEA/Swiss nationals should visit the local town hall or maison communale/ gemeentehuis where they are residing with a passport or identity card, within 10 days of arriving.

Your residence requests are dealt with by the Belgian Immigration Office of the Interior Federal Public Service – the sole authority with final jurisdiction. For your registration certificate, you may be asked to present: Identity card or passport. Three passport photos. • Proof of means of support, usually in the form of an employment contract or letter from your employer (attestation patronale/verklaring van de werkgever). • Belgian residence address. • Health insurance. • •

Depending on your circumstances, you might need to show copies of birth and marriage certificates, or an employment contract (applicable for Croatian nationals in some communes).

BELGIUM EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE 2015 | WWW.EXPATICA.COM

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RELOCATION

Family members, even if they are not from the EU/EEA or Switzerland themselves, can also obtain legal residence to join you in Belgium. This can include spouses, registered partners, children under 21 or dependents, although conditions apply, for example, showing evidence of adequate health insurance and sufficient financial resources. They must first obtain a longterm visa for non-EU nationals (see below) to enter Belgium, and then register at your local foreigner’s office within eight days of arrival. Once registered, the municipality will provide you with an eID card, or an electronic foreigners card (la carte électronique pour étrangers/ Elektronische vreemdelingenkaart). This E-card isn’t a residence visa, but shows that the person has been included in the national register, and is normally valid for five years. It is not just foreigners who are issued identity cards – everyone living in Belgium over the age of 12 is required to have one, and must always carry it after turning 15 years old. EU/EEA and Swiss citizens – and family members – can acquire permanent residence automatically after five years’ uninterrupted stay in Belgium by applying at the local commune. NON-EU NATIONALS Before arriving, the first point of reference is the Belgian consular authority for your country. All non-EEA/Swiss nationals staying longer than 90 days must apply for a long-stay visa (type D) before coming to Belgium. Certain non-EU nationals who have family members who are EU citizens can enter Belgium just using their passport; the consulate authority can advise you. After arriving, everyone is obliged to register at the local municipality within eight working days to apply for their residence permit. You and your family must register at the municipality town hall in person, which will include you in the foreign population register. Depending on the commune, you may prefer to take someone who speaks the local language. An application fee may be payable, and some communes may require cash. Your long-stay visas will be handled by the Foreigners Department. Residence visas for nonEEA/Swiss nationals are restricted to purposes

8

such as study, work (if a work permit is in hand) and family reunification (including partners). As such, depending on the commune, you may be asked to produce: • Identity card or passport. • Up to four passport photographs. • Work permit. • Proof

of means of support, usually in the form of an employment contract or letter from your employer (attestation patronale/verklaring van de werkgever). • Belgian residential address (ie. copy of a rental agreement). • Visa (if applicable). • Evidence of your relationship, such as a legalised marriage licence or birth certificate. • Health insurance. You’ll be issued with a certificate of registration in the foreigner’s register (Certification d’Inscription dans le Registre des Etrangers/ Bewijs van Inschrijving in het Vreemdelingen Register), and once your residency is approved, either an A residence card if you are staying for a specific amount of time, or a B residence card if you are allowed to stay in Belgium indefinitely. The length of validity will depend on certain factors, such as the length of your work contract, your relative’s permit or your study course. Your foreigner identity card is associated with your address so if you move to a new permanent residence, you must also apply for a new card within eight days of moving. After five years of continuous stay in Belgium, you can apply for a long-term residence card. RENEWAL When your card is due to expire, you need to report again to the Foreigner’s Office at your local town hall for a renewal, which it is suggested you start six weeks in advance. Find details webpages:

on

the

relevant

government

Immigration Office of the Federal Public Service (FPS) www.dofi.ibz.be WTC, Tour II, Chaussée d’Anvers 59b, 1000 Brussels +32 (0)2 793 8000 | infodesk@ibz.fgov.be Department of Federal Immigration www.diplomatie.belgium.be Chaussée d’Anvers 59B, 1000 Brussels +32 (0)2 206 1599 | helpdesk.dvzoe@dofi.fgov.be

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EXPATICA DATE

Expand your dating horizons. Register for FREE at: www.expatica.com/dating


RELOCATION

RELOCATION PROVIDERS

Relocation companies can take the hassle out of moving country. RELOCATION COMPANIES ABC Relocation | www.abcrelocation.com Sterrebeeklaan 81, 3080 Tervuren | +32 (0)2 767 2996 15 Hetherington Rise, WR4 0QG, UK | +44 (0)78 4158 2911 Am&pm | www.am-pm.be Octogoon Building, Interleuvenlaan 5, 3001 Leuven +32 (0)1 658 9490 | arlet@am-pm.be Art of Living | www.artofliving.be Avenue Ernest Solvay 59, 1310 La Hulpe +32 (0)2 653 0037 | artofliving@artofliving.be Aurora Relocation | www.auroravastgoed.be +32 (0)3 385 4672 | +32 (0)486 633 521 info@auroravastgoed.be Be Welcome | www.bewelcome.be Reepkenslei 52, 2550 Kontich tine.soers@bewelcome.be | marc.vanhoof@bewelcome.be +32 (0)3 449 5698 | www.culturaltraining.be Brilliant Relocation Centre | www.brc-relocation.com Belcrownlaan 23, 2100 Antwerp +32 (0)3 605 0650 | info@brc-relocation.com Brussels Relocation | www.brussels-relocation.com Clos du vieux Moulin 34, 1410 Waterloo +32 (0)2 353 2101 | brussels.relocation@skynet.be Caroline Driesen Relocation Consultancy www.carolinedriesen.com Rue Henri Wafelaerts 19, 1060 Brussels +32 (0)474 270 966 | info@carolinedriesen.com

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EZ-Relocation | www.ez-relocation.com Hazendreef 9, 2900 Schoten (Antwerp area) +32 (0)3 385 4672 | info@ez-relocation.com FRS–Foreign Relocation Service | www.frs-relocation.com Av Herrmann Debroux 15B, 1160 Brussels +32 (0)2 253 2005 | info@frs-relocation.com GMC Relocation | www.gmc-relocation.com +32 (0)476 28 7966 | +32 (0)477 758 500 info@gmc-relocation.com Interdean | www.interdean.com Jan Baptist Vinkstraat 9, 3070 Kortenberg +32 (0)2 757 9285 | brussels@interdean.com Map Relocations | www.map-relocations.com Belgium | Luxembourg | Netherlands | UK Brusselsesteenweg 321, 3090 Overijse +32 (0)2 658 8080 | contact@map-relocations.com NOVA Relocation Group | www.novagrp.eu Bosdellestraat 120 Box 8, 1930 Zaventem F. Rooseveltlaan 348–9, 9000 Gent +32 (0)2 785 0985 | info@novagrp.eu Team Relocations | www.teamrelocations.com Leuvensesteenweg 518, 1930 Zaventem +32 (0)2 253 2550 | be@teamrelocations.com Transworld International | www.transworld.be Clem. Vanophemstraat 78, 3090 Overijse +32 (0)2 687 5090 | info@transworld.be

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RELOCATION

EMBASSIES AND CONSULATES Argentina . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 647 7812

Latvia

Argentina . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 647 7812

Lithuania . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 401 9895

Australia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 286 0500

Luxembourg

Austria (trade). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 645 1650

Malta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 238 2601

Bosnia Herzegovina. . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 502 0188

Mexico . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 629 0777

Brazil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 640 2015

Morocco . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 736 1100

Bulgaria . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 374 5963

The Netherlands. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 679 1711

Canada. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 741 0611

New Zealand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 512 1040

Chile. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 280 1620

Norway. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 238 7300

+32 (0)2 771 2038

Poland. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 780 4500

China

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

+32 (0)2 238 3236 +32 (0)2 737 5700

Croatia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 639 2036

Portugal

Cyprus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 650 0610

Romania.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 345 2680

Czech Republic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 641 8930

Russia.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 374 6886

Denmark . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 233 0900

Slovakia.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 346 4261

Egypt. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 663 5800

Slovenia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 213 6337

Estonia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 779 0755

South Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 285 4400

Finland. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 287 1212

Spain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 230 0340

+32 (0)2 548 8711

Sweden . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 289 5753

Germany . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 787 1800

Switzerland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 285 4350

Greece . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 545 5500

Turkey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 513 4095

France

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Hungary

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

+32 (0)2 348 1800

Ukraine

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

+32 (0)2 286 4360

+32 (0)2 379 2100

India. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 640 9140

United Kingdom.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 287 8211

Indonesia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 775 0120

USA. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 811 4000

Ireland.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 282 3400 Israel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 373 5522

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Italy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +32 (0)2 643 3850

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RELOCATION

MOVING COMPANIES Gosselin Mobility | www.moving.gosselingroup.eu Belcrownlaan 23, 2100 Deurne +32 (0)3 360 5500 | moving@gosselingroup.eu Ziegler Brussels | www.ziegler.be Rue Dieudonné Lefèvre 160, 1020 Brussels +32 (0)2 422 2299 | info_ziegler@zieglergroup.com STORAGE SERVICES Shurgard Belgium | www.shurgard.be Breedveld 29, 1702 Groot-Bijgaarden 0800 500 08 | +32 (0)2 229 5611 EXPAT & COMMUNITY CENTRES Europe.Brussels Liaison Office | www.blbe.be Avenue d’Auderghem 63, 1040 Brussels +32 (0)2 280 0080 | blbe@blbe.be

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HOUSING

HOUSING

Renting is common for expats when they first arrive in Belgium. As with living in any country, the simple question is whether it is more beneficial to rent a property or buy it outright. Buying property in Belgium is relatively cheaper than in neighbouring countries, however, expats need several years to offset Belgium’s high property transaction costs. Thus most expats on short-term stays consider renting but the Belgian rental system also has its quirks. SHOULD YOU RENT OR BUY? Renting when you first arrive is obviously a quicker accommodation solution than undertaking the formalities of a purchase, particularly if you need housing immediately. Renting is more flexible and gives you time to know the areas you would like to live long-term. However, if you rent initially, you should be aware that terminating a short-term contract early incurs a penalty, usually a payout of the full rental period. In Belgium, the standard nine-year contract is actually more flexible, as tenants can give notice any time for a set penalty. As repairs fall to the tenant, freedom to redecorate and renovate can offer renters similar benefits to owning a home. Yet buying property appears advantageous when compared to Amsterdam, London and Paris, as properties in Brussels and Antwerp can be cheaper and you tend to get a lot more for your money, although prices in Brussels are considerably higher than other areas of Belgium. Plus, a weakened market in recent years shows some price decreases, and mortgage interest rates are at historical lows. But transaction costs on property or land purchases are high. There is a registration tax on homes (typically 12.5 percent), and combined with legal/agent fees and other taxes, total transaction costs can add up to 25 percent of the purchase price. Plus, considering that a capital gains tax of 16.5 percent applies to properties sold within five years of purchase, shortterm investments appear less beneficial. Thus, those contemplating a stay of less than five years or those uncertain about future plans should consider renting as their best option. But if Belgium will be your home for a while, taking the plunge to 14

buy could offer value for your money. FURNISHED OR UNFURNISHED? Apartments are typically rented unfurnished. Although furnished flats are available, they can be more expensive and targeted to upmarket short-stay tenants, or are shabby and down market. Unfurnished houses typically come bare – without light fittings, window or floor coverings, or white goods – although in some cases it is possible to arrange to buy the previous tenant’s furnishings, which can be useful for custom-fit items, such as curtains or carpets. Similarly when your contract expires, you will need to leave the house empty. In property viewings, clarify what will be left behind if a current tenant is moving out. FINDING A HOME Once you see an area you like, take time to walk the streets armed with a notepad and mobile phone. Many properties display a standard orange poster reading ‘A Louer/Te Huur’ (For Rent) or ‘A Vendre/Te Koop’ (For Sale). Estate agents (agences immobilières/makelaar) also put up signs. Bear in mind that some of the best properties never get advertised. If a particular area appeals to you, ask colleagues and even local shop owners if they know of any properties available. The website www.immoweb.be is also excellent, is in English, and allows you to search all of Belgium for a place to rent or buy. You can also check the classifieds portal Vlan (www.vlan.be) or English online sites such as The Bulletin (www.xpats.com) or Expatica’s property listings at housing.expatica.com/belgium. You can find a list of real estate agents in each region in the Yellow Pages (www.goldenpages.be) or on Immoweb’s site. Belgium has a large choice of estate agents but you may have to do much of the legwork yourself, particularly if buying, or drop off their radar after time. Agents’ fees are typically paid by the landlord or seller of the property. English-speaking estate agents are common, particularly in Brussels, and can help new arrivals by acting as a translator. Rental agencies might even offer to drive you to visit various properties.

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HOUSING

RENTING A HOME

The standard ‘nine-year’ lease is more flexible than a short-term contract. Once you have found a desired property to rent, you need a lease (bail/kontract), an inventory (état des lieux/plaatsbeschrijving), a security deposit, and to get the phone and utilities reconnected. You will also need to take out an insurance policy for contents, plus fire and water damages. LEASES IN BELGIUM Belgium has an odd system where a short-term contract is an inflexible lease for rental periods up to three years, and a flexible nine-year lease is the standard contract. For uncertain newcomers, the three-year lease seems safer but this is not necessarily the case. Short-term contracts commit the tenant to the entire agreed lease period and impose a penalty for leaving early; in many cases, you will have to pay out the full contract. You can arrange the lease to have a diplomatic clause (designed to indemnify tenants who need to break the lease because they are leaving the country) but the Belgian Court has nullified these in the past. In contrast, the nine-year lease allows tenants to give three months’ notice at any time, with a penalty of up to three months’ rent if broken within the first three years. If you leave in the first, second or third year, you will pay an indemnity of three, two or one month’s rent respectively; no penalty applies after that. Base rent prices can be increased at each three-year term, so you may hear it referred to as a 3-6-9 due to these periodic increases. Your rent will be adapted annually in line with the state-controlled indexation. The landlord can terminate a contract provided they give six months’ notice and either occupy the property themselves, house a family member, or carry out major work (‘major’ has a legal definition). Landlords can also give notice for no reason, but must compensate the tenant several months’ rent.

All leases in Belgium have to be registered with the Receiver of Registrations, Ministry of Finance (Enregistrement, Ministère des Finances/Registratie, Ministerie van Financien) within two months of being signed. While the landlord usually does this, it is also in your interest to check registration so tenant rights cover you. In apartment blocks, the monthly payment may include an element of rent and a fixed amount of service charge. Sometimes the service charge will be a prepayment (provision pour charges/ vooruitbetaling) and there will later be an annual assessment of common charges for the property for which you will be part-responsible. If you are seeking a better deal, negotiate down the rent and not the service charges. Once you sign, maintenance repairs become the tenant’s responsibility, detailed in the contract. Thus, if there are things you want the landlord to correct, either specify them in the lease contract to legally bind the landlord, or don’t sign the lease until they have been completed. INVENTORY The inventory (état des lieux/plaatsbeschrijving) is the source of more misery for tenants than almost any other rental procedure. Generally in Belgium, the landlord’s agent or a designated expert prepares a detailed list with photographs of the property condition, which the tenant signs. At the end of the lease, the landlord’s agent checks the property against this inventory. Check carefully; tenants can be charged for minor damage, such as a preexisting scratch in the bathtub, simply because they didn’t notice the damage when signing the original inventory.

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Some inventory agents may insist you sign a document to accept their expertise and pay 50 percent of the fee before starting; you are not obliged to do this. It is the obligation of the property owner to pay for the inventory. You are also free to select your own agent (expert immobilier) to do the check-in and check-out for an independent assessment. SECURITY DEPOSIT You may be asked to pay up to three months’ rent as a security deposit (garantie locative/ huurwaarborg). If you don’t have the money upfront, your bank might act as a guarantor and you pay later in monthly installments. Commonly, you open a blocked deposit account, which needs the signatures of both tenant and landlord for any withdrawal. Never pay the security deposit in cash – it is actually against the law.

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The deposit is typically returned following an inspection of the property. If the property is deemed left in its original state then the deposit will be returned; otherwise costs of damages will be held back. OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES It is the tenant’s responsibility to insure the property for contents, and fire and water damage, and many rental agencies will insist on this as part of your rental agreement. Additionally, maintenance repairs fall to the tenant and you should arrange to have any chimneys or gutters cleaned and boilers serviced annually. If the property has a private garden it is the tenant’s responsibility to maintain it – communal garden costs are usually included in the service charge. You can check your contract for details.

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HOUSING

BUYING A HOME

House prices are relatively low but high transactions costs can offset any short-term benefits. Buying a house in Belgium is a paperwork process, with you (the buyer) first signing a purchase offer (offre d’achat/koopintenties or aankoopaanbod) once you have found a desired property. The deal is confirmed with the signing of an agreement to purchase (compromis de vente/verkoopcompromis), which binds both parties to the sale and should state any required exit clauses, such as contingent on securing a mortgage. You then have four months to get the legal paperwork and mortgage agreement secured and approved, and signing a final contract of purchase (acte authentique/authentieke) will complete the sale. You will be asked to pay around 10 percent as a deposit, which is typically placed into an escrow account until the deed is notarised. The transfer eventuates when both parties sign a notarised deed of sale (acte notarié/notariële akte), after which you will also need to pay associated fees and taxes. An oddity of the Belgian system of conveyance is that once you have signed the compromis de vente, you become liable for the property insurance. Even if the property burns down while you don’t legally own it, you are still liable. To be covered, you need to take out insurance once the agreement has been signed. High transaction costs mean the agreed property price and the final sum you pay are often alarmingly different. First, for most properties you will pay a 12.5 percent registration tax to the state, or if you buy in Flanders, you pay a slightly reduced tax rate of 10 percent. Properties less than two years old, however, are subject to a VAT tax of 21 percent. For down market properties with a revenu cadastral/kadastral inkomen below EUR 745 (a government assigned value), taxes are reduced to 6 percent in Wallonia and 5 percent in Flanders, but such properties are generally in short supply, poor condition or in undesirable areas.

Second, there are fixed state-agreed costs for the legal services of a notaire, which vary according to the property value (up to 4 percent). Then, calculating the property registration fee, mortgage registration fee, agent’s fees (if applicable), plus the notary fees, transactions costs can quickly add up to some 15 percent of the purchase price for old properties, or some 25 percent for new properties. However, it is worth checking out the tax benefits available to first-time buyers or for primary residences, which vary depending on the location. These include, for example, reduced registration tax. THE ROLES OF THE NOTARY As all notaires are obliged to charge the same fees, it is best to select one on recommendation, location or language. Failing that, have a look at www.notaire.be. Find one before you find the house, as they will need to spring into action the moment you are ready to act. The seller’s notaire typically drafts the compromis de vente and sends it to your notaire, who should amend any unfavourable clauses. Once the text is agreed upon, you will convene to sign and hand over the first deposit. Once the period agreed in the compromis to find a mortgage starts, your notaire will do the legal checks and, all going well, within four months you will all meet in the offices of your notaire to sign the acte authentique and hand over the remaining money (usually a cheque from the mortgage lender) in return for the keys. Structural surveys are not a legal part of securing a mortgage. It is typically an independent activity for your own peace of mind and should be done before signing the compromis de vente. You will need to show serious hidden defects in order to escape penalty-free once you have signed.

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MORTGAGES There is a full set of mortgage (hypotheeklening/ prêt hypothécaire) options available in Belgium from major banks, financial institutions and other sources, including lenders that offer specialised expat services. Mortgages can be fixed for the loan term, variable annually, or reviewed every few years, with different options on the type of interest payment. Single market mortgages are also available from abroad but these can only be obtained via a broker. The loan can usually be enlarged to help with transactions costs, if your lender agrees. If certain conditions are met, tax benefits can be claimed on mortgages over 10 years. The Belgian government portal www. belgium.be has details, or ask a local mortgage provider. Another option is a guaranteed collateral agreement (hypothecaire volmacht/mandat hypothécaire). It is not an actual loan and instead the bank puts the mortgage on the house, but it means you avoid the mortgage fees and only pay those charged by solicitors. You can’t claim for tax benefits on this system, so it’s important to compare savings.

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Some lenders may charge you for the mortgage offer itself, even if you do not subsequently draw down the loan. Check fees in advance and walk away if you are uncomfortable but bear in mind that mortgage offers have a time limit. Banks have been more reluctant to lend since the global financial crisis, and low interest rates and dwindling profits have influenced some lenders to add products as a condition for lower rates, such as getting your salary paid into one of their accounts or taking out house contents and mortgage protection insurance schemes. The cost of insurance in Belgium is high, however, so it pays to do full calculations and shop around. If you have existing insurances, there should be no need to duplicate the cover at added cost. Lenders are no longer able to insist that you buy insurance from a specific company.

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HOUSING

ACCOMMODATION AGENCIES NATIONWIDE Century 21 Benelux | www.century21.be Handelslei 308, 2980 Zoersel | +32 (0)3 309 2108 Trevi Group | www.trevi.be Rue Joseph Hazard 35, 1180 Brussels | +32 (0)2 343 2240 BRUSSELS BBF | www.bbf.be Avenue de Roodebeek 78 Box 9, 1030 Brussels +32 (0)2 705 0521 | info@bbf.be BBF Brussels city | www.bbf.be Rue du Pélican 38, 1000 Brussels +32 (0)2 539 2614 |cityflats@bbf.be BBF European area | www.bbf.be Rue Stevin 105, 1000 Brussels +32 (0)2 733 4945 | schumanflats@bbf.be BBF Nato, Woluwe area | www.bbf.be Avenue Henri Dunant 50, 1140 Evere +32 (0)2 705 0521 | airflats@bbf.be

ANTWERP Belimmo | www.belimmo.be Leopold de Waelstraat 37, 2000 Antwerp +32 (0)3 238 0357 Carl Martens Immobiliën | www.carlmartens.be Britselei 24, 2000 Antwerp | +32 (0)3 226 8500 Engetrim | www.engetrim.be Jan van Rijswijcklaan 162, 2020 Antwerp +32 (0)3 218 6304 Sidimex | www.sidimex.be Frankrijklei 94, 2000 Antwerp | +32 (0)3 203 0202 AARTSELAAR ERA real estate | www.era.be Antwerpsesteenweg 68–2, 2630 Aartselaar | 0800 20 227 OVERIJSE Immo2002 | www.immo2002.be Ringelberglaan 21, 3090 Overijse | +32 (0)2 687 2779

Eurohouse | www.eurohouse.be Bld. du Souverain 254, 1160 Brussels +32 (0)2 672 0555

LIÈGE Optimum | www.optimum.be Rue Louvrex 98, 4000 Liège Rue de la Loi 42, 1040 Brussels | +32 (0)4 221 4875

Eurorent | www.eurorent.com Chaussée de Vleurgat 177, 1050 Brussels +32 (0)2 646 2686

OFFICES VIPOFFICES | www.vipoffices.com Bld. Saint-Michel 47, 1040 Brussels | +32 (0)2 400 0000

Housing Service | www.housing-service.be Avenue de Tervuren 155, 1150 Brussels +32 (0)2 732 9920

HOTELS Stanhope Hotel | www.thonhotels.com/stanhope Rue du Commerce 9, 1000 Brussels +34 (0)2 506 9111 | stanhope@thonhotels.be

Macnash Associates | www.macnash.com Boulevard Anspach 123, 1000 Brussels +32 (0)2 514 1147 Marriott Executive Apartments European Quarter Rue du Parnasse 15, 1050 Brussels Contact: Quinten Veermann | +32 (0)2 505 2929 quinten.veerman@marriott.com Renaissance Hotel Brussels Rue du Parnasse 19, 1050 Brussels Contact: Quinten Veerman | +32 (0)2 505 2929 quinten.veerman@marriott.com Toby Bureau | www.bureau-toby.com Rue Royale 55, 1000 Brussels | +32 (0)2 219 2333

Thon Residence EU | www.thonhotels.com/residence-eu Rue de Trèves 126, 1040 Brussels +32 (0)2 204 3913 | eu.apartments@thonhotels.be Thon Residence Florence www.thonhotels.com/residenceflorence Florencestraat 1, 1000 Brussels +32 (0)2 543 3390 | florence@thonhotels.be Thon Residence Parnasse www.thonhotels.com/residenceparnasse Rue d’Idalie 8, 1050 Brussels | +32 (0)2 505 9800 parnasse@thonhotels.be

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WHERE TO LIVE IN BELGIUM Beyond Brussels there are plenty of cities and communes that make great homes for expatriates.

drawn to the university facilities and rising job opportunities.

ANTWERP 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. With the added fact that the majority of Flemish speakers speak English, Antwerp becomes an attractive place to relocate.

Most families tend to live in the north of the city with its residential flavour and gardened houses. Single expats tend to live in the midst of it all in beautiful, albeit expensive, apartments. Up and coming areas include the redeveloped museum area (‘t Zuid) and parts of Berchem with grand Art Nouveau houses and a slightly bohemian feel. Another rising neighbourhood is ‘t Eilandje (little island), surrounded by the docklands in the north and close to Antwerp’s giant contemporary museum, MAS. The urban set favour apartments in the area between the river and Nationalestraat, known as St Andries, which has the feel of a village within the city.

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

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HOUSING

GENT Often called Belgium’s most beautiful city, Gent is growing in popularity with its dynamic mix of cosmopolitan and provincial town feel. Gent is a prominent student town but there is a good mix of locals, students and expats who call it home. The blossoming University of Ghent is influencing the city to become a strong research and development centre, retaining more young professionals. 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. GENVAL This area outside the Brussels region is a Frenchspeaking enclave in the Flemish belt. The most expensive part to live is down by the lake with its Geneva-style waterspout, water sports facilities and five-star hotel. Genval is just a 20-minute train journey away from Brussels centre, so it is an ideal commuting location.

TERVUREN In this officially Dutch-speaking area, you’ll hear French and English on the streets among a number of languages. A large population of expats have been attracted to this lush country living at the edge of Brussels, with its great park surrounding the Africa Museum and The British School at its heart. As Tervuren is known for being one of the richer areas of Belgium, houses are expensive but big, with acres of land and a real sense of owning your own patch. You need a car to live here, but it’s also at the end of one of the world’s most beautiful tramlines. Tervuren is best suited to families as life here is rather quiet. The south-bordering commune, Overijse, is a scenic area also popular with expats. WATERLOO Waterloo is a small French-speaking municipality popular for its self-containment, meaning there is no need to drive in and out of Brussels when you need something. It’s a popular area for exapts 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.

LIÈGE The centre 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 is renowned for its busy folk festivals and varied nightlife. 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.

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WHERE TO LIVE IN BRUSSELS If living in the thick of it all is irresistible then downtown is the place for you. In recent years, previously run-down parts of the centre have become a magnet for young professionals, with major renovations and industrial spaces coming up for rent or sale. Sought-after areas are St Géry, Ste Catherine and the rue Antoine Dansaert area leading up to the canal, where old warehouses have been converted into popular loft apartments. The traditionally cheaper, working-class Marolles is becoming increasingly popular with a young urban set. The Sablon and Louise are fabulously upmarket but that is, naturally, reflected in price. What you get in return is a raft of art galleries, antique shops and stylish cafes. Up and coming are the streets around the main boulevard leading down to Gare du Midi, with many old properties ripe for development and still at somewhat attractive prices. IXELLES/ELSENE Ixelles is a massive commune with character and style, wildly popular with the expatriate community. It falls into distinct areas: trendy Châtelain with its café culture, the leafy ponds and abbey area leading down to the Bois de la Cambre; and buzzy Chaussée d’Ixelles, which takes in the Matongé, the African quarter, and the cemetery with its late-night bars and student population. Through it all runs Avenue Louise with its upmarket shops and restaurants, which is technically part of the Brussels City district. The housing stock tends to be large townhouses and desirable apartment conversions, but you’ll certainly pay for it. If you’re looking for green space there is the huge Bois de la Cambre to the south. For more suburban living, head southeast to the commune of Watermael-Boitsfort, which is rapidly becoming a popular area with easy city access and a quaint village feel.

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ETTERBEEK Best known for the area at the top end of the Parc du Cinquantenaire, Etterbeek is filled with attractive streets lined with early 20thcentury townhouses. Home to many European institutions, it has fantastic public transport facilities. The relatively cheap housing prices and good availability of houses and apartments, mostly in conversions, make Etterbeek particularly attractive. There are international schools here, as well as cultural venues at l’Espace Senghor, Théâtre St-Michel, Théâtre Yvan Baudouin-Lesly Bunton, and l’Espace Entrée Libre. ST-GILLES/SINT-GILLIS St Gilles is a favourite among expats who like to live like locals. From the top end, with its grand Art Nouveau houses, down to the earthy Gare du Midi, St Gilles is packed with quirky restaurants, shops and a buzzing nightlife. There is the beautiful art deco Victor Boin swimming pool and Turkish baths for relaxing, plus a number of theatres, cinemas and galleries to explore. You are more likely to find a bargain property here too, especially if you buy. It is one of Brussels’ most dynamic areas with a definite future, attracting both expats and locals to its enigmatic character. UCCLE/UKKEL This is a beautiful and calm commune with huge houses and upmarket apartment blocks. Popular with expat families and home to a large international community, it has a village feel and is well situated for shops and several international schools. It is probably Brussels’ most leafy commune due to its close proximity to the Forest of Soignes and housing with generous gardens. In summer, concerts are held in the local Parc de Wolvendael.

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HOUSING

WOLUWE-SAINT-PIERRE/ SINT-PIETERS-WOLUWE This is often the choice of folk working at the European institutions, both for its proximity and upmarket housing. It is popular with expat families for its large, gardened houses, although a mix of apartments and townhouses exists also. It is almost self-contained with its massive park, sports centre and public amenities. It is also on the metro line 1B, giving easy public transport access. WOLUWE-SAINT-LAMBERT/ SINT-LAMBRECHTS-WOLUWE Saint-Pierre’s next-door neighbour shares much the same attractions, including the huge Woluwe Shopping Centre. A step further out from the centre, it begins to get even more suburban and green, yet is within good distance to the airport and major international motorways. You will find varied shopping and plenty to do, including a swimming pool and ice-skating rink.

BRUSSELS COMMUNES Anderlecht. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 558 0800 Auderghem. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 676 4811 Berchem-Sainte-Agathe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 464 0411 Brussels City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 279 2211 Etterbeek. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 627 2111 Evere. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 247 6262 Forest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 370 2211 Ganshoren. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 465 1277 Ixelles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 515 6111 Jette . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 423 1211 Koekelberg . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 412 1411 Molenbeek-Saint-Jean. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 412 3790 Saint-Gilles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 536 0211 Saint-Josse-ten-Node . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 220 2611 Schaerbeek . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 244 7511 Uccle. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 348 6511 Watermael-Boitsfort . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 674 7411 Woluwe-Saint-Lambert . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 761 2711 Woluwe-Saint-Pierre. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 773 0511

BELGIUM EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE 2015 | WWW.EXPATICA.COM

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FINANCE

FINANCE

Belgium is a pioneer of the cashless society. Belgium is a major banking and financial centre in Europe. Card payment is widely accepted in both small and large retail facilities, however, despite a sophisticated payment system, cash for small purchases is still sometimes the preferred option. As part of the single-currency zone, transferring money between Eurozone states is easily facilitated. CURRENCY Belgium is in the Eurozone and one of the 18 member countries and microstates that share the euro currency. Of the older EU countries, Sweden, Denmark and the UK remain the outsiders. Despite prolonged economic crises in some Eurozone states, the euro has rebounded in recent years to surpass the dollar. Coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 cents, and EUR 1, 2. Notes: EUR 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500. On one side of the coins is a map of Europe, by Belgian designer Luc Luycx, while the other side is specific to the country where it was minted. All euro notes are the same, regardless of which country they come from. There is talk of abolishing the one and two cent coins for economic and social reasons. In the past Belgium has pledged to make similar moves to the Netherlands and Finland, where they commonly round prices to the nearest five cents when paying by cash, though nothing has come into force. PAYING CASH Cash dispensers or ATMs (distributeurs automatiques) are usually found at bank locations, and they all take the Bancontact/Mister Cash cards issued by local banks, as well as credit cards. Dispenser lobbies within banks are open after hours but usually only for customers, who are required to swipe their bankcard to get in. Some ATMs may not issue cash on credit cards. You may find yourself queuing for an ATM in central Brussels at peak times, or that machines are low on cash after a big Saturday night.

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DEBIT AND CREDIT CARDS The most common card in Belgium is the Bancontact/Mister Cash card. It is linked to your current account and accepted in department stores, supermarkets, gas stations, and high street shops. It is a good idea to have one of these, as some places in Belgium don’t accept alternatives. A Bancontact/Mister Cash card with a four-digit PIN number will be issued when you open a Belgian bank account. Most types of credit card are accepted to varying degrees. If you get a Visa or MasterCard from a local bank, the standard option in Belgium is for this to operate like a debit card, with the full balance taken from your account each month. American Express and some other major international credit cards can also be obtained and used in Belgium. LOST OR STOLEN CARDS You can cancel a card by calling Belgium’s 24-hour emergency ‘Card Stop’ service at 070 344 344. To report a theft, go to the nearest police station where the incident happened. The police will issue a certificate for your bank and insurance company. BANKS • Belfius | +32 (0)2 222 1202 | www.belfius.be •B  NP Paribas Fortis | www.bnpparibasfortis.be

+32 (0)2 261 1111 Expats: +32 (0)2 433 4100 | expats@bnpparibasfortis.com • I NG | www.ing.be/expats

+32 (0)2 464 6664 | expat@ing.be • KBC | www.kbc.be/expats

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Have you just moved, or are you about to move, to Belgium ? In that case expert advice and support can be useful. That is precisely what ING can offer you for all your banking and insurance needs, even before you

speaks your language and a dedicated Call Center. What better welcome could you wish for? Have a try by calling one of our staff on + 32 (0)2 464 66 64 or

arrive. With ING you can benefit from a contact who

by surfing to ing.be/expat

ING Belgium SA/NV – Bank/Lender – Registered office: avenue Marnix 24, B-1000 Brussels – Brussels RPM/RPR – VAT: BE 0403.200.393 – BIC: BBRUBEBB – IBAN: BE45 3109 1560 2789 - Publisher: Inge Ampe – Cours Saint-Michel 60, B-1040 Brussels.


FINANCE

BANKING

Belgium’s sophisticated banking industry offers specialised expat services. OPENING A BANK ACCOUNT To open a current or checking account (compte à vue/zichtrekening), you need a passport or Belgian ID card as proof of identity, and some banks may ask for proof of residence, too. Once the account is opened the bank will send you a Bancontact/Mister Cash debit card, or arrange for you to pick it up. A PIN number will be given or sent to you separately. If you want to open a savings account (compte d’épargne/ spaarrekening) or add credit cards, the bank can advise you on the different options.

DIRECT DEBIT This practice, known as domiciliation/ domiciliering, is the most efficient way to pay regular bills, as you can authorise companies that you trust to debit money from your account before a bill deadline. It is commonly used for utility bills.

Belgium’s sophisticated banking system also provides for truly online banks, where you can open and manage your account without ever having to see your banker.

You can also use it as a way of saving a fixed amount regularly, by automatic transfer from your current account to your savings accounts.

INTERNET AND PHONE BANKING Most major banks offer telephone and internet banking as separate add-on services, or included in an annual ‘package’ fee. Internet banking and EU laws allow complete account management and easy payment of regular and non-standard bills throughout the Eurozone. There are reduced fees for standardised euro transfers below a threshold limit. You will need the international bank account number (IBAN) and Business Identifier Code (BIC) for transfers. CHEQUE While they can be found, cheques are more or less obsolete and can attract penal banking charges. They are not recommended, nor encouraged by banks. THE TRANSFER SLIP If you do not bank online the most common payment form is via a bank transfer (virement/ overschrijving). This is an orange and white payment slip found at the bottom of almost all Belgian bills. This has to be filled in, signed and handed in at your bank or paid via an ATM machine.

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STANDING ORDER This is called ordre permanent/bestendige opdracht and can be set up for regular payments of a fixed amount, like rent or mortgage repayments.

OFFSHORE BANKING Those living or working abroad may find that holding an international bank account makes it easier to manage their finances as they change countries. Essentially, an offshore bank is one that is located outside the account holder’s country of residence, typically in a low tax jurisdiction. These banks tend to offer financial and legal advantages over domestic banking arrangements. Accounts are often available in multiple currencies, which can be more convenient for those making or receiving payments in different currencies. In addition, more complex foreign exchange features may be available, such as being able to fix currency prices for up to a year in advance, which can remove the uncertainty of international finances.

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EXPATS: one address for all your banking and insurance needs. It’s not surreal.

BNP Paribas Fortis, the number one bank in Belgium, offers you every essential banking and insurance service, whether you are on your way or already here. We offer you all solutions customised to your needs, from day-to-day banking to savings & investments, from insurance to loans and advice.

Simplify your life: visit bnpparibasfortis.be/expatinbelgium or your nearest BNP Paribas Fortis branch.

Publisher : A. Moenaert, BNP Paribas Fortis SA/NV, Montagne du Parc/Warandeberg 3, 1000 Brussels, RPM Brussels, TVA BE 0403.199.702


FINANCE

TAXATION

Residents in Belgium are subject to one of the highest taxation rates in the EU. Belgian taxes amount to an effective rate of more than 50 percent for the highest earners (including social security), compared to an average 45 percent in Europe. An expatriate working in Belgium will typically be liable for Belgian income tax. Additionally, property tax and gift and inheritance tax may be relevant. In most circumstances there is no capital gains tax or wealth tax for individuals in Belgium, thus pushing the tax burden firmly onto the employee. However, the new government coalition is planning a ‘tax shift’ from tax on labour to wealth and consumption instead. However, it is not yet clear how this will translate, and will be confirmed in coming months.

The Belgian tax year for personal income tax begins on 1 January and ends on 31 December. You will typically receive a tax return (déclaration/ aangifte) around May–June relating to the previous year’s income. This must normally be returned by the end of June (you will find the exact date on your tax return). If you use the ‘Tax-on-Web’ online filing system, you are traditionally allowed some extra time. Employers are responsible for withholding tax on a monthly basis – this is known as the Précompte Professionnel/Bedrijfsvoorheffing. Similarly, the self-employed or paid company directors have to pay tax monthly in advance via a collecting agency or bank.

Residents of Belgium pay personal income tax on their total income from all worldwide sources on a sliding scale. The basic exemption for fiscal year 2016 (revenue of 2015) is EUR 7,090 regardless of marital status, with further exemptions for dependent children and a spouse. For 2014, marginal income tax starts at 25 percent, rising to 30 percent for income over EUR 8,710, 40 percent over EUR 12,400, 45 percent over EUR 20,660, with a top limit of 50 percent for incomes above EUR 37,870.

OTHER TAXES

Residents also pay municipal and regional taxes typically 0–8 percent. For non-residents, an average 7 percent municipal tax is taken into account, irrespective of whether the municipal taxes are levied in the commune. Income tax is paid on the taxable base, which is determined from salary less compulsory social security contributions (paid either in Belgium or abroad). Professional expenses can be deducted either directly with supporting documentation or more usually on a lump sum basis depending on the salary level. The maximum lump-sum deduction for employees in 2015 is EUR 4,090.

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Homeowners pay a local property tax (précompte immobilier/onroerende voor heffing), which is calculated on the presumed annual rental value (revenue cadastral/kadastraal inkomen) attributed to the property by the authorities. The tax paid varies according to the commune and the region. In the Flemish region it is generally 2.5 percent of the annual deemed rental income, while in the Walloon and Brussels region it is approximately 1.25 percent. SPECIAL EXPATRIATE STATUS Expatriates who satisfy specific conditions come under a special taxation regime and pay Belgian tax only on income related to professional duties carried out in Belgium. A foreign executive assigned temporarily to Belgium may qualify, but the conditions are tough. Employment must be by an international group or in a scientific research centre, and must be temporary. Also, the expatriate’s centre of personal and economic interest must not be Belgium.

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FINANCE

WILL YOU CELEBRATE TAXFREEDOMDAY 速 *

EARLIER NEXT YEAR? INCOME TAX FILING - TAX CALCULATIONS - CORPORATE CLIENT SERVICES - TAX REFUND REQUESTS - INCOME & HERITANCE TAX PLANNING - ADVISORY & CONSULTING - SPECIAL TAX REGIME FOR FOREIGN EXECUTIVES - TAX MEDIATION AND LITIGATION - IMMIGRATION SERVICES - ...

TAXPATRIA ANTWERP OFFICE

Sint-Paulusplaats 2 2000 ANTWERP

expatriate tax assistance

www.taxpatria.be

BRUSSELS OFFICE Culliganlaan 1B 1831 DIEGEM

*Tax Freedom Day速 is the symbolic date on which the average taxpayer stops working for the public treasury and begins earning for himself. BELGIUM EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE 2015 | WWW.EXPATICA.COM

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FINANCE

In determining the latter, the authorities take the following into account: the ownership of real estate, personal property or securities abroad; a life assurance contract written abroad; the inclusion of a diplomatic clause in the Belgian rental agreement for accommodation; continued affiliation to a group pension scheme abroad; renewal of credit cards issued by banks abroad; continued affiliation to a social security scheme abroad; or continuing to act as an officer of a foreign company. If you qualify for the above, there are specific allowances and deductions available. VAT Most goods and services have VAT levied on them. The standard rate is 21 percent while there are lower rates for certain categories of goods and services. Daily and weekly publications and some recycled goods attract a zero rate, while a 6 percent rate applies to most basic goods, such as food, water supply, books and medicines. Another rate of 12 percent is applied to social housing and food served at restaurants.

TAX COMPANIES Law Right | www.law-right.com Avenue Brugmann 183, 1190 Brussels +32 (0)2 643 1100 Spectrum IFA Group | www.spectrum-ifa.com Belgium: +32 (0)2 234 7750 | Netherlands +31 (0)20 301 2119 Craig Welsh: +31 (0)625 478 174 | craig.welsh@spectrum-ifa.com Symbio | www.symbio.be Avenue de Tervueren 68–70, 1040 Etterbeek +32 (0)2 733 9740 | info@symbio.be Taxpatria | www.taxpatria.be Culliganlaan 1B, 1831 Diegem, Brussels | +32 (0)2 403 1207 Sint-Paulusplaats 2, 2000 Antwerp | +32 (0)3 337 3520 info@taxpatria.be

TAX INFORMATION You can contact the Ministry of Finance (Service Public Fédéral Finances) for information at +32 (0)2 572 5757 (8am to 5pm), or view www.minfin.fgov.be. Tax section updated by TAXPATRIA, www.taxpatria.be.

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WWW.EXPATICA.COM | BELGIUM EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE 2015


FINANCE

INSURANCE

Certain types of insurance are mandatory in Belgium. HEALTH Healthcare is part of the Belgian Social Security system and to benefit you must join a health insurance fund mutuelle/ziekenfonds. Once you are employed by a Belgian company your contributions and those of your employer will be automatically deducted from your salary by the ONSS (National Office of Social Security). After you are registered with a health insurance fund, it will deal with reimbursing your medical costs. Dependent family members will be automatically covered by the same fund. To take you on, the fund will need written certification of employment signed by your employer. Although most funds are affiliated to a religious or political institution, there is no real difference because reimbursement rates are fixed by the government. However, you are free to choose one that best suits your needs, for example, if one provides more cover for alternative medicine, or has multilingual services. These funds will reimburse up to 75 percent for a typical doctor or specialist appointment, depending on your circumstances. Check with your doctor if what is prescribed is refundable. Pharmacies maintain a state-advised list. Consequently, some people opt for additional private insurance (complémentaire) to get a full refund. Once insured you get a credit card style SIS card, which you will need in pharmacies and hospitals. You also get a sheet of stickers (vignettes), which you need to attach to a doctor’s bill to get a refund. CAR Belgian car insurance is expensive, and it is the car not the driver that is insured. This means that anyone can drive your car, but you’ll need to ask for additional insurance if you want coverage for driver injury. The minimum insurance required by Belgian law is ThirdParty Liability (Responsabilité Civile/Wetteligjke Aansprakelijkheids Verzekering), which covers death, bodily injury or physical damage that you cause to another person. Comprehensive coverage provides for most eventualities including vandalism, fire, theft, or damage from a collision, while part comprehensive cover includes third party plus fire cover.

Like insurance in other European nations, a no-claims bonus scheme is the norm. If you have a previous noclaim record in another country, you can bring it with you or may even be asked to present it. The insurance company will issue you with a Green Card and an accident report form, both of which you must keep in your car at all times. Ask for additional copies of the report in French, Dutch or your language, so you can complete it more easily. If an accident happens, make sure you: check the driver’s Green Card for proof of insurance; get contact details of any witnesses before they leave; fill in the accident report form (signed by both parties); and send it within one week to your insurer. HOME Whether you own or rent your property, you will need to have home insurance. Although it is not compulsory by law, it is regularly obligated by agencies, landlords and mortgage lenders. Almost all rental agreements in Belgium require the tenant to take out insurance on the rented property. This is because the Belgian Civil Code holds the tenant responsible for any damage to the building unless proof can be given that it was not his/her fault. If you are renting, take your lease with you when you arrange your insurance. You are responsible for providing coverage against third-party liability but the owner is required to insure the property against earthquakes, lightning, fire, etc. If you are in furnished accommodation, you may also be required to take out insurance against damage to the landlord’s furniture. When buying a home, a mortgage lender may require that an insurance policy is linked to your mortgage, otherwise there is no obligation to do this. However, homebuyers are responsible for the insurance after signing the compromis de vente – around four months before they get the keys – so insurance can be advisable. Additionally, if you directly employ a part-time or fulltime cleaner or nanny you must take out special lowcost liability insurance in case they injure themselves on the job, for instance, slipping on the stairs.

BELGIUM EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE 2015 | WWW.EXPATICA.COM

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FAMILY ESSENTIALS

FAMILY ESSENTIALS

Both registered partnerships and marriage offer legal rights. Belgium may be famous for bureaucracy but partnership matters in Belgium are much simpler. Belgium was the second country to legalise samesex marriage, in 2003, and both heterosexual and same-sex partners can opt to marry or register a de facto relationship or ‘cohabitation’ (wettelijk samenwonen/cohabitation légale) to gain legal recognition. It can take several months to gather the necessary documentation. Any documents in a foreign language will need to be officially translated, and any foreign documentation should be authenticated or ‘legalised’, which has to be done in the country where the document was issued, eg. your home country. If your country is a member of the Hague Convention, this is by obtaining an ‘Apostille’ stamp – a process for international authentication – by the authorising body. See www.hcch.net. MARRIAGE To get married in Belgium, at least one of the prospective spouses should be a Belgian citizen or have resided in the country for at least three months. This must be demonstrated through the presentation of plane tickets, bills, proof of registration, rental agreements or anything else that helps establish this residence period. However, a Registrar cannot refuse to perform a marriage on the grounds that a foreigner is in the country illegally. The competent Belgian authority performing marriages is the Ambtenaar van de Burgerlijke Stand/Officier de l’ Etat Civil. You will need to contact the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths in the municipality where you live, and each partner will have to present a number of documents – including copies of a birth certificate, proof of identity, or proof of an annulment if previously married – at least 14 days before they intend to be married. You will also need to prove your residential status, for example rental agreement.

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If you are not yet registered in Belgium, this will have to come from your previous country. Marriage to a Belgian national does not immediately provide citizenship. Certain conditions have to be met, such as five years of residence in Belgium, or cohabitation for a minimum of six months up to three years, depending on circumstances. Procedures for Belgian nationality start at your local government office. DIVORCE Divorce (echtscheiding/divorce) can be sought through either mutual agreement or irreconcilable disunity, where one or both spouses decide to divorce after a separation. One of the spouses may apply for divorce after a 12-month separation period, but if both are in agreement about the divorce this can be reduced to six months. A couple can initiate the procedure themselves with the local court, but there is a lot of paperwork. There are mediators and specialist companies that deal with consensual divorce, otherwise a lawyer can be consulted. In cases of mutual agreement, the spouses must decide on the division of property, maintenance payments and child custody before the petition is filed. Usually both parties are jointly accountable for the welfare of any children, unless the courts decide otherwise. While legal counsel is not obligatory, a notary will be required for the division of property, and can also file a divorce request. You can file a petition for divorce with the judge in the area of your last conjugal residence or the defendant’s domicile. Once a divorce judgment has been granted one of the parties may appeal, but they must do so quickly as the divorce becomes final after one month. To end a registered cohabitation, one or both parties must notify the registrar in writing.

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EDUCATION

EDUCATION SYSTEM

A wide array of childcare and education facilities caters to expat families. In keeping with the myriad levels of national and local bureaucracy in Belgium, the state school system can seem a minefield to newcomers trying to enrol their children. However, as Belgium is the capital of the EU, the education system is well developed to serve international and working families. Additionally, childcare facilities involving play and homework are sometimes available at schools before or after classes for working parents, though there is usually a charge.

CHOOSING A SCHOOL The first decision is whether to integrate your children into the local system or take advantage of the many international schools in the country. This naturally depends on whether you are on a shortterm contract or plan to stay longer in Belgium. The international option allows your children to continue in the same education system once they return to their home country, while local schools help children integrate better into a new country. Private and international schools also tend to offer more extra-curricular activities than public schools, although the government subsides some music and art academies in larger cities for children to join.

APPLYING FOR A SCHOOL The compulsory school age in Belgium is six to 18 years, though children may start at age five if deemed ready, and pupils aged 16 years and older can opt to study part-time while undertaking practical training. Children can enter pre-primary education from the age of two-and-a-half on the first school day in February or after any holiday period, and after age three, they can enter any time. Typically, children start primary school in September of the year they turn six, and enter secondary school by around age 12. Schools in Belgium don’t always have strict zoning systems, so parents can potentially choose any school location, however it may also mean the closest school is full. School enrolment periods differ between the language communities, and

the government revises admission procedures regularly, so parents need to check the admission periods in the desired school to ensure placement. In some places, this may be possible up to a year in advance or more. Children are assessed at every level, from preprimary to secondary schooling, to determine if they are ready for the next stage in education. It is not uncommon to repeat or ‘double’ a year, and no negative stigma is associated with this.

TYPES OF SCHOOLS BELGIAN SCHOOLS While the state sets the laws regarding education, responsibility for schools lies with the language communities: Dutch (or Flemish) in Flanders, French in Wallonia, both languages in Brussels and some surrounding communes, and German in the eastern border areas. As well as state schools, there are privately-run schools that are also subsidised or ‘free’, often run on religious lines though their curricula, with certification recognised equally within the system. Religion plays a part in state education and students can opt for Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish or Islamic studies, or a more general secular approach. Education is free although parents may be expected to contribute to the cost of school supplies or field trips, plus textbooks when children reach secondary level. All schools are coeducational. INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS These are the choice for parents who wish their children to remain in a familiar system, with a language they know, and with the option of continuing the system back in their home country. With its burgeoning international community, Belgium – and Brussels in particular – has a raft of international schools following British, American, French and Dutch education systems, among many others. These schools offer the whole range of education from nursery to school-leaving age.

BELGIUM EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE 2015 | WWW.EXPATICA.COM

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EDUCATION

They are typically private and therefore feepaying, though many employers offer education support as part of a relocation benefits package.

with younger children benefiting from the experience of older pupils. The Steiner schools place greater emphasis on the arts.

The largest American curriculum international school is the International School of Brussels (ISB), which teaches students from pre-school, aged two and a half, right up to high school grade 13, for students aged 19 years. It also offers the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme. The largest British curriculum school is The British School of Brussels (BSB), set on a large campus in Tervuren with a swimming pool. BSB can accommodate children from 1–18 years old and offers A Levels, the IB programme, and BTEC vocational courses in business, sports and hospitality. French/English bilingual education is also offered for ages 4–14 years. Both ISB and BSB place great emphasis on sport and the arts, and run highly successful summer schools open to all.

The world-famous Montessori schools are well represented in Belgium and teach children in small, focused groups according to the relaxed self-developmental Montessori method. Children are encouraged to work at their own pace and independently. This places a certain amount of responsibility upon children to develop their own learning, while teachers act as an encouraging guide and facilitator for individuals or small groups. These schools tend to offer a bilingual French-English education. Extra languages, such as Dutch and German, can be introduced as the children become older, though these tend to be taught more traditionally.

In Antwerp, the Antwerp British School offers an international curriculum for children aged 3 to 18 years, leading to the Cambridge International Examinations (IGCSE) as well as the IB. The Antwerp International School offers the same accreditation, and can accommodate children from age two and a half to 18 years. Both schools offer Dutch and French as part of the standard curriculum. EUROPEAN SCHOOLS The European schools traditionally required at least one parent working for an EU institution, although in recent years certain schools have eased such requirements. Education is in the mother tongue, with a second language being introduced at primary level. A third language is then obligatory from the second year of secondary school, with optional additional languages on offer in later years. Courses lead to the European Baccalaureate, which is recognised for university entrance throughout the EU. METHOD SCHOOLS A wide range of schools adopts the methodology of an educational philosophy. In these, children often learn through discovery and the liberal arts, with subjects such as grammar, mathematics and science being taught from direct experience rather than in a formal setting. The Celstin Freinet system follows this approach, whilst the Decroly schools separate the academic from the creative skills in a vertically streamed organisation, 34

PRE-SCHOOL Working parents are facilitated by a large choice of childcare facilities, and almost all children attend pre-schools during their formative years. Prior to formal education, nurseries are available for babies and children up to two-and-half years, after which kindergartens (kleuteronderwijs/ enseignement maternelle) provide daycare facilities for children until they reach school age. This can be free, though mothers in full-time work are given priority where places are limited. The kindergartens are often attached to local primary schools, which allows for an easy transition into formal education. If you choose a local school, school-beginners may be required to prove their language proficiency in the school’s set language, or at least have attended a local nursery part-time for a set number of days in the previous school year. You can also ask to see if a school provides language immersion programmes.

PRIMARY SCHOOL Children stay at primary school (lager onderwijs/ enseignement primaire) for six years during which time they study a range of subjects with an emphasis on languages and mathematics. Learning a foreign language will likely be part of the curriculum, for example, French in the Flemish-speaking areas, or Dutch or German in the French community. Homework is also part of the educational structure from early on. In Belgian schools there is a strong tradition of parental participation.

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EDUCATION

The culmination of primary education is the attainment of a ‘Certificate of basic education’ (CEB) for the French community, the Getuigschrift basisonderwijs for the Flemish Community and the Abschlusszeugnis der Grundschule for the German community. The certificate is important when moving to secondary education.

SECONDARY SCHOOL Secondary school (secundair onderwijs/ enseignement secondaire) progresses through three stages, starting off with general studies in the early years, after which students can specialise in general, vocational, technical, or artistic streams depending on individual choice and ability. Assessment is ongoing and rigidly enforced. Several educational certificates are awarded, including the Certificate of Lower Secondary Education and the Certificate of Higher Education. When students begin to specialise, their courses of study focus on one of four areas: •

eneral education: prepares students for G the transition to higher education and is mainly focused on training theory and general knowledge.

 T echnical education: similar to general education but focuses more on practice and technical teaching, preparing students for either EXPATICA-ISB-2014.pdf 1 27/10/2014 12:36 a profession or further studies.

 ocational: provides direct access to a profession V at the end of the course of study and is heavily focused on practice. Students also receive one or more additional years, called 4th degree.

 rt education: organised in exactly the same way A as technical education, but the elective options are within arts and non-technical subjects. Students can go on to higher education in either a specialised institution, such as an art college, or to a university or college, depending on the subjects studied.

All these courses provide access to higher education with the obtainment of the certificate of secondary education (CESS), except vocational education, which must be completed to the seventh grade in order to obtain the certificate. Most schools have a half-day on Wednesday, though the afternoon is sometimes given over to sporting or cultural activities. These can also happen on a Saturday morning. Often, your children can be cared for on Wednesday afternoons.

C

M

Y

CM

MY

CY

CMY

K

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EDUCATION

We visited most of the other international schools. BSB was the school we liked the best.” Brann family from Australia (who chose BSB Primary for their children)

• 1,350 students from ages 1-18 years • 70 nationalities • British-based curriculu m up to age 16 • Students aged 16-18 year s - only school offer A Levels, IB Dipl oma and BTEC to • French/English bilin gual educ ation avail able for ages 4 -14 years • Outstand ing academic results • Wide choice of extra-cur ricul ar activities

For more information visit

www.britishschool.be

Internationale

INTERNATIONALE

DEUTSCHE SCHULE

iDSB

Deutsche Schule Brüssel

BRÜSSEL

Certified „Excellent International German School“ Above average examination results Innovative bilingual pre-school Individual support courses All-day school based on German educational guidelines Multilingualism Emphasis on natural sciences Canteen and snack bar Green campus Pleasant atmosphere Lange Eikstraat 71 1970 Wezembeek-Oppem phone +32 (0)2 785 01 30 fax +32 (0)2 785 01 43

www.idsb.eu

info @ id sb .e u BELGIUM EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE 2015 | WWW.EXPATICA.COM

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EDUCATION

SCHOOL LISTINGS BRUSSELS AND SURROUNDINGS PRIMARY SCHOOLS BEPS International School | www.beps.com Avenue Franklin Roosevelt 23, 1050 Brussels +32 (0)2 648 4311 | info@beps.com

European School of Brussels II | www.eeb2.be Avenue Oscar Jespers 75, 1200 Woluwe-St-Lambert +32 (0)2 774 2211

British International School of Brussels | www.bisb.org Avenue Emile Max 163, 1030 Brussels (infants) Avenue 59 Emeraude, 1030 Brussels (junior) +32 (0)2 736 8981 | schooloffice@bisb.org

European School of Brussels III | www.eeb3.eu Boulevard du Triomphe 135, 1050 Ixelles +32 (0)2 629 4700 | Admissions: +32 (0)2 629 4710

British Junior Academy of Brussels | www.bjab.org Boulevard Saint-Michel 83, 1040 Brussels +32 (0)2 732 5376 | info@bjab.org

Internationale Deutsche Schule Brüssel | www.idsb.eu Lange Eikstraat 71, 1970 Wezembeek-Oppem +32 (0)2 785 0130 | info@idsb.eu

European Montessori School www.europeanmontessorischool.be Avenue Beau Séjour 12, 1410 Waterloo +32 (0)2 354 0033 | info@europeanmontessorischool.be

International Montessori Schools www.international-montessori.org Rotselaerlaan 1, 3080 Tervuren | +32 (0)2 767 6360

Montessori House Belgium | www.montessorihouse.net Rue Pergere 117, 1420 Braine L’Alleud +32 (0)2 385 1503 | info@montessorihouse.net St Paul’s British Primary School | www.stpaulsbps.com Stationsstraat 3, 3080 Vossem-Tervuren +32 (0)2 767 3098 | info@stpaulsbps.com PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS British School of Brussels | www.britishschool.be Pater Dupierreuxlaan 1, 3080 Tervuren +32 (0)2 766 0430 | admissions@britishschool.be Brussels American School Avenue JF Kennedy 12, 1933 Sterrebeek +32 (0)2 717 9552 | www.brus-ehs.eu.dodea.edu Brussels International Catholic School | www.bicschool.be Rue Général Leman 86, 1040 Brussels (pre-school and primary) Chaussée de Wavre 457, 1040 Brussels (secondary) +32 (0)2 230 0218 | admissions@bicschool.be

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European School of Brussels I | www.eeb1.org Avenue du Vert Chasseur 46, 1180 Uccle, Brussels Rue de Berkendael 70–74, 1190 Brussels +32 (0)2 373 8611 (Uccle) | +32 (0)2 340 1480

International School of Brussels | www.isb.be Kattenberg 19, 1170 Brussels | +32 (0)2 661 4211 ISF Waterloo International School | www.wis.be Chaussée de Waterloo 280, 1640 Rhode St Genèse +32 (0)2 358 5606 | office@isfwaterloo.org Japanese School of Brussels www.japanese-school-brussels.be Avenue des Meuniers 133, 1160 Auderghem +32 (0)2 672 1038 | office@japanese-school-brussels.be Lycée Français de Belgique Jean Monnet www.lyceefrancais-jmonnet.be Avenue du Lycée Français 9, 1180 Brussels +32 (0)2 374 5878 Scandinavian School of Brussels | www.ssb.be Square d’Argenteuil 5, 1410 Waterloo +32 (0)2 357 0670 | admissions@ssb.be St John’s International School | www.stjohns.be Drève Richelle 146, 1410 Waterloo +32 (0)2 352 0610 | admissions@stjohns.be

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EDUCATION

TO LEAD

in everything we do

T

he Antwerp International School has been developing young people

with vision and a strong sense of leadership for over 45 years. We are recognised as one of the world’s leading international schools. Accredited by the rigorous CIS inspection process, AIS is the first school in the world to have been accredited five times consecutively. We offer an international English education to students from the age of two and a half up to the age of eighteen. AIS students achieve exceptional academic results. They are welcomed and successful at leading universities throughout the world.

See what YOUR child can achieve with the advantage of an AIS education.

The Antwerp International School, vzw

Inspiring Successful Futures

To find out more about giving your child the education they deserve, please visit our brand new website: www.ais-antwerp.be or call: +32(0)3 543 93 26 or mail: admissions@ais-antwerp.be You can BELGIUM also follow us on Facebook (official) EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE 2015 | WWW.EXPATICA.COM 39


EDUCATION

COMPANIONSHIP – RESPECT – INTEGRITY

At St. John’s, every student is cherished as a unique individual and guided to reach their personal potential. To find out more or book a school visit, please visit our website at www.stjohns.be +32 (0)2 352 06 10 admissions@stjohns.be Drève Richelle 146 1410 Waterloo Belgium www.stjohns.be

ANTWERP Antwerp International School | www.ais-antwerp.be Veltwijcklaan 180, 2180 Ekeren +32 (0)3 543 9300 | admissions@ais-antwerp.be DYP International School | www.dypisbelgium.be Kontichsesteenweg 40, 2630 Aartselaar +32 (0)3 271 0943 | kverbeeck@dypisbelgium.be Da Vinci International School | www.da-vinci.be Verbondstraat 67, 2000 Antwerp | +32 (0)3 216 1232

pre-school • primary school stimulating curriculum • small class sizes

International School Breda | www.isbreda.nl Mozartlaan 27, 4837 EH Breda, the Netherlands +31 (0)76 560 7870 | info@isbreda.nl

More than 40 Years of Quality Education in a Caring Environment

Lycée Français Int. Anvers | www.lfanvers.org Lamorinièrestraat 168A, 2018 Antwerp +32 (0)3 239 1889 | lfanvers@gmail.com

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BEPS International School 23, Avenue Franklin Roosevelt 1050 Brussels, Belgium +32 (0)2 648.43.11 info@beps.com • www.beps.com


HOUSING

International & European Law

Business Studies

I learned... How to think strategically

International Affairs

Communication Studies

I learned... How to analyse the world

Build your future in the Capital of Europe

Vesalius College: The Key to Your Success

in afďŹ liation with

www.vesalius.edu Pleinlaan 5, 1050 Brussels, Belgium Tel: +32 (0)2 614 8170 vesalius@vub.ac.be BELGIUM EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDEEmail: 2015 | WWW.EXPATICA.COM 41


EDUCATION

BIERGES Ecole Internationale Le Verseau | www.eiverseau.be Rue du Wavre 60, 1301 Bièrges Primary: +32 (0)1 023 1717 | fondamental@eiverseau.be Secondary: +32 (0)1 023 1727 | secondaire@eiverseau.be

LEUVEN International School of Leuven | www.isleuven.org Geldenaaksebaan 335, 3001 Heverlee +32 (0)1 641 5445 | bartderoeckisl@outlook.com

MOL European School Mol | www.esmol.eu Europawijk 100, 2400 Mol +32 (0)1 456 3111 | dir@esmol.be

MONS Shape International School | aco.nato.int/ shapeinternationalschool Avenue de Sofia 717, 7010 Shape +32 (0)6 544 5726 | direction.shapeschool@skynet.be

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EDUCATION

HIGHER EDUCATION

Many education facilities offer English-language courses. The university system in Belgium is fairly vast with a significant number of foreign students studying international courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Higher education (hoger onderwijs/enseignement superieure) in Belgium is provided by universities, university colleges (hogescholen/hautes ecoles) and governmentrecognised institutions, although only universities can award PhDs. The governance of the universities falls to the Flemish and Frenchspeaking regions. However, many courses are taught in English. With Brussels being the hub of European business, economy and politics, it is no surprise that there are many courses offered by both Belgian and international universities that centre around business.

QUALIFICATION AND ACCREDITATION

HOW TO APPLY

COSTS

Each higher education institution determines admission requirements. Students holding a Belgian secondary school diploma (CESS) or international equivalent are eligible to apply, however, some faculties require an entrance exam for admission, for example, medicine, dentistry and engineering science. The university you wish to attend will supply specific information. You can find a list of higher education institutions in Flanders via www.studyinflanders. be or onderwijs.vlaanderen.be, or in the French communities via www.enseignement.be (see annuaires).

The government sets the registration fee for each establishment and reviews it annually. There are different fee levels depending on the student’s financial situation, the level of study, and nationality; there are government set fees for European students (EUR 500–600), otherwise you must pay the institutional fee (which is considerably higher). There are many grants and scholarships available; search diplomatie. belgium.be for scholarship information.

Once accepted, a student will receive an acceptance letter, which is necessary to complete registration and apply for a visa, if required. For nationals coming from outside the EU, the Belgian immigration office (dofi.ibz.be) supplies information on visa and permit requirements; you will generally need to show you have the equivalent qualifications for your course and sufficient funds to support yourself (currently around EUR 600 per month). Proof of language proficiency may also be required in the language of the course.

Diplomas and certificates awarded outside the EU may need to be authenticated to be recognised in Belgium, or you can obtain the Belgian equivalent. The Belgian FPS Foreign Affairs Ministry provides information for legalisation of foreign documents (diplomatie. belgium.be), otherwise, the local authority where you plan to study will supply an equivalent. Authentication in the Flemish community is managed by the Flemish National Academic Recognition and Information Centre (NARICVlaanderen, www.ond.vlaanderen.be), or you can find information on equivalence services in the French communities at www.equivalences. cfwb.be.

BELGIAN UNIVERSITIES Several of Belgium’s universities are regularly rated among the top 200 universities in the world. The Katholieke Universiteit (KU) Leuven located near Brussels is the oldest existing Catholic university in the world, founded in 1425, and Belgium’s biggest university. It offers courses in 11 Belgian cities and remains an important centre of higher learning and scientific research catering to more than 40,000 students, of which around 16 percent are international. The university’s world-famous library (with its 30 subsidiaries) has more than four million books and some 15,000 periodicals.

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EDUCATION

The Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) was originally part of KU Leuven but was moved to the French-speaking area of Brussels around 1970 as a result of changes in the education system. It combines the traditional with the modern, attracting some of the most qualified students, researchers and teachers from Belgium and beyond, with almost one-fifth of the student population coming from abroad. The Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) has one of the highest rates of foreign students in Belgium, constituting one third of the student population. It was founded in 1834 and includes several university hospitals. It also manages zones devoted to research and contributed to the education of four Nobel Prize winners, the most recent being François Englert for his part in theorising the Higgs particle, in addition to Jules Bordet for Medicine in 1919, Albert Claude for Medicine in 1974, and Ilya Prigogine for Chemistry in 1977. The university is also a founding member of the International Forum of Public Universities (IFPU) and works in partnership with the Universities of Oxford, Berkeley and Paris IV, among others. The Ghent University, or UGent, became the first Dutch-speaking university in Belgium in 1930, and is now attended by more than 40,000 students, including a sizeable international crowd that is attracted to the university’s science and engineering programs. It offers advanced degree programmes, many of them in English, and boasts several Nobel Prize winners over the course of the university’s history. The University of Liège, founded in 1817, is the public university of the Walloon Brussels Community and is part of the Wallonia-Europe University Academy. There are some 22,000 students across 11 faculties, comprising around 20 percent of foreign students. The university has a large focus on facilitating mobility, and its practices have received EU recognition. Honorary degrees have been awarded to individuals such as Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Salman Rushdie.

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The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is the Dutch Language University in Brussels, initially formed as a part of the French-speaking Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) before becoming a university in its own right in 1970 when significant legislative changes heralded in a new educational era. Many courses are available in English, including Master’s and PhD degrees. The Universiteit Antwerpen’s (UA) history is grounded in commerce and is the product of three joined institutions. With some 13 percent of its 21,000 student population coming from abroad, it offers several postgraduate courses in English across nine faculties. UA has close ties to Antwerp University Hospital (UZA), Antwerp Management School (AMS) and other higher education institutions that belong to the Antwerp University Association. Vlerick Business School is the only Belgian school to hold triple accreditation from Equis, AMBA and the American AACSB. It is also Europe’s oldest business and management school, founded in 1953 by Professor André Vlerick. It recently added a new campus in the centre of Brussels, in addition to its Belgian campuses in Leuven and Ghent, and St Petersburg, Russia. The schools benefit from alliances with more than 40 international business schools, and host around 6,800 people in postgraduate management and executive development programmes.

INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS Several international institutions have been established as part of Belgian universities and colleges or simply set up to offer their own graduate and postgraduate programmes. The Brussels School of International Studies (BSIS) is a postgraduate school tied to the University of Kent in Brussels. Located in a newly acquired facility overlooking its partner schools, the BSIS offers postgraduate programmes in politics, international relations, law and economics.

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BBA/MBA

flexible business and management studies with several specializations

BACHELOR BBA MASTER MBA

ACCREDITED BACHELOR'S & MASTER'S DEGREES BARCELONA MUNICH GENEVA MONTREUX ONLINE

full-time or part-time / day, evening & weekend

CAMPUS ANTWERP Meirbrug 1 www.antwerp.uibs.org CAMPUS BRUSSELS Avenue des Arts 10-11 www.brussels.uibs.org

EU Barcelona Ganduxer, 70 08021 Barcelona, Spain T: +34 93 201 81 71 info.bcn@euruni.edu

also in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Lausanne, Madrid, Tokyo, Zurich & Online

OUR VERY PRACTICAL BACHELOR WILL CHANGE YOUR FUTURE! BA (HONS) IN BUSINESS STUDIES 3-YEAR BACHELOR DEGREE

UNITED BUSINESS INSTITUTES - BRUSSELS

• The opportunity to study Business in Brussels or Luxembourg.

Avenue Marnix, 20

• Small classes taught in English by business professionals.

Tel. +32 2 548 04 80

• Strong academic course of study plus practical training.

B-1000 Brussels - Belgium info@ubi.edu

• Yearly in-company internships arranged for undergraduates.

www.ubi.edu

UNITED BUSINESS

• International environment.

INSTITUTES - LUXEMBOURG

• A perfect preparation for a Masters abroad.

Campus Wiltz - Château de Wiltz

• Programmes validated by Middlesex University London. The students will be awarded a Middlesex University London degree on successful completion.

L-9516 Wiltz - Luxembourg Tel. +352 27 99 01 82 info@ubi.edu

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EDUCATION

The College of Advertising and Design is a higher education art college specialising in design, advertising, graphic and web design, interior architecture, and digital animation. It is one of the few colleges in Belgium and France to provide an English/American-style education and is attended by some 170 students.

education in English. The college offers threeyear European Bachelor’s degree programmes in business, communications, international affairs, and as of fall 2015, international and European law. Vesalius and its degree programmes are registered and accredited with the Flemish government in Belgium.

CERIS (Centre Européen de Recherches Internationales et Stratégiques) is a postgraduate school offering a Master’s course in international politics and a Master’s in development policy, plus postgraduate certificates, which can be studied externally.

The United International Business Schools has campuses in Antwerp and Brussels, alongside several locations in Europe and Asia where students can transfer on a quarterly basis. It is an independent and accredited private institution offering flexible business, management, language and cultural studies at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The two Belgian locations are grouped under the title of the International University of Belgium.

The College of Europe is a unique and innovative postgraduate institute of European studies. Founded in 1948 and located in Bruges and in Natolin (Warsaw, Poland), it is financed by the EU governments and offers one-year Master’s degrees. Graduate studies are in international relations, law, political and administrative sciences, economics, and general European studies. For several years, the United Business Institutes have been offering a MBA programme in the heart of Brussels, alongside their BA and DBA programmes. The school is able to offer European validation by the Middlesex University London, and also facilitates the transfer of business academic credits for both incoming and outgoing students. The University of Maryland offers undergraduate and graduate courses covering arts, science, business and management, information technology and more. In Belgium it operates from three locations and has online courses as well. Situated in Brussels, the Vesalius College is an American-style college founded by the VUB and Boston University in 1987 to offer undergraduate

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The ICHEC Business School has more than 60 years of experience, and more than 2,000 students each year. It awards Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in business management, science and engineering, with day and evening classes available. Bilingual courses encourage language skills. The Solvay Business School offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses in economics, business engineering and management science, and is associated with the Université Libre de Bruxelles. The programmes provide training in international management skills, and students may customise their program to specialise in European or international areas, networks, internships or study abroad. The European Institute for Public Administration (EIPA), with locations in Brussels, Luxembourg, Maastricht and Barcelona, provides courses in European affairs oriented towards the practice of lobbying and other training, plus Master’s programmes in European public affairs and legal studies.

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EDUCATION

HIGHER EDUCATION

•U  IBS Brussels campus | brussels.uibs.org

European University | www.euruni.edu • EU Barcelona | +34 (0)9 3201 8171 | Ganduxer 70, 08021

Barcelona, Spain | info.bcn@euruni.edu • EU Geneva | +41 (0)22 779 2671 | Quai du Seujet 18, 1201

Geneva, Switzerland | info.gva@euruni.edu • EU Montreux | +41 (0)21 964 8464 | Le Forum, Grand Rue

3, 1820 Montreux 2, Switzerland | info.mtx@euruni.ed

International Education Center | Avenue des Arts 10–11, 1210 Brussels, Belgium | +32 (0)2 203 7780 info@brussels.uibs.org •U  IBS Zurich campus | zurich.uibs.org

International Education Center | Brandschenkestrasse 38, 8002 Zurich, Switzerland | +41 (0)44 201 1222 info@zurich.uibs.org •U  IBS Amsterdam (satellite campus) | amsterdam.uibs.org

• EU Munich | +49 89 5502 9595 | Theresienhoehe 28,

80339 Munich, Germany | info.muc@euruni.edu Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA Program www.kellogg.whu.edu WHU–Otto Beisheim School of Management | emba@whu.edu Burgplatz 2, 56179 Vallendar, Germany | +49 (0)261 650 9184 Erkrather Street 224a, 40233 Dusseldorf | +49 (0)261 650 9601

Spaces Business Center | Herengracht 124–128, 1015 BT Amsterdam, the Netherlands | +31 (0)20 521 9423 | info@amsterdam.uibs.org •U  IBS Lausanne (satellite campus) | lausanne.uibs.org

Regus Business Center | Voie du Chariot 3, 1003 Lausanne, Switzerland | +41 (0)21 560 5626 | info@lausanne.uibs.org •U  IBS Madrid (satellite campus) | madrid.uibs.org

Regus Business Center | Carrera de San Jerónimo 15, 28014 Madrid, Spain | +34 (0)91 454 7281 info@madrid.uibs.org

Maastricht School of Management | www.msm.nl Endepolsdomein 150, 6229 Maastricht, the Netherlands +31 (0)43 387 0808 | admissions@msm.nl

•U  IBS Tokyo (satellite campus) | tokyo.uibs.asia

Rotterdam School of Management | www.rsm.nl/mba Burgemeester Oudlaan 50, 3062 Rotterdam +31 (0)10 408 2222 | mba.info@rsm.nl

Regus Business Center | Park Tower 3-7-1 Nishi-Shinjuku 163-1030 Tokyo, Japan | +81 (0)3 5326 3477 info@tokyo.uibs.asia

SAE Institute Brussels | brussels.sae.edu Rue Gachard 10, 1050 Ixelles +32 (0)2 647 9220 | brussels@sae.edu

Vesalius College | www.vesalius.edu Pleinlaan 5, 1050 Brussels +32 (0)2 614 8170 | vesalius@vub.ac.be

Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management www.solvaypontsmba.com | Avenue FD Roosevelt 42, 1050 Brussels | +32 (0)2 650 6673 | mba.admissions@solvay.edu

Vlerick Business School www.vlerick.com/en | info@vlerick.com •B  russels Campus |+32 (0)2 225 4111

Bolwerklaan 21, 1210 Brussels

United Business Institutes (UBI) | www.ubi.edu info@ubi.edu

•G  hent Campus | + 32 (0)9 210 9711

Reep 1, 9000 Gent

• Brussels | +32 (0)2 548 0480

Avenue Marnix 20, 1000 Brussels

• L euven Campus | +32 (0)16 24 8811

Vlamingenstraat 83, 3000 Leuven

• Luxembourg | +32 (0)2 548 0480

Château de Wiltz, 9516 Wiltz, Luxembourg

•S  t Petersburg Campus | +7 (812) 493 5402

Italyanskaya Street 17, 191186, St. Petersburg, Russia

United International Business Schools (UIBS)

LANGUAGE SCHOOLS

• UIBS Antwerp campus | antwerp.uibs.org

International Education Center, Meirbrug 1 | 2000 Antwerp, Belgium | +32 (0)3 283 5126 | info@antwerp.uibs.org • UIBS Barcelona campus | barcelona.uibs.org

International Education Center | Rambla de Catalunya 2–4, 08007 Barcelona, Spain | +34 (0)93 452 2227 info@barcelona.uibs.org

de Rand | www.derand.be Kaasmarkt 75, 1780 Wemmel | +32 (0)2 456 9784 welkom@derand.be F9 | www.f9languages.eu Louizalaan 485, 1050 Brussels +32 (0)2 627 5252 | info@f9languages.eu

BELGIUM EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE 2015 | WWW.EXPATICA.COM

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EMPLOYMENT

FINDING A JOB

Language is key in Belgium’s multilingual workplace. Belgium’s multinational workforce is highly skilled and multilingual, and unemployment is relatively low compared to other European countries at 8.8 percent (Q3 2014, statbel.fgov.be). With many EU institutions, NATO and other major international organisations and multi-national companies based in Brussels, there are many job opportunities for foreigners in Belgium. Most vacancies in Brussels are for highly skilled workers within the services sectors, such as finance, international institutions and businesses, estate agencies, education, public health and social services. There is demand for engineers, technicians, architects, accountants, nurses and midwives, IT staff, sales, teachers, administration, mechanics, and building trades. In contrast, youth unemployment is around 20 percent with the largest increase being among recent graduates. Due to good connections, many expats live in surrounding areas and commute to Brussels – the hub for foreign workers. Belgium has good transport links, and Brussels council reports that commuters who live elsewhere hold more than half of all jobs in Brussels. LANGUAGES If you are competing in the national job market, you will likely need an excellent command of French or Dutch, depending on where the job is based – sometimes both if in Brussels. A third language such as English is either a bonus or a job requirement. In the international arena you are certainly going to need English with French or Dutch as a working language. Any additional language is a bonus. FINDING A JOB Of course, finding work in this multilingual country depends very much on your linguistic abilities. If you can communicate comfortably in French or Dutch, then the weekend or online editions of national newspapers are excellent

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places to start, such as Le Soir, La Libre, Het Laatste Nieuws, and De Standaard. For English speakers, Expatica (jobs.expatica. com) and news providers The European Voice and The Bulletin advertise international positions typically in managerial and consultancy roles, although a large range exists. You’ll also find several recruitment agencies focused on expatriates, offering jobs at various levels. Each region of Belgium also has its own public employment office where you can browse job vacancies, upload a CV, search for training courses, or get advice on your job search from a consultant online or at a local office. Actiris (www. actiris.be) covers the Brussels-Capital region, VDAB (www.vdab.be) for Flanders, Le Forem (www.leforem.be) for Wallonia, and ADG (www. adg.be) for the German community. The EU employs over 40,000 people in various institutions, many of which are in Brussels. You do have to be a member of an EU country and usually fluent in two or more languages. For EU jobs, see the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO), or see EuroBrussels, which shows jobs in EU organisations based in Brussels. EU citizens can also take advantage of the EU job portal, EURES (ec.europa.eu/eures). Headhunting agencies are reasonably common in Belgium, but tend to specialise in executive positions. WORK PERMITS EU, EEA and Swiss nationals do not need a work visa, except nationals from the newer EU member Croatia who require a work permit potentially until 2020. If you have a permanent residence permit for an unlimited period of time, you also will not need to obtain a work permit. Third-country nationals – those from outside EU/ EEA/Switzerland – will generally need a work permit although exemptions apply.

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EMPLOYMENT

FOR NON-EU NATIONALS • Type A: This visa is valid for all employers and types of paid occupations, valid indefinitely. To apply you must have resided legally in Belgium for a continuous period of five years, or have worked in Belgium for at least four years under a type B permit within a 10-year residency, or be the spouse of someone who has. For certain conditions and nationalities, there is scope to apply after two or three years. •

 ype B: This type is the more usual work permit T and is valid for a single, specified employer for up to 12 months. It is renewable but a decision to renew will be based on the state of the local labour market. If you change jobs your permit is invalidated. To obtain this type of work permit your potential employer must apply for authorisation from the regional employment office. Once this is issued you are automatically eligible to apply for the Type B permit.  ype C: This temporary work permit is valid for T up to 12 months and renewable, and covers temporary residents and those waiting for a decision on their residency, such as spouses of EEA nationals or diplomatic workers, students, asylum seekers and so on. It is dependent on the person retaining their residence permit.

Generally, in order for a type B work permit to be approved, the area of work has to have a skills shortage or be in a special category (for example, highly qualified or executive staff, technical experts, engineers, IT, etc.) – the government has a list. It may also be required to show that the role cannot be filled with an EU national, and that the intended employee has the necessary qualifications. Highly skilled migrants can also be exempt from needing a separate work permit if they obtain an European Blue Card. The European Blue Card is a residence permit that allows highly skilled workers from outside the EU to live and work in Belgium long term, although you must hold a permanent or one-year contract with a Belgian company with a gross annual salary of more than some EUR 51,000.

STARTING WORK Once you have found a job, there can be a probationary period of up to two weeks for blue collar workers, and anywhere between one and six months for white collar workers, if their annual wage does not exceed a certain amount set by law, usually around EUR36–37,000. Whitecollar employees earning more than this may have a trial period of up to 12 months. During this period, either side can terminate the employment with seven days’ notice. The average working week is 38 hours, although longer working hours are common, particularly in international institutions. Although Belgian labour law contains a general prohibition against overtime, there are exceptions where overtime regulations do not apply; you may not always receive time off in lieu or compensation for working overtime, although in most cases compensation should legally apply. In Belgium, you must work for one year before any holiday entitlement is paid. It is then calculated on the basis of how many months you were in the job during the previous calendar year. If you worked a full calendar year, you are then entitled to a minimum of 20 days. In addition there are 10 legal holidays in Belgium, many of them religious days, plus regional holidays. Deductions from your salary will take the form of social contributions and withholding tax. Social contributions are collected by the National Social Security Office (NSSO) and cover replacement income (pensions, unemployment assistance etc.) and supplementary income (health care, family allowances etc.). These equated to 13.07 percent of gross salary for private sector employees in 2014. Withholding tax is based on gross taxable income. The rate varies depending on a number of quite complex rules.

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EMPLOYMENT

RECRUITMENT AGENCIES NATIONAL

ANTWERP

Actiris | www.actiris.be

Bakker and Partners | www.bakker.be

Adecco | www.adecco.be

Consultants in Personnel Management | www.cpm-hrm.be

Axis | be.axis.jobs

ONLINE JOB SITES

Hays | www.hays.be

Brussels Jobs | www.brusselsjobs.com

Kelly Services | www.kellyservices.com

ELM | www.labourmobility.com

Manpower | www.manpower.be

English Language Jobs | www.englishlanguagejobs.com

Randstad | www.randstad.be

Expatica | jobs.expatica.com/Belgium

Robert Half | www.roberthalf.be

Jobat | www.jobat.be

BRUSSELS

Jobs Career | www.jobscareer.be

Advice and Executive Search | www.aes.be

Jobs in Brussels | www.jobsinbrussels.com

Daoust | www.daoust.be

Monster | www.monster.be

Excel Careers | www.excel-careers.com

StepStone | www.stepstone.be

Excel Interim | www.excel-interim.com

Vacature | www.vacature.com

MCP International Executive Search Consultants

Xpat Jobs | belgium.expatjobs.eu

www.mcp-int.com Pro-link Europe | www.prolink-europe.com Rainbow Resources Group | www.rainbow-careers.be Russell Reynolds Associates | www.russellreynolds.com Spencer Stuart | www.spencerstuart.com

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EMPLOYMENT

SOCIAL SECURITY

Joining Belgian Social Security is bureaucratic but not difficult. There are separate rules and separate institutions for the salaried, the self-employed and civil servants. If you are employed, your employer will likely take care of the formalities and deduct contributions from your wages. The salaried are covered for seven sectors: medical care, unemployment, pension, family, accident, workrelated injury, and vacation. For the employed, typically your employer will pay around 25 percent on top of your salary into a social security fund, and you’ll contribute an extra 13 percent from your salary. Self-employed individuals can also claim social security. They pay a lower total percentage than salaried persons, though less sectors are covered by the fund. However, self-employed individuals can pay more to cover themselves further. The National Institute of Social Security for the Self-Employed (RSVZ-INASTI) is the association in charge, and covers benefits for medical care, incapacity for work or invalidity, maternity insurance, family benefits, pensions and bankruptcy. Self-employed workers pay quarterly contributions towards their social security, which can range from a maximum of 22 percent of income and downward as earnings increase. Since 2008, self-employed persons have also been included for coverage of petits risques/ kleine risico’s. This means that claims can be made for doctor appointments, dentists and prescriptions in the same way as for salaried workers and civil servants. With regards to civil servants, the rules differ as social security can be claimed through the relevant governmental department. Additional support systems available in certain circumstances are financed from government funds. These provide for pensions, unemployment benefits and family benefits. You can visit www.socialsecurity.fgov.be for a brochure detailing everything you have always wanted to know about social security.

This brochure tells you about the structure of the system and your entitlements. REGISTRATION To get social benefits, you will need to sign up with one of a number of specialised organisations or a health insurance company (mutuelle/ mutualiteits), which act as collection agencies for the national social security offices. Once you are registered, they will send you a Social Security Identity Card (SIS), which is needed to get prescription drugs and other medical services. More detail can be found in this guide’s Healthcare section. INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION Belgium has reciprocal social security arrangements with EEA countries and Switzerland, as well as 22 non-EU countries, including Australia, Canada and the US. Under these arrangements, you can claim and be awarded many of the same benefits as Belgian citizens, provided you carry out the necessary paperwork (ie. registering with your town hall or getting your residence visa, if applicable). Visit www.coming2belgium.be for information in several languages. Anyone posted to Belgium short-term is unaffected by Belgian social security as long as they are an EEA or Swiss national, or from a country that has an international social security treaty with Belgium. Ask the authority or social security office in your country for details. CONTACTS The social security offices are semi-autonomous, under the administrative control of the Federal Public Service of Social Security (www. socialsecurity.fgov.be). The salaried should contact the national social security office, RSZONSS (www.onssrszlss.fgov.be), and the RSVZINASTI (www.inasti.be) is the social security institute for the self-employed. EEA/Swiss nationals can get more information from the Overseas Social Security Office (DOSZ-OSSOM, www.ossom.be).

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HEALTH

HEALTHCARE

Belgium’s healthcare is regarded among the most accessible systems in Europe. Access to Belgian state healthcare is covered by mandatory health insurance schemes, which require registration and cover the partial or full refund of certain medical costs, depending on criteria fixed by law. Everyone working in Belgium must join a health insurance scheme with one of the private or mutual insurers (called mutuelle/mutualiteit), plus pay social security contributions though their salary if employed, or directly if self-employed. All your dependents (such as non-working spouse, children etc.) will be covered under the same scheme. Residents are free to choose which scheme they join, although employees may get automatically enrolled in one through their work. Once registered, you’ll be given your Social Information System (SIS) card, which contains a microchip with your social insurance details. It is a required when visiting a doctor, hospital or pharmacy. Your insurance association will be responsible for refunding your fixed percentage of medical care and costs. When you incur medical costs, you have to pay part of the cost as your ‘personal share’, set according to your income and with a fixed maximum billing amount. For minor treatments you’ll usually pay upfront and claim up to 75 percent of the cost from your insurer. For hospital and pharmacy costs, you pay only your ‘personal share’ and the hospital or pharmacy claims the balance from the insurer. DOCTORS AND SPECIALISTS General practitioners (GP) or family doctors (médecin/huisarts) can be found in private practices or attached to clinics and hospitals. You have the freedom to consult or register with whom ever you choose. You can speak with neighbours, colleagues or try asking on community.expatica.com for recommendations when you arrive, or check the golden pages directory for an entire list of doctors in your area. Embassies usually keep lists of doctors who can 52

work in your language, though most doctors speak English. The state mutuelle/mutualiteit scheme allows patients to choose their healthcare provider, as long as they confirm the provider is registered with one of the insurance companies. You can also freely choose any specialist consultant, although reimbursement is more guaranteed if you have a doctor’s referral. It’s always worth checking whether a doctor is registered in the national health service (conventionné/ geconventioneerd) or private. Some doctors do both, so make sure it’s clear which you want. You’ll need your Belgian health card for the consultation and possibly cash to pay fees, as some doctors do not offer card payments. Some mutuals have arrangements with GPs and hospitals that allow you to pay a reduced fee at the point of care which already calculates your refund, so it pays to check your insurer’s contacts. Otherwise, if you have state social security, you’ll generally need to pay upfront and make a claim later. You’ll need to send your receipt or doctor’s treatment certificate to your health insurer for reimbursement, which depending on your scheme and personal status (age, severity of illnesses, etc.), can be up to 75 percent. DENTISTS Most dentists (dentistes/tandartsen) in Belgium are private, though you may find those who accept part-payment on state insurance. Dentists in Belgium have an agreed fee scale agreement (known as the convention) with social security, which sets the level of your reimbursement for basic treatments. Although doctors’ fee differentials can be huge, your reimbursement will be the same with whom ever you choose. For any specialist work, such as crowns and bridges, the dentist may well ask how you will pay and offer you different quotations; if you’re insured, you’ll pay upfront and get reimbursed later.

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HEALTH

To qualify for health insurance reimbursement you’ll need to visit the dentist at least once a year. In the big cities, Brussels in particular, there are international dentistry practices, though they can be more expensive. For out-of-hours dental emergencies in Brussels, you can call +32 (0)2 426 1026. HOSPITALS As with general practitioners, you can arrange to see a specialist of your choice at any hospital, although check if they are covered by your insurer to guarantee a refund. You can also walk into ‘emergency outpatients’ for immediate treatment; though as in other countries, do not use this as a GP replacement. You may be charged a non-refundable small fee if you use emergency services without a referral. You should remember to have your insurance card or other identifiable means of payment with you, though emergency treatment will not be refused if you don’t. For inpatient stays, most hospitals will charge a daily fee, which is dependent on your circumstances (unemployed pay less, for example), and the length of your stay (drastically reduces after the first day). You may also need to take things you need – such as a towel and soap – and pay extra if you choose a single room. In Brussels, the 11 big public hospitals are organized under the Iris association (www. iris-hopitaux.be), or find your local hospital at the Belgian Hospital Association’s website www. hospitals.be. HEALTH INSURANCE PROVIDERS Bupa Global | www.bupa-intl.com/belgium +44 (0)1273 936 200 Expat & Co | www.expatinsurance.eu Statiestraat 27, 1740 Ternat +32 (0)2 463 0404 | info@expatinsurance.eu IntegraGlobal | www.integraglobal.com +44 333 405 3003 | ig-contact@integraglobal.com Now Health | www.now-health.com +44 (0)127 660 2100 | EuropeSales@now-health.com

EMERGENCY TREATMENT In a medical emergency call the pan-European numbers 100 or 112 for help. When you call they will need to know the type of emergency, address (municipality, street, house number, locality etc.) and the number of people in danger. PHARMACIES Look for a green cross for a chemist in Belgium. Prescriptions must be paid for on collection, with the reimbursement already calculated or to claim later. There is a rota system for certain chemists to stay open 24 hours, usually listed in the pharmacy window or in newspapers. You can also call 0903 99 000 for the chemist on-duty, or enter your postcode on www.pharmacie.be to find the nearest one. HOSPITALS Visit www.iris-hopitaux.be for a full listing of hospitals in Belgium. EMERGENCY NUMBERS AND HELPLINES Pan-European number for all emergencies:. . 112 Fire or ambulance: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 Red Cross ambulance: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105 Police:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 Anti-poison centre:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 070 245 245 PHARMACISTS (ON DUTY) 0903 99 000 (EUR 1.50/min). | www.pharmacie.be DOCTORS (ON DUTY) Brussels:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 479 1818 Rest of Belgium:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 DENTISTS (ON DUTY) Brussels:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02 426 1026 Rest of Belgium. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 VETS (ON DUTY) Brussels 02 479 9990 ENGLISH-SPEAKING COMMUNITY HELP SERVICE IN BRUSSELS A volunteer counselling service set up for internationals (adults and children) to discuss emotional problems or offer advice. CHS Help Line: 02 648 4014 | www.chsbelgium.org

Partena Business & Expats | www.bepartena.be Sluisweg 2/1, 9000 Gent +32 (0)2 218 2222 | business@partenaexpats.be

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Neutraal Ziekenf Are you an Expat in Brussels ? The mutuelle Symbio makes your life easier !

Our Mission: • Ensure you receive the reimbursement of your health care in Belgium • We offer you the best services and advantages concerning your particular case

The mutuelle Symbio in a few words: • The first mutual insurance company in Belgium: exists for 150 years • Experienced in personal advice to foreign residents

+32 2 733 97 40 expat@symbio.be www.symbio.be


HEALTH

FITNESS CLUBS

It’s easy to stay fit in Belgium with a range of fitness activities. Many health clubs are allied to hotels and are at the top end of the market. Before parting with a stash of cash though, check out what your local commune offers plus the smaller independent gyms and fitness centres in your neighbourhood. Ashtanga Yoga Institute of Brussels | www.yoga-ashtanga.net Chaussée d’Alsemberg 610, 1180 Uccle Ashtanga offers courses at all levels – mainly in French, but in English on request. Aspria | www.aspria.com Aspria offers three upmarket venues in Brussels with a complete range of fitness and wellness facilities. Aspria Arts-Loi’s centre-piece is a 21-metre swimming pool while Aspria Avenue Louise is the ultimate pampering spot in the posh Conrad Hotel. Aspria Royal La Rasante is recognised for its sporting history and is a family-oriented club where members can take advantage of the landscaped gardens and outdoor activities. Basic-Fit | www.basic-fit.be This chain has many locations around Belgium and offers good deals on membership. Check their website for the closest address. Corpus Studios | www.corpusstudios.com Kelly McKinnon started Corpus in 2000 and offers pilates, gyrotonics and yoga in collective, private and semi-private tuition. Classes are offered in a range of languages, with two studios to choose from in Ixelles.

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David Lloyd Uccle | www.davidlloyd.be Drève de Lorraine 41, 1180 Brussels This complex has 11 tennis courts, squash courts, two swimming pools, and fitness rooms. Sportcity | www.sportcity-woluwe.be Avenue Salomé 2, 1150 Woluwe-St-Pierre For a small admission fee you can enjoy an Olympic-size swimming pool, tennis and squash courts, as well as saunas, baths and steam rooms. Winners | 02 280 0270 Rue Bonneels 13, 1210 Saint-Josse-ten-Noode Popular with the EU crowd, this friendly nononsense club has nine glass-fronted squash courts, aerobic rooms and a climbing wall, plus sports for kids. World Class Health Academy | www.worldclassfitness.be Rue du Parnasse 10, 1050 Ixelles As part of the Renaissance Hotel, it caters largely to expense-account executives and EU civil servants. Wellness Paladins | www.wellnesspaladins.com Rue Abbé Cuypers 3, 1040 Brussels This company provides wellness services to companies, offering turnkey or tailor-made solutions in terms of incentives, gifts, rewards, team building, or corporate wellness.

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SETTLING IN

SETTLING IN How to connect utilities, internet, telephone and TV in Belgium. Once you find an apartment or house, in some cases you can just transfer the previously connected utilities and communications into your name. Otherwise, you can choose from a wide choice of providers – national, regional and private – covering the Belgian utilities and communications markets. Standard electricity in Belgium is 230 volts and the electrical plugs use two round prongs. Adapters or transformers may be needed for electrical appliances from abroad. UTILITIES If you are purchasing a home, you will need to arrange utility suppliers to come and connect your property, or if previously connected, you can request a transfer from the previous supplier at least one week before moving. Both old and new tenants need to sign the transfer, and a meter reading will be taken. For rental properties, utilities will likely already be connected but bills are usually due in addition to your monthly rent, so expect additional outgoings on top. Payment is usually made by bank transfer or direct debit. You can compare suppliers in your region at www.test-achats.be or www.brugel.be. You will need to show identity (passport or eID) when connecting utilities. The energy market is regulated by the national regulator CREG (Commission de Régulation de l’Electricité et du Gaz, www.creg.be). The Flemish regulator is VREG (Vlaamse Regulator van de Elektriciteits-en Gasmarkt, www.vreg.be). Electrabel is the major electricity supplier in Belgium, consequent to holding a monopoly prior to the sector’s privatisation in 2003. It is still used by the majority of households and businesses but other competitive providers have entered the market. Many electricity suppliers also offer gas supply services; Electrabel and Sibelga are two main gas providers, although most companies below offer combined energy package tariffs.

MAIN SUPPLIERS • Electrabel: www.electrabel.be • Sibelga: www.sibelga.be • Eni: www.eni.com • Essent: www.essent.be • Luminus: www.luminus.be • Lampiris (green): www.lampiris.be

WATER Each region has its own water management. In Brussels the company is Hydrobru IBDE (in French – Intercommunale Bruxelloise de Distribution d’Eau) or BIWD (in Dutch – Brusselse Intercommunale voor Waterdistributie). Further afield, De Watergroep or the VMW (Vlaamse Maatschappij voor Watervoorziening) covers Flanders, and the SWDE (Société Wallonne des Distributions d’Eau) covers Wallonia. Call the numbers below for details, or in water emergencies.  russels: www.hydrobru.be | 02 739 5211 B Flanders: www.dewatergroep.be | 02 238 9699 • Wallonia: www.swde.be | 08 787 8787 • •

PHONE AND INTERNET To get a landline, you must first register a line with Belgium’s national telecom provider, Belgacom. A subscription activates the landline connection, after which you are free to sign up for telephone and internet services from any company. To activate your landline with Belgacom, you can book an appointment online (www.proximus.be), at a branch, or by calling 0800 55 800. You must be over 18 and provide ID. Belgacom is the leading provider of domestic telephone lines and internet, though a variety of companies are diversifying their services and offering telecom package deals. The Belgian ISP Association lists the main telecom providers (www.ispa.be). You can register internet or WiFi services that are either unlimited or based on a fixed data usage per month.

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SETTLING IN

For mobile phones, there are three main providers to choose from – Base, Mobistar and Belgacom/ Proximus – though most main providers also offer mobile services in their combination deals. A telecoms law in 2012 gave more power for users to change providers mid-contract and take advantage of new deals, which are increasingly being offered as the market grows. Some providers focus on telephony or internet services, such as Belgian Telecom, IP Nexia and Mondial Telecom, but the main providers generally offer packages combining telephone, internet, television, and mobile, such as Belgacom, Numericable, Telenet and Voo. TELEVISION Each region manages its own public broadcaster – the Flemish VRT, French RTBF and German BRF. Analogue broadcasts are being replaced by digital services, and in some regions, already obsolete. Television and radio licences have been scrapped in the Flemish-speaking region and the Brussels region, but you will need to pay an annual fee if you live in the Wallonia region – currently EUR 100. This is paid per household and not per television set. To use a car radio, however, you will need one licence per car. You should file a ‘declaration’ at your local commune within 30 days (also downloadable from www.wallonie.be). Belgium operates an unusual system for the annual payment of licences, determined by a person’s surname. Those with surnames beginning with A–J must pay in April while those with surnames beginning with K–Z must pay in October. Almost all households are served by cable television. It is broadcast by three separate organisations, French, Dutch and German, with some foreign channels also provided. Telenet, Numericable and Belgacom/Proximus TV are leading cable television providers, though many offer hundreds of channels with plenty of English options and competitive prices. BBC, CNN, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and Disney are common channels in cable television packages. Some local television providers include Tele Bruxelles, VTM, and BeTV.

CABLE TELEVISION Belgium is one of the most cabled countries in the world with almost all households subscribing to some form of pay-TV. When this process began there were many region-specific cable operators, with a count of almost 20 in 2006. This number has fallen drastically with consolidation in the industry arising from larger companies buying out many of the smaller ones. Most of the TV cable companies also offer internet connection via the cable, so it’s a good idea to shop around, although you may find that one company dominates in your area and your choice is limited. You may be able to arrange to connect your house, and optic fiber cable may even be offered. There is also a growing number of on-demand, streaming media platforms for viewing foreign television programmes, such as Netflix, which entered Belgium in 2014. Availability is heavily dependent on the quality of your internet connection, something worth bearing in mind before subscribing. If you aren’t particularly interested in live television and just want some shows from home, streaming is a good option. Satellite television is available from several companies and some providers also offer Sky from the UK. The set-up charge can be hefty depending on your situation, as Sky is not allowed to market its product on the continent because of licensing agreements. MAIN CABLE TV/INTERNET/PHONE PROVIDERS Many companies offer package deals combining internet, television, landline, and increasingly mobile, though some are specialist providers. See their websites for details and offers, or to see whether their services are available in your area. • Belgacom | 0800 55 800 | www.belgacom.be • Billi | 022 900 900 | www.billi.be • Cybernet | 04 270 4700 | www.cybernet.be • Dommel | 01 192 0000 | lianka.schedom-europe.net • EDP Net | 03 265 6700 | www.edpnet.be • Numéricable | 02 226 5200 | www.numericable.be • Scarlet | 0800 84 000 | www.scarlet.be • Telenet | 0800 66 046 | www.telenet.be • TV From Home | 0485 387 402 | tvfromhome.be • Voo | 0800 800 25 | www.voo.be

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EXPATICA JOBS THE EASIEST WAY TO FIND ENGLISH-LANGUAGE JOBS

Stop by Expatica.com’s Employment section for information on work permits, management culture, applying for a job, and more. Check out our LISTINGS at: jobs.expatica.com/belgium


TRANSPORT

TRANSPORT IN BELGIUM

Travel is made easier by Belgium’s integrated transport system. Belgium has an excellent public transport network, which is accessible and efficient. One of its strengths is an integrated train, tram, metro, and bus system, which makes connections easier between different transport types. Three regional operators manage the network: De Lijn (Flanders), TEC (Wallonia) and STIB (Brussels). For beach vacations, along the Belgian coast runs the world’s longest tram route, providing easy access to the entire coastline from the French and Dutch borders.

De Lijn booths (Lijnwinkels) in various locations, as well as in some newsstands, supermarkets, and stations. Buying tickets in advance saves you about 20 percent and can even be bought via SMS, although single tickets can be bought from the driver if needed. Friday and Saturday trams run an hour later to coincide with the night bus timetable.

Increasingly across Belgium the MOBIB-card is replacing old magnetic cards and paper tickets, which are expected to be completely phased out in some areas in the next years. The card costs EUR 5 and lasts five years, and travellers can load on any kind of ticket or season pass. Children under six years travel free while 6–12 year olds can travel free under some adult passes, or pay for a child’s pass.

DOMESTIC TRAINS The dense train network in Belgium is state-owned and operated by SNCB/NMBS.

BRUSSELS The Brussels city public transport is run by STIB/ MIVB, while bus transport outside the centre is run by De Lijn in Flanders and TEC in Wallonia. Not all tickets are interchangeable between the companies, but certain tickets allow access to all three networks, such as the ‘jump’ ticket and the MTB season pass. In Brussels, you can buy multiple-ride or season tickets (on MOBIB-cards) from STIB/MIVB tickets offices or special booths at metro stations, online, or from newsstands and supermarkets. Single tickets can be bought from bus or tram drivers, although pre-bought tickets are 20 percent cheaper. Multiple-ride tickets cover five or 10 journeys and, like single-journey tickets, must be time stamped in the orange boxes. Once stamped, you can travel anywhere within an hour – on bus, tram, or metro – but you should stamp your ticket at each change. Children age 6–11 can travel free if you buy a MOBIB-pass, and up to four children under six can travel free with any adult. ANTWERP The public transport system in Antwerp is managed by De Lijn and is based on trams and buses, with an underground tramline running through the city. Multiple-ride or season tickets can be bought at 60

GENT/LIEGE Further afield, Gent is served by De Lijn (OostVlaandaren), and Liege by TEC.

For the most part it is efficient and inexpensive. Booking is best done before boarding; while it is possible to buy a ticket from the guard, you will be charged a EUR 3 surcharge if you boarded at a station with ticket sales. Ticket offices are often busy but you can buy online or via mobile or using the NMBS/SNCB app. You can print your own ticket from the company’s website, or present your ‘SMS ticket’ on the train. Make sure you get all the details correct as tickets are not transferable and must be supported by showing the guard your ID. For local getaways, there are various ways to save money, such as with a B-excursion pass, which includes transport and admission to attractions, or half price return travel on the weekend. Children under 12 years travel free on SNCB trains when accompanied by an adult. One adult ticket allows up to four children to travel free. Separate tickets are not required, but you may be asked to show proof of their ages (an ID or official document).

TRANSPORT COMPANIES • STIB/MVIB | 070 23 2000 | www.stib-mivb.be • De Lijn | 070 22 0200 | www.delijn.be • TEC | 010 23 5353 | www.infotec.be • SNCB/NMBS | 02 528 2828 | www.belgianrail.be (EUR 0.30/min)

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TRANSPORT

Job seekers can also claim discounted tickets, and pregnant women can upgrade to 1st class for free in the last four months of their pregnancy. Check the website for details.

• Brussels Airport Zaventem | www.brusselsairport.be 0900 70 000 (EUR0.50/min) • Brussels Charleroi Airport | www.charleroi-airport.com 0902 02 490 (EUR1/min)

INTERNATIONAL TRAINS Belgium is truly the railway crossroads of Europe, with trains entering Brussels from all over the continent. Brussels Gare du Midi is the terminus for several international trains, including Eurostar coming from London and Paris, TGV trains from France and the joint Belgian-Dutch-owned Thalys, connecting France, the Netherlands and Germany. Alternatively, you can take the conventional EuroCity trains to most European cities. Bookings for the high-speed train services can be made online or at the station.

ANTWERP Antwerp airport is just 2km from the city centre and close to the Antwerp Berchem rail station. There are daily flights to London, and some regular flights to destinations in Germany, Spain and Switzerland. The Belgian air carrier, Jetairfly, will add 15 flights a week in 2015 to include Barcelona, Berlin and Milan.

If you want to drive to England, it’s just a short journey to Calais for the Eurotunnel shuttle service. • S NCB/NMBS Europe | +32 (0)70 79 7979 | www.b-europe.com • E urostar | +44 1233 617 575| www.eurostar.com • T GV | 3635 | www.tgv.com • Thalys | +32 (0)70 66 7788 | www.thalys.com AIRPORTS The country’s main international airport is Brussels Airport, Zavertem. Charleroi, also known as Brussels South, is used mainly by Ryanair. There are also smaller provincial airports in Antwerp and Liège, used mostly by city-hopper planes. BRUSSELS Brussels Airport is well connected with six trains an hour to Brussels centre, plus direct train links to main Belgian cities and the Netherlands. A taxi ride into town is reasonably quick, but expensive at around EUR 45. An airport express line (No. 12) also runs every 30 minutes between the airport and Brussels’ European Quarter, and an express bus links Antwerp to ‘Kon. Astridplein’ (near the central station). Shuttle buses also run to north France. From Brussels South Charleroi, there is a reasonably priced Brussels city shuttle that takes around an hour to get to Brussels (EUR5–15); drop-off point is Gare du Midi. The cheapest option is to travel to Charleroi train station and use the provided airport shuttle service (bus A), which is included on the same ticket. Taxis are available but, again, this can be expensive costing some EUR 85, although you can get prebooked or shared transfer options for less.

• Antwerp International Airport | www.antwerp-airport.be | +32 (0)3 285 6500 LIÈGE Liège Airport mainly offers holiday destination flights. By public transport you can reach the airport by train (Liège Guillemins) and then taxi, or by TEC bus No. 57 (not available weekends and public holidays) or No. 53. • Liège Airport | +32 (0)4 234 8411 | www.liegeairport.com TAXIS Taxis may not take you off the street if they are too close to one of their special waiting ranks, where you should go to take a cab. All taxis are metered and have different tariffs according to whether you are in the city centre or the outskirts. You can arrange a taxi or transfer by phone, and pay set fees for certain longer trips (such as to the airport). All information, including the driver number, should be clearly displayed inside the taxi. Tips are included in the meter price. The Brussels-Capital region also runs a shared taxi service called ‘Collecto’ (www.collecto.org) from 11pm to 6am, for EUR 5–6 per person. You can book by calling 02 800 3636, and wait at any of their pick-up places loctated at some 200 STIB stops. BRUSSELS • Brussels Region Taxi Department | 0800 94001 • Taxis Bleus | 3609 | www.taxis-bleus.be • Taxi Verts | 02 349 4949 | www.taxisverts.be ANTWERP • Antwerp Taxi | 03 238 3838 | www.antwerp-tax.be LIÈGE • Taxis Melkior | 04 252 2020 | www.melkior.be GENT • V-Tax | 09 222 2222 | www.v-tax.be

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TRANSPORT

DRIVING AND PARKING

Belgian car registration and licence can apply once you’re a Belgian resident. Driving in Belgium is the same as in most continental European nations, on the right hand side of the road. All car owners should carry a warning triangle, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, and a hi-visibility jacket or vest in their vehicle at all times, along with relevant licence, registration and insurance documentation. There are specific requirements in registering your car and paying the relevant taxes once you become a Belgian resident. DRIVING LICENCE If you are a European citizen, you do not need to obtain a separate Belgian licence if you already have a licence for your home country. Other foreigners residing in Belgium long-term may use an international driving licence initially, but are advised to apply for a valid Belgian driving licence when issued with an identity card. An application must be made at the driving licence service of your local commune, and can be done at the same time as your residence registration. It is required that you provide an existing driver’s licence, passport-type photographs and a residence permit. Expect to wait for several weeks before receiving the Belgian licence. Belgium has agreed with most countries to automatically exchange a foreign driver’s licence, however, other nationals may need to take a Belgian driving test to qualify. Non-EU nationals can check the government website for licence exchange rules: www.mobilit.fgov.be. The Belgian government allows a one-year grace period for those who need to pass a driving test, provided they have an international licence. Bear in mind that the minimum driving age in Belgium is 18, so those who are 17 or younger will not be unable to drive on their own, even if they have a licence in their home country. REGISTRATION TAX Once you are registered as a Belgian resident, the car you drive should also be registered in Belgium or you risk a fine. Registration tax in Belgium is for your number plate, which stays with you and not with the 62

car. After registering your car with the DIV (Direction des Immatriculations des Véhicules/Dienst voor Inschrijving van de Voertuigen), you will get the rear number plate in the post (EUR 30) and will have to arrange a copy. Regular inspections are required after registration, or after a car is four years old. If you brought your car from abroad, you will need the registration to be permanently moved. This may mean making modifications to the car to meet Belgian laws. There is a six-month period in which the registration can be made with the DIV (Direction des Immatriculations des Véhicules/Dienst voor Inschrijving van de Voertuigen), although it is generally required once you register with your local commune. An import tax will also apply at customs, about 10 percent of the value of the vehicle plus VAT. CIRCULATION TAX Circulation tax (taxe de mise en circulation/ belasting op inverkeerstelling) is a one-off payment made upon the purchase of a new or used car, based on the power of the engine. This is designed to curb the use of fuel-heavy cars, so check the tax bracket you fall into when buying. ROAD TAX Your annual road tax is also based on the power of your engine. It is payable annually and is higher on a second car. SPEED LIMITS General speed limits are 30–50km/h in builtup areas, 90km/h out of town and 120km/h on motorways and four-lane roads. On entering any town or village, the speed limit comes into effect at the white background signboard bearing the community’s name. Radar speed traps are common, particularly on the highway, where drivers are more tempted to speed. TRAFFIC INFORMATION Traffic congestion is common in Belgium. For traffic information, you can contact the number for all of Belgium (0900 10 280), or the regional authority: Flanders 0800 122 66; Brussels 0800 940 01; Wallonia: 0800 119 01.

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TRANSPORT

PARKING

Parking in town centres is controlled by parking meters, or in so-called blue zones by using a special disc (showing the time of arrival), which can be bought from supermarkets, newsagents or tobacconists. If using meters, a ticket must be bought from a machine and placed clearly on the dashboard, showing valid hours. Watch out for temporary signs left by the commune to indicate that the road needs to be kept clear for road works or the like. Ignore these at your peril as

your car will be towed away. You can’t park less than 15 meters from tram and bus stops, either. Certain very busy streets are marked with a red triangle stating Axe Rouge/Ax Rode, meaning that no parking is permitted from 7am to 9.30am and from 4pm to 6pm. Additionally, a yellow line on the curb indicates no parking. Residents can also apply for a municipal parking card that allows parking within a certain distance of their residence. Check your local municipality details. In Brussels capital, this application is free for one car per family and paid thereafter.

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OUT AND ABOUT

Belgium is a trove of quirky and cultural experiences. There’s plenty of reason to celebrate Belgium’s eccentric carnivals, specialist beer industry, art-house cinema scene, and excellent shopping facilities. Then when you need a break, Belgium is just a hop from numerous local and international destinations. Here you’ll find a range of activities to dig into Belgium’s culture.

BARS

Beer and bar life are an ingrained part of Belgian culture. Belgium’s traditional and trendy bars are perfect for discovering a slice of local life and impressing your visitors over a pint of Witbier. BRUSSELS A la Mort Subite | Rue Montagne aux Herbes Potageres 7 For a slice of old Brussels life, this cavernous and rowdy bar doesn’t lack for atmosphere with long rows of tables for chattering, yellowing walls, and its own Manneken Pis. It is the perfect place for a Kriek on draught and a quick bite. Le Bier Circus | Rue de l’Enseignement 57 As the name implies, this basic emporium of beer stocks a couple hundred varieties, all bound in a special beer menu. There’s a unique glass collection to match the rare and unusual beers, plus a cosy tasting corner. Moeder Lambic Original | Rue de la Savoie 68 Sitting in the shadow of the St Gillie town hall, this tiny wooden tavern with benches and scrubbed tables has a beer menu with some of the rarer bottles costing as much as vintage wines. Its more modern sister bar, Moeder Lambic Fontainas, is situated at Place Fontainas 8, is great for beer tasting. Cirio | Rue de la Bourse 18 Opened in 1886, a minute from the Grand Place and you land in the 19th century, with the bar’s original art nouveau wallpaper and fittings. A thorough selection of mostly bottled beer is supplemented by the famous half-en-half, a mixed glass of still and sparkling wine. Le Fleur en Papier Dore | Rue des Alexiens 55 This old bar, on a steep hill just below the Sablon, was the hangout of the Brussels Surrealists, and their scribbles and drawing can still be seen on the walls. It was under threat of closure until a group of die-hards clubbed together to save it for posterity. 64

A La Becasse | Rue de Tabora 11 This family-owned bar since 1877 is situated close to the Grand Place and one oldest bars in downtown Brussels, with traditional wooden decor and long benches to accommodate drinkers. La Porte Noire | Rue des Alexiens 67 This atmospheric cellar bar is popular with hip young locals and foreigners, and regular live performances make it perfect for a rowdy night out. Besides a decent beer menu, you’ll find one of the better whisky selections in the city. ANTWERP Den Engel | Grote Markt 3 ‘The Angel’ is as much a part of Antwerp life as Rubens and fashion. Situated in the main square, this historic bar has no pretensions, no grand style, but the usual crowds give it a buzzy edge. Kulminator | Vleminckveld 32 This is a classic bar renowned for its range of beers – more than 500 in bottles, plus a huge choice on draught – including vintage beers some decades old. Tiny and cosy, it isn’t the easiest to find tucked away in a side street. De Vagant | Reyndersstraat 25 This is where to go for a good glass of Genever (or Jenever), the fiery gin-like spirit. There are 200 types on offer, with a restaurant upstairs serving food. Take lessons from the locals – they sip rather than down it in one. BRUGES Brugs Beertje | Kemelstraat 5 Beertje is like a Dutch brown cafe – dark, moody and atmospheric. The beer menu offers some 300 beers, although be sure to sample the beer of the month – the Hairy Bikers did likewise when visiting Bruges’ ‘Little Bear’. Cafe Vlissinghe | Blekersstraat 2 The oldest pub in Bruges has quenched thirsts since 1515. Tucked down a side street, the decor and interior retain a sense of history. Try a game of boules in the garden during the summer.

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OUT AND ABOUT

GHENT De Dulle Griet | Vrijdagsmarkt 50 The Griet took a leap of faith many years ago and became the first bar to specialise in Flemish beers. Because of that it gets its fair share of tourists but locals, too. You may be asked to exchange a beer for a shoe, which then gets hauled into the air in a basket where it hangs until the drinker has paid up and returned their glass. (This quaint tradition

CINEMAS

The mega UGC (www.ugc.be) and Kinepolis (www. kinepolis.be) chains dominate the cinema scene. Their multi-screen complexes show mainstream films mostly in the original language, although subtitled movies and those specifically broadcast in a particular language are clearly labelled by a coded system. The Cinenews website (www.cinenews.be) is a great resource for up-todate listings. Brussels also has an important art house circuit showing Belgian and world cinema. Actors Studio Petite rue des Bouchers 16 | 02 512 1696 This nostalgic cinema is hidden by the lobby of Floris Arlequin Hotel, so follow the posters to find it. There’s a good mix of Hollywood movies and independent films, often in the original language with French and Dutch subtitles, so do check if it’s a foreign film and your only language is English. Adventure Cinema www.cinema-aventure.be | Rue des Fripiers 57 | 02 219 9202 One of Brussels’ oldest operating cinemas, recent renovations cost almost a million to restore it to its former 50s glory. In the red, blue or violet rooms, you can watch a good mix of international blockbuster and art house films in original version. Cinema Galeries www.galeries.be | Galerie de la Reine 26 | 02 514 7498 This cinema is located in the old premises of the cherished independent film house, Cinema Arenberg, with upgraded screens and digital projectors. This cinema was where Belgium’s first public film was shown in 1895. It shows mostly contemporary films. Cinematek www.cinematek.be | Rue Baron Horta 9 | 02 551 1900 On the film scene since 1938, formerly named

evidently stops you walking out with one of the specialised beer glasses.) Stadsbrouwerij Gruut | Grote Huidevettershoek 10 The Gruut brewery might not have a jazzy scene like Café Den Turk, Gent’s oldest bar, or the buzz of popular Waterhuis aan de Bierkant, but it does serve a unique Belgian beer that uses a mixture of herbs (gruit/gruut) instead of hops. Visitors can tour the brewery.

Cinemathèque Royal de Belgique (Royal Belgium Film Archive), Cinematek restores and archives old films and gives regular public showings. The film museum is housed in the BOZAR (Palais des Beaux-Arts). Cinema Vendome www.cinema-vendome.be Chaussée de Wavre 18, Ixelles | 02 502 3700 Don’t let first impressions put you off this 50s cinema, as you might not be impressed when walking into the somewhat dark and ageing entrance. However, there is a certain charm and intimacy to watching films here, and an eclectic film selection. Located in the Porte de Namur area. Flagey www.flagey.be | Place Sainte Croix | 02 641 1020 A tiny but stylish cinema in the wonderful Art Deco Flagey arts complex. In its short life it has gained a reputation for being a true world cinema. It frequently shows movie cycles in collaboration with Cinematex, as well as unreleased films and documentaries. Nova www.nova-cinema.org | Rue d’Arenberg 3 | 02 511 2477 More than 15 years as a non-profit organisation, Nova is a benchmark for alternate and unconventional independent film. Movies usually have a social context and an edgy underground feel. There is a range of monthly events, including open screen nights when anyone can show their short-film projects. Styx Rue de l’Arbre Bénit 72 | 02 512 2102 This old neighbourhood cinema is the smallest in Brussels (two rooms in a townhouse), but its size belies the quality of its programs, from themed seasons to modern Belgian films. It also runs impressive retrospective seasons showing classic European films.

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WEEKEND GETAWAYS Nowhere in Belgium is too far, so it is easy to escape for a rural or beach retreat. With most destinations easily accessible in under a few hours, Belgium is ideal for weekend exploring. TAKE THE PLUNGE Let the original Spa take away the stress of modern life. The eponymous town of Spa is located in the heart of the Ardennes. Its sulphurous waters were originally discovered by the Romans, although it was another half century before it became famous as a resort. After falling into disrepair and disregard in the 19th-century, Spa has been transformed since 2003 into a magnificent therapy and relaxation centre, worthy of a new millennium. The water is a relaxing temperature of around 32 degrees Celsius. DIP YOUR TOES The Belgian coastline is only 65 kilometers long, but it embraces the best of kiss-me-quick seaside activities, sophisticated living and wildlife sanctuaries. Ostend is a great place to head if you want a taste of royal Belgium, once known as the Queen of Belgian Resorts. The Fort Napoleon, built in 1812, is the only intact Napoleonic fortress left in Europe, while Leopold’s 390-metre gallery can be found at the western end of the promenade. Without doubt the crowning glory of the postwar period is the Ostend Casino, built in 1953. You can enjoy Ostend’s attractions during a tour of the city on the miniature train or by horsedrawn carriage (www.visitoostende.be/en). Knokke-Heist is a much more upmarket resort, where wealthy Belgians keep swanky seaside homes and where the shops, restaurants and beach clubs are all designer. A short way north, close to the Dutch border, is Zwin, a protected area of natural beauty.

route. Think of it as a coastal hop-on hop-off tour, with many beautiful sights along the way. WANDERING THE ARDENNES The Ardennes, in the south of the country, covers the three provinces of Namur, Luxembourg and Liège and is an area of outstanding beauty. The gentle but rugged countryside of the Ardennes is full of heritage, history and charm, but it equally serves as an ideal location for truly experiencing the natural environment whether it be by walking, climbing, cycling, horse riding, fishing, canoeing, or even kayaking. It can get quite touristy in the summer, but there’s always a spot to escape to, especially if you have a car. In the winter months the Ardennes become a haven for skiing enthusiasts, with the natural contours of the land creating three alpine pistes. The highest point, the Baraque de Fraiture, stands at 652 metres, making it ideal for downhill and cross country skiing. See www.wallonie-tourisme.be. Also in Namur, Dinant is a spectacular day trip from Brussels. Overlooked by its hilltop citadel on a 100-foot cliff and dating back to 1051, it’s an idyllic location along the river Meuse. The local tourist office offers downloadable audio tours to seven of their historical sights (www.dinanttourisme.be). Besides a number of abbeys, the Collegiate and Notre-Dame churches and the grotto of Dinant with its rock formations are other popular attractions, making it perfect for a day out for couples or groups with a love of history. St-Hubert also has a railway station and is a perfect base for setting out on cycling or walking activities. It’s named after the patron saint of hunters, which explains why this is the centre of hunt land and why its restaurants specialise in game.

A great way to explore the enchanting Belgian coastline is by the Kusttram (www.dekusttram. be), a coastal tram that runs its entire length from De Panne on the French border to Knokke-Heist close to the Dutch border. Trams run through Ostende every 10 minutes during the summer and make almost 70 stops along the entire stretch of the North Sea coastline, calling in at 15 towns en 66

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OUT AND ABOUT

LIBRARIES AND BOOKSTORES Some Belgian libraries have small foreign language sections, and stock English language books and newspapers. You can also find free internet access for registered users, large print books for the visually impaired and DVDs in original languages. Most libraries usually close Sundays. Brussels can point to a large number of libraries that offer a range of public services. The Royal Library of Belgium houses the famous Fetis archives and, remarkably, every single book published in the country or written by a Belgian citizen. It holds concerts, as well as storytelling for children during school holidays, and runs guided tours. Meanwhile, the Children’s Library contains a large selection of books and comics in English for children and teenagers, with titles that are constantly being renewed. Also of interest for children is the Centre Crousse, which offers a toy library.

Away from libraries, Pêle Mêle is a store selling second-hand English books, video games, CDs and DVDs, and a range of English and international books can be found at Sterling Books, Waterstones and Passa Porta, to name a few. In Antwerp the Permeke library runs a book club where readers are invited to poetry readings twice a month. In fact, using the libraries in Antwerp can benefit you further as you can collect points on your ‘A Card’, a loyalty card for use at leisure and cultural facilities in the city. The Permeke library also has a reading session for children every Sunday. Similar reading clubs and children’s activities are held throughout the year in Gent’s libraries. Liège’s central library may have fewer modern English language books but an excellent choice of CDs and DVDs.

English

books

in the heart of

Brussels

From gripping fiction to beautiful children’s books and everything in-between, find your perfect book at Waterstones. With our friendly, expert booksellers and unbeatable range, you’ll find everything you need and more. Waterstones, Blvd Adolphe Maxlaan 71-75 1000 Brussels +32 2 2192708 Monday - Saturday: 9am - 7pm Sunday: 10.30am - 6pm

Brussels_Advert.indd 1

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OUT AND ABOUT

LIBRARIES ANTWERP Openbare Bibliotheek Permeke (Public library) www.permeke.org | De Coninckplein 25–26, 2060 Antwerp +32 (0)3 221 1333

Children’s Library, Centre Communautaire Crousse www.thechildrenslibrary.be Rue au Bois 11, 1150 Brussels

BRUSSELS

Library of the British Council | www.britishcouncil.be

Royal Library of Belgium | www.kbr.be Keizerslaan 4, 1000 Brussels | +32 (0)2 519 5311 Brussels Central Library | www.bibcentrale-bxl.be Rue des Riches Claires 24, 1000 Brussels | +32 (0)2 548 2610 French community libraries | www.cfwb.be Find locations: 0800 20 000 Muntpunt library (Flemish community) | www.muntpunt.be Munt 6, 1000 Brussels | +32 (0)2 278 1111

SHOPPING

Belgium’s shopping has reasonable prices and a decent supply of international goods. It is a fulfilling experience, with luxury shopping arcades and pedestrianised streets in the major cities, to quirky antique and flea markets dotting most towns. Hundreds of open markets operate in small city squares throughout Belgium in the week, with the biggest markets usually held Sundays. Otherwise, there is plenty of large super and hypermarkets to choose from, such as Aldi, Carrefour, Lidl, and SPAR, many of which have international sections. Supermarkets tend to close on Sundays, but usually open for at least 12 hours every other day, until around 8pm. Home and garden stores are easily accessible. Brico is Belgium’s largest DIY and gardening chain, and you can find anything for the house here. Delhaize has the distinct edge on internet shopping and home delivery. Caddyhome stocks most of what you would find in the supermarket while Wineworld specialises in an impressive selection of world wine delivered to your door. When it comes to furniture and furnishing, logistics can be an issue. Many of the bigger suppliers are located out of town with poor 68

GENT Centrale Openbare Bibliotheek | www.gent.be Graaf van Vlaanderenplein 40, 9000 Gent +32 (0)9 266 7000 LIÈGE Bibliothèque Chiroux | www.provincedeliege.be Rue des Croisiers 15, 4000 Liège | +32 (0)4 232 8686

public transport, while city centres comprise mostly cheaper (less-tasteful) goods, or highend designer pieces – and not a lot in between. Habitat is available in some major centres, and Ikea or Hema is always an option. Most of the larger stores offer lowest price guarantees and tend to have decent websites for online comparison shopping. For cutting-edge design, Antwerp is considered the fashion hub, with many designers working and selling there, otherwise, there are scores of charming local and independent stores to be found while exploring the pretty towns around Belgium. There is a number of expat and international shops around, particularly in Brussels. For those outside of Brussels, most will take orders online or by phone. Almost every nationality is catered for and it makes things a little easier when trying to find that little slice of home, wherever that may be. Shops are generally open Monday to Saturday, with many inner-city shops preferring a 10am opening. They are exceptionally open on certain Sundays allowed by law, for example, before Christmas, although you will see several independent shops open most Sundays. Sales take place in January and July – dates are strictly government controlled.

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OUT AND ABOUT

FOOD FROM HOME

Spanish ABC Mateos | Rue Sainte Catherine 46 www.poissonnerie-abc-mateos.com Economato Marisol | 02 521 4736 Europe esplanade 9

A small selection of American, British, Spanish, Italian and kosher products can be found in the larger Delhaize, Carrefour or Lidl supermarkets. It is also worth checking Chinese supermarkets for specific British or American brands. Otherwise, specialty supermarkets and stores listed here can help satisfy your cravings.

España Calidade | www.espanacalidade.be Avenue de la Porte de Hal 63

BRUSSELS British Stonemanor | www.stonemanor.uk.com Steenhofstraat 28, Everberg Rue Theophille Delbar 8a, Waterloo

American Graré | www.theamericanfoodstore.com Prins Boudewijnlaan 175, Wilrijk

Chinese Kam Yuen | www.kamyuen.be Rue de la Vierge Noire 2–4 French Oliviers & Co | www.oliviers-co.com Anvers | Brussels | Liege | Namur Rob | www.rob-brussels.be Boulevard de la Woluwe 28 Irish Jack O’Shea | www.jackoshea.com Rue le Titien 30 | Rue Sainte-Catherine 24 Italian Casa Italiana | casaitaliana.webnode.com Rue Archimède 37–39 Piola.libri | www.piolalibri.be Rue Franklin 66–68

ANTWERP Chinese Sun Wah Supermarket | www.sun-wah.be Van Wesenbekestraat 16–18

Jewish Hoffy’s | www.hoffys.be Lange Kievitstraat 52 Mediterranean Exotic International Market Oude Vaartplaats | Saturday 8am to 4pm

LISTINGS

de Rand | www.derand.be Kaasmarkt 75, 1780 Wemmel +32 (0)2 456 9784 | welkom@derand.be

BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts | www.bozar.be Rue Ravenstein 23, 1000 Bruxelles +32 (0)2 507 8200 Waterstones | www.waterstones.com Boulevard Adolphe Max 71–75, 1000 Brussel +32 (0)2 219 2708

Japanese Tagawa | www.tagawa.eu Chaussée de Vleurgat 119 Mediterranean Midi Market Around Gare du Midi | Sunday 6am to 2pm Scandinavian/Nordic Ikea | www.ikea.be Gourmet Food & Gifts Rue Archimède 59, Brussels | 02 735 1138 Allé Petit Paris 5, Waterloo | 02 353 0430

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LISTINGS AND INDEX

GROUPS AND CLUBS Belgium’s selection of groups and clubs welcomes internationals with all types of interest Meet like like-minded expats to help you settle into Belgium, or join a business network to increase your chances of finding work. ARTS AND THEATRE •B  OZAR Centre for Fine Arts: www.bozar.be •B  ritish American Theatrical Society (BATS): www.batsantwerp.be •A  merican Theatre Company: www.atcbrussels.com •T  he English Comedy Club: ecc.theatreinbrussels.com •E  nglish-language theatre in Brussels: www.theatreinbrussels.com • I rish Theatre Group: www.irishtheatregroup.com •V  iewfinders English-Speaking Photography Club: www.viewfinders.be EXPAT ASSOCIATIONS AMERICAN • American Club of Brussels: www.americanclubbrussels.org • American Women’s Club of Antwerp: www.awcantwerp.org •A  merican Women’s Club of Brussels: www.awcb.org BRITISH •A  ntwerp British Community Association:

www.abca-antwerp.be • Antwerp British and International Women: www.abiw.org •B  ritish & Commonwealth Women’s Club of Brussels: bcwcb.weebly.com •B  russels British Community Association: www.britishinbrussels.com •R  oyal British Legion: www.britishlegion.be •W  elsh Society of Brussels: cymdeithas.blogspot.com OTHER •A  ntwerp Indian Association: www.antwerpindians.be • I rish Club of Belgium: www.irishclub.be •J  ewish Community of Antwerp: www.shomre-hadas.be •P  rofessional Women International: www.pwi.be • Women’s International Club Brussels: www.wicbrussels.com

SOCIAL AND CHARITABLE • Antwerp Heritage Volunteer Group: www.adfas.org • Brussels Hash House Harriers: www.bmph3.com • Caledonian Society of Brussels: www.calsoc.be •L  ions Club of Belgium: www.lions.be | www.lionsheraldic.net • Rotary International: www.rotary.belux.org RELIGIOUS SERVICES ANTWERP • Antwerp International Protestant Church +32 (0)3 644 2046 | www.aipchurch.org • St Boniface Anglican Church +32 (0)3 239 3339 | www.boniface.be • International Baptist Church Antwerp +32 (0)496 822 6650 BRUSSELS AND SURROUNDS • Beth Hillel Synagogue (non orthodox)

+32 (0)2 332 2528 | www.beth-hillel.org • Cornerstone International Church

cornerstone@cornerstone.be | www.cornerstone.be • Holy Trinity Brussels (Anglican)

+32 (0)2 511 7183 | www.holytrinity.be • International Baptist Church

+32 (0)2 731 9900 | www.ibcbrussels.org • International Protestant Church

+32 (0)2 673 0581 | www.ipcbrussels.org • Our Lady of Mercy Parish

+32 (0)2 354 5343 | www.olm.be • St Andrew’s Church of Scotland

www.churchofscotland.be • St Anthony’s Parish (Roman Catholic)

+32 (0)2 720 1970 | www.saint-anthony.be • St Paul’s Tervuren (Anglican)

+32 (0)2 767 3435 | www.stpaulstervuren.be

MUSIC, SONG AND DANCE

GENT

•B  OZAR Centre for Fine Arts: www.bozar.be

• St John’s Anglican Church | www.saintjohnsghent.com

•B  russels Choral Society: www.brusselschoralsociety.com •B  russels Light Opera Company: www.bloc-brussels.be •B  russels Madrigal Singers: www.brusselsmadrigals.be • I nternational Chorale of Brussels:

www.internationalchorale.com

LIÈGE • English Church of Liège-Anglican

netministries.org/see/churches/ch00654 +32 (0)8 584 4482 OOSTENDE • The English Church | www.echob.be

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LISTINGS AND INDEX

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS IN BELGIUM 2015 January 1: ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ New Years Day. April 5/6: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Easter Sunday/Monday. May 1: ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������Labour Day. May 14:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ascension Day (40 days after Easter). May 25:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Whit Monday (seventh Monday after Easter. Also known as Pentecost Monday). July 11:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . *Celebration of the Golden Spurs (Day of the Flemish Community). July 21:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . National Day (Belgian Independence Day). August 15:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Assumption Day (Assumption of Mary). September 27: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . *Day of the French-speaking Community. November 1: ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������All Saints’ Day. November 11: ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� Armistice Day. November 15:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . *Day of the German-speaking community. December 25: ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ Christmas Day. OTHER IMPORTANT DATES March 29:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Clocks go forward one hour as daylight saving time (DST) starts. May 10: �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� Mother’s Day. June 14: �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� Father’s Day. October 25: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Clocks go back one hour (DST ends). November 15:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dynasty Day, Feast of the Dynasty or King’s Feast (not a public holiday but most government offices close). December 6:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . St Nicholas Day (when Sinterklass/Saint Nicolas fills children’s shoes with presents). *Observed only by the respective communities.

SCHOOL HOLIDAYS School calendars vary according to region. You can find dates for Wallonia-Bruxelles at www.enseignement.be, or for Flanders at onderwijs. vlaanderen.be. BELGIAN FESTIVALS Belgium’s cities burst alive with colourful festivals throughout the year, perfect to see on a weekend trip. Belgium’s zany and colourful festivals celebrate everything from bears and beer to witches and giants – some dating hundreds of years old – alongside a good collection of film, music and theatre festivals. A full list of festivals can be found on Expatica.com. Carnival is an important part of Belgian cultural heritage and happens every year at Lent, mostly in smaller towns and villages in Wallonia. The most famous carnival is in Binche, not far from Charleroi (www.carnavaldebinche.be). The Carnaval de Binche is several hundred years old and has been listed by UNESCO because of its cultural significance and longevity. There are strict rules for taking part;

only men born in Binche can don the Gilles costume. The costumes are wonderfully outrageous and carry strange, secret symbols. The festivities last three days (the best day is Shrove Tuesday), culminating in a parade where boys throw blood oranges into the crowd as gifts. In Malmédy, its carnival involves masked men in hats decorated with ostrich feathers, grabbing at onlookers with their long wooden pincers hapetchâr (flesh snatchers). They won’t let go until you say sorry. While in nearby Stavelot, the Carnaval de la Laetare des Blancs-Moussis is renowned for its Lenten parade of a couple hundred local men clad in white monks’ robes and hoods with long red noses, making their way through the town throwing confetti and swinging at bystanders with inflated dried pig bladders. In Geraardsbergen on the first Sunday of Lent is the Tonnekensbrand. The mayor, councillors and aldermen are presented with a glass of wine with small live fish inside. They drink a mouthful and swallow a fish before pretzels are handed out, iconic of Christian symbolism.

BELGIUM EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE 2015 | WWW.EXPATICA.COM

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ADVERTISERS INDEX A

P

Antwerp International School. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39

Partena Business&Expats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53

B

R

be.Welcome . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

Rotterdam School of Management Erasmus University. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . inside back cover

BBF Serviced Apartments. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 BNP Paribas Fortis. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27, back cover BSB British School of Brussels. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 BEPS International School. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40

S St John . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 St. Paul’s British Primary School. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Symbio. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

D de Rand. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

T Taxpatria. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

E European University. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 Expatica Jobs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 Expatica Date . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 EZ-Relocation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

Thon Residence. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Transworld . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

U UBI United Business Institutes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 UIBS United International Business Schools. . . . . 45

I ING. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 International School of Breda. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 International School of Brussels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Internationale Deutsche Schule Brüssel . . . . . . . . . . . 37

V Vesalius College . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Vlerick Business School . . . . . . . . . . . . inside front cover

W Waterstones. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67

M Map Relocations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

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WWW.EXPATICA.COM | BELGIUM EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE 2015


KNOKKE-HEIST

OOSTENDE DE MOEREN (-3 METERS)

RESTAURANT DE KARMELIET RESTAURANT HERTOG JAN

RESTAURANT HOF VAN CLEVE

THE ATOMNIUM

PAIRI DAIZA

CARNIVAL OF B

DINA OF


SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS

SIGNAL DE BOTRANGE (694 METERS)

BINCHE

ANT: BIRTHPLACE THE SAXOPHONE

BELGIAN ARDENNES


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Expat Survival Guide BE 2015  

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