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GIUM L E B T A EXP 7 1 0 2 E D I U G L A V I V R SU LOVE. . K R O W . E LIV





PROGRAMMES THAT GET RESULTS. HERE’S THE FACTS Last year, a total of 8,459 entrepreneurs and managers completed programmes at Vlerick Business School. 3,796 chose one of the 69 open programmes. Vlerick also developed 140 customised programmes specifically for 4,663 participants from Europe, China, South Africa, India, Russia and the US. These programmes were for international and local companies, including 3M, AGC, Aliaxis, Besix, Bostik, Carrefour, DSM, Etex, J&J, KBC, Mondelez, Nestlé, Rabobank, Tenax, Umicore, USG People and Vesuvius.

When will you join us?


WELKOM, BIENVENUE AND WILLKOMMEN TO BELGIUM! Relocating abroad is a thrilling, life-changing experience. But before you can enjoy your new home, practical aspects must be settled. Building a life within a foreign culture amidst an unknown language can be a daunting process — so, where do you begin? The Expat Survival Guide and assist you with your first essential steps: organising permits, finding a home and job, setting up finances and healthcare, or enrolling in education. It offers practical information on starting up in Belgium and directs you to the people, companies and institutions that can make your journey smooth sailing. Once you have begun settling into your expat life,, complementing this guide, will help you get to know Belgium through a selection of relevant English news, weekly features from experienced expats and lifestyle tips on Belgian culture. Our detailed articles will inform you of necessary steps to take regarding recent and upcoming policy changes in Belgian finance, taxes, employment and immigration. You’ll also find strong support from our useful, free housing and job search tools, Ask-theExpert service, classifieds, A–Z listings, events lists and expat dating service. Our goal is to provide all the information you need to settle with ease into your new Belgian lifestyle.

2  INTRODUCTION SURVIVAL CHECKLIST 4   RELOCATION: Residence permits, Embassies, 6   Relocation providers HOUSING: Finding a home, Renting, Buying, 9   Accommodation agencies, Where to live FINANCE: Banking, Insurance, Taxation 20   28  EDUCATION: Education system, International schools, Higher education 41  FAMILY ESSENTIALS: Marriage, Partnerships  MPLOYMENT: Finding a job, Work permits, 42  E Labour law, Social security  EALTHCARE: Healthcare system, Emergency 46  H numbers, Fitness clubs SETTING UP HOME: Connecting utilities, 50   Telephone, internet and television, Main providers 52   TRANSPORT: Public transport, Airports and taxis, Driving and parking

ENJOY living in Belgium!

OUT AND ABOUT: Bars, Cinemas, Libraries, 56   Weekend getaways, Shopping, Food from home

The Expatica Team LIVE. WORK. LOVE.


This guide is published by, a leading media organisation providing news and information for the international community. Published February 2017 – In memory of Antoine van Veldhuizen. Expatica Communications B.V. Wilhelminastraat 15 2011 VH Haarlem Netherlands | Editorial: Audrey Sykes Layout & design: Benjamin Langman Publisher: Mark Welling Advertising sales: Distribution: Photo ©


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.




Multicultural Belgium is the perfect backdrop for international relocation. Cosmopolitan. Central. Charming. It may be a small country in size but Belgium and its population of 11 million plays a large role in international demographics, and consistently ranks among the top places to live in the world. Belgium’s multicultural makeup gives its capital Brussels an edgy vibe with an array of global services and facilities on offer to ease in even the newest expat. It’s the home of the European Union, a short trip to a number of international capitals, 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.

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 owneroccupied housing, both within the city’s 19 communes and in the suburbs, ranging from studio apartments to villas. Further afield, there’s an equally wide choice of property in more rural

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



residential areas, and growing expat communities in Belgium’s other main centres, which are covered in this guide under the Housing section. Belgium has an excellent standard of healthcare, too. High quality medical care is widely available, enhanced by large university hospitals. It’s also considered cheaper than the United States, and a growing option for medical tourism from surrounding countries. It’s also relatively affordable. Brussels, where many expats choose to base themselves, is cheaper than other western European capitals such as London, Copenhagen, Vienna, and Zurich. On top of that, the country boasts a good public transport system with a smooth-running integrated network of buses, metros and trams. BELGIUM IS A COUNTRY TO 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 for Michelin-starred restaurants. But it’s not just highbrow dining that the Belgians excel in, Brussels is known for its street food, mouthwatering pub menus and corner bakery delights. Belgium is unlikely to disappoint on the cultural and entertainment front. Besides impressive museums, a lively theatre scene, and some of the most picturesque historical towns in Europe, Belgium has more castles per kilometre than any other country in the world. There are also a number of colourful festivals, not least the folkloric, UNESCOrecognised Carnival.

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 best-tasting 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.

But if you find the challenge of understanding the differences between region, language and ethnicity complicated, you’re not alone. Some years ago, the 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.


On 22 March 2016, Belgium was brought to a standstill with the deadliest act of terrorism in the country’s history. Known as the 2016 Brussels Bombings, 32 civilians were killed and over 100 injured at Brussels Airport and Maalbeek metro station. In the wake of these attacks, the Belgian police and security has increased measures to new levels (for example, upping spending on security services by €400 million). While this has helped the city gain its normality, a cautious undercurrent remains as people of Brussels adjust to a new reality. Thankfully, Belgium’s laid-back, humorous attitude shows the strength and bravery of such a quirky and unique nation.

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. 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. Just like the weather, 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.


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.




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 simplify starting your new life in Belgium. More information is provided on 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 begin the process 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 in our Immigration Visas and our Employment section. EXPAT BENEFITS Find out if you are eligible for the special expatriate tax exemption, especially 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 as soon as possible, and opening a Belgian bank account will require your passport or residence ID, and proof of residential address.




Our Housing section will help you decide whether to rent or buy, as well as offers tips on where to live in Belgium, and mortgage options for expats. For instance, due to the peculiarities of the Belgian rental market, long-term contracts can actually be more flexible than short-term ones.

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.



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 50.

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 52.



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 28.

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.

JOB HUNTING Read our Employment section to first see if you need a work permit for Belgium. Once you have your permit (or don’t need one), our jobhunting tips and information on Belgian labour law will help you get started.


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 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 -


Many administration functions are carried out by the local communes.

Belgium is run on a local level by municipalities/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). Family members, even if they are not from the EU/EEA or Switzerland themselves, can also




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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 long-term 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 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 of 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 non-EEA/Swiss nationals are restricted to purposes 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.

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. Visa conditions can be found on the relevant government webpages below: Immigration Office of the Federal Public Service (FPS) WTC, Tour II, Chaussée d’Anvers 59b, 1000 Brussels +32 (0)2 793 8000 | Department of Federal Immigration Chaussée d’Anvers 59B 1000 Brussels +32 (0)2 206 1599

• 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,


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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, 10 percent in Flanders), 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, short-term 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 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 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 ( or English online sites such as The Bulletin ( or Expatica’s property listings at housing. 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.




RENTING A HOME IN BELGIUM The standard ‘nine-year’ lease is more flexible than a short-term contract.

increased at each three-year term, so you may hear it referred to as a 3-6-9 due to these periodic increases.

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.

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.

LEASE 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


All leases in Belgium have to be registered with the Receiver of Registrations, Ministry of Finance (Enregistrement, Ministere 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 irritation 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 pre-existing scratch in the bathtub, simply because they didn’t notice the damage when signing the original inventory. 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

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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. 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,

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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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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 €740 (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 undesirable areas. Second, there are fixed stateagreed 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 to 20 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. Have a look at 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. MORTGAGES There is a full set of efficient 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 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. 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 bear in mind that mortgage offers have a time limit.


Banks have been more reluctant to lend since the global financial crisis in 2008, 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.



Beyond Brussels there are plenty of cities and communes that make great homes for expats. 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. Antwerp’s focus on fashion and cultural tourism has earned it the title of a trendy city in travel articles. There are also numerous business establishments owing to the port and industrial development, plus a young population drawn to the university facilities and rising job

opportunities. 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 Antwerp with its residential flavour and gardened houses. Single expats tend to live in the midst of it all downtown 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 Little Island (‘t Eilandje), surrounded by the docklands in the north and close to Antwerp’s giant contemporary

museum, MAS. Those with an urban lifestyle favour apartments in the area between the river and Nationalestraat, known as St Andries, which has the feel of a village within the city. GHENT Often called Belgium’s most beautiful city, historic Ghent is growing in popularity with its dynamic mix of cosmopolitan and provincial town feel. Ghent is a prominent student town but there is a good mix of locals, students and expats who call it home. The 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. 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. 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. TERVUREN In this officially Dutch-speaking area, you’ll also 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 Frenchspeaking 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 expats 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 outof-town shopping centres.


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. ETTERBEEK Best known for the area at the top end of the Parc du Cinquantenaire, Etterbeek is convenient and filled with attractive streets lined with early 20th-century townhouses. Home to many European institutions, it has fantastic public transport facilities. The slightly higher housing prices but good availability of houses and apartments, and international community, 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. 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.

Evere 02 247 6262


Forest 02 370 2211

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 Below is a list of communes in Brussels, with phone numbers and websites (mostly in French and Flemish) about services, council members, nearby police stations, hospitals, etc. For more information in English of each of these neighborhoods go to www. “About The Region” and “To Communes of The Region” sections.

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

Anderlecht 02 558 0800

Schaerbeek 02 244 7511

Auderghem 02 676 4811

Uccle 02 348 6511

Berchem-Sainte-Agathe 02 464 0411

Watermael-Boitsfort 02 674 7411

Brussels City 02 279 2211

Woluwe-Saint-Lambert 02 761 2711

Etterbeek 02 627 2111

Woluwe-Saint-Pierre 02 773 0511



  ExpaticaBelgium  @Expatica


Belgium is a pioneer of the cashless society.

Belgium is the major banking and financial centre on mainland Europe. Credit and debit 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 United Kingdom remain the outsiders. Although one and two euro cent coins are in circulation in many European countries, Belgium, The Netherlands, Finland and Ireland have phased out these small coins by allowing retailers to round goods up or down to the nearest five cents. Most likely these smaller coins will not be handed out as change (unlike bordering countries such


as Germany), although 5, 10, 20, 50 euro cents, and €1, €2 coins are still the norm. Notes include €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, €500, although most grocery stores and retail will not accept notes above €100. 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 can 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. 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.

Coming to work in a country with 200 days of rain is your choice

We will do our utmost to guide you financially. Moving to Belgium? ING offers all the banking and insurance services you need in your own language, even before you arrive. Call us on +32 2 464 66 64 or surf to

Banking, financial and/or insurance offer subject to acceptance by ING Belgium (or, where appropriate, the relevant insurance company) and to mutual agreement. Terms and conditions (regulations, rates, key information documents for investors or savers and other supplementary information) available from any ING branch or on ING Belgium SA/nv –Bank –avenue Marnix 24, B-1000 WWW.EXPATICA.COM Brussels –Brussels RPM/RPR –VAT: BE 0403.200.393 –BIC: BBRUBEBB –IBAN:2017 BE45 3109 1560 | BELGIUM EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE 21 2789. Insurance broker registered with the FSMA under the number 12381A. Publisher: Inge Ampe –Cours Saint-Michel 60, B-1040 Brussels.


BANKING The main Belgian banks are ING, BNP Paribas, Fortis and KBC, but there are many to choose from, including those offering specialised financial services for expats. Most websites include a branch finder. All the major banks offer their services in French, Dutch and English, and some expat services offer more. 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. Once the account is opened the bank will send you a Bancontact/Mister Cash debit card to your registered address, 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. 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. 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 Europe. 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 Cheques are more or less obsolete and can attract penal banking charges. They are not recommended, nor encouraged by banks in most of Europe. 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. Online banking is becoming more of the most popular method, and many mainstream banks offer smart phone apps to transfer money throughout Europe via phone as long as you have the account IBAN number of the recipient. 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. 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.


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. 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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Publisher: E. Jacqueroux, BNP Paribas Fortis SA/NV, Montagne du Parc/Warandeberg 3, 1000 Brussels, RPM Brussels, TVA BE 0403.199.702, FSMA n° 25.879A



INSURANCE Certain types of insurance are mandatory in Belgium, specifically health, home and car coverage. 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 SIS insurance 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 no-claim 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 full-time cleaner or nanny you must take out special low-cost liability insurance in case they injure themselves on the job, for instance, slipping on the stairs.


directly feel at home with our VIP service! In Belgium, you will benefit from one of the best health care systems in the world, including work disability compensations, maternity leave, special interventions for serious and/or chronic diseases etc. Each situation is subject to a specific procedure and varies according to your professional and family situation. Upon arriving in Belgium, one of your priorities should be to sign up with a health insurance company.

In most European countries, you are automatically enlisted to the social security. In Belgium, you must choose a health insurance company (mutualité/ziekenfonds). They are your intermediary between your medical needs and the reimbursements you are legally entitled to. Moreover, your health insurance company offers a whole range of health related advantages such as reimbursements for optical, prevention, vacation, etc.

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MANAGING YOUR HEALTH IN BELGIUM E.R. : Partenamut, Boulevard Louis Mettewie 74/76 - 1080 Bruxelles ; Partena Ziekenfonds, Sluisweg 2 - 9000 Gent - Document non contractuel. Seuls les statuts sont opposables. Janvier 2017. Partenamut et Partena Ziekenfonds, agents d’assurance (n° OCM 5003c et 5006c) pour la SMA Mutuelle Entraide Hospitalisation”, agréée sous le n° de code OCM 750/01 pour les branches 2 et 18.



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 of below that 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. Double taxation treaties exist to help relieve a Belgian tax resident from having to pay additional income tax to another country.


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 €8,710 regardless of marital status, with further exemptions for dependent children and a spouse. For 2015, marginal income tax starts at 25 percent, rising to 30 percent for income over €8,710, 40 percent over €12,400, 45 percent over €20,660, with a top limit of 50 percent for incomes above €37,870. Residents also pay municipal and regional taxes typically up to 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 €4,090. 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,


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. In 2016, an expatriate could receive €11,250 (managers) or €29,750 (scientists) free from taxation if it fell into the categories of cost of living (€2,500 limit), cost of housing, tax equalization and school fees (no cap). VAT 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. OTHER TAXES Homeowners pay a local property tax (précompte immobilier/ onroerende voor heffing), which is calculated on the presumed annual rental value (revenu 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.

Most goods and services have VAT (value added tax) 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. MORE 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




A wide array of childcare and education facilities cater to expat families.

In keeping with the many levels of national and local bureaucracy in Belgium, the state school system can seem like a minefield to newcomers trying to enroll their children. However, as Belgium is the capital of the European Union, 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 short-term 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 sponsors some music and art academies in larger cities for children to join. APPLYING FOR A SCHOOL The compulsory school age in Belgium is from six to 18 years, though children may start at age five if deemed ready, and pupils ages 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.

BEPS INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL Providing Quality International Education Developing Confident and Independent Learners Caring and Stimulating Environment for Children aged 2½ to 12

International Primary Curriculum Learning Support Extra Curricular Programme After School Care “When we are learning at BEPS we are engaged in a range of experiences to develop our knowledge, skills and understanding. Reflecting on these enables us to build our confidence to become independent learners for life.”

Av. Franklin Roosevelt, 23 1050 Brussels +32 (0)2 684 4311


Children are assessed at every level, from pre-primary 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.

many others. These schools offer the whole range of education from nursery to school-leaving age. They are typically private and therefore fee-paying, though many employers offer education support as part of a relocation benefits package.


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.

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 Catholic lines though their curricula, with certification recognised equally within the system. Religion plays a part in state education and students can also opt for 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


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 one to 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 four to 14 years. The British International School of Brussels (BISB) is a small, independent, fee financed primary school situated (aged 3 to 11 years) in the south of Schaerbeek. Most pupils undergo informal interviews with the Headteacher, and admission is also subject to the availability of spaces in the required year group. In 2016 there were around 120 children representing over 30 different nationalities, most of whom have experienced some relocation. Both ISB and BSB place great emphasis on sport and the arts, and run highly successful summer schools open to all. In Antwerp, the Antwerp British School offers an international curriculum for children ages


three 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 Celestin Freinet system follows this approach, whilst the Decroly schools separate the academic from the creative skills in a vertically streamed organisation, with younger children benefiting from the experience of older pupils. The Steiner schools place greater emphasis on the arts. The world-famous Montessori schools are well represented in Belgium and teach children in small, focused groups according

98% of families who visit BSB choose our school “ The learning opportunities that BSB provide for our children are unique. My children settled in quickly and are very happy!�

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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. 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 day-care 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, schoolbeginners 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.

The culmination of primary education is the attainment of a ‘Certificate of basic education’ (CEB) for the French community, the Getuigschrift basisonderwijs for

Over 50 nationalities

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Curriculum validated by 28 member states

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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 Flemishspeaking 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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Deutsche Schule 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

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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: • General education: prepares students for the transition to higher education and is mainly focused on training theory and general knowledge. • Technical education: similar to general education, but focuses more on practice and technical teaching, preparing students for either a profession or further studies. • Vocational: provides direct access to a profession 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”. • Art education: organised in exactly the same way 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.

FEATURED SCHOOLS • Antwerp International School | Veltwijcklaan 180, 2180 Antwerp + 32 (0)3 543 9300 | |

ISF Waterloo INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL Education in English for Children aged 21/2 - 18

• BEPS International School | Avenue Franklin Roosevelt 23, 1050 Brussels +32 (0)2 648 4311 | | • British International School of Brussels | + 32 (0)2 736 8981 | -- Avenue Emile Max 163, 1030 Brussels (infants) -- Avenue 59 Emeraude, 1030 Brussels (junior) • European School Mol | Europawijk 100, 2400 Mol | +32 (0)14 56 3101 | • Internationale Deutsche Schule Brüssel | Lange Eikstraat 71, 1970 Wezembeek-Oppem | +32 (0)2 785 0130 | |

ISF Waterloo is the first for Education School in Belgium ! Chaussée de Waterloo 280 Tel +32 (0)2 358 56 06


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• International Montessori Schools -- Rotselaerlaan 1-3, 3080 Tervuren | +32 (0)2 767 6360 | -- International Montessori ‘Hof ten Berg’ | Hof ten Berg 22, 1200 WoluweSaint-Lambert | +32 (0)2 669 9080 | -- International Montessori ‘Savoorke’ | Bergestraat 24, 3080 Tervuren +32 (0)2 767 0276 | -- International Montessori ‘Hof Kleinenberg’ | Kleinenbergstraat 97-99, 1932 Sint-Stevens-Woluwe | +32 (0)2 721 2111 | -- International Montessori School | Molenweg 4, 1970 Wezembeek-Oppem +32 (0)2 782 1236 | • International School Breda | Mozartlaan 27, 4837 EH Breda, the Netherlands | +31 (0)76 560 7870 | | • ISF Waterloo International School | Chaussée de Waterloo 280, 1640 Rhode St Genèse | +32 (0)2 358 5606 | For a full list of schools, please consult the listings on page 65.


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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 supérieure) in Belgium is provided by universities, university colleges (hogescholen/ hautes écoles) and governmentrecognised institutions, although only universities can award PhDs. The governance of the universities falls to the Flemish and French-speaking regions, but 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. HOW TO APPLY Each higher education institution has admission requirements to adhere to. 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 or, or in the French communities via 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. 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 €600 per month). Proof of language proficiency may also be required in the language of the course.


QUALIFICATION AND ACCREDITATION 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 (, 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 (NARIC-Vlaanderen,, or you can find information on equivalence services in the French communities at COSTS 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

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study, and nationality; there are government set fees for European students (€500–600), otherwise you must pay the institutional fee (which is considerably higher). There are many grants and scholarships available; search for scholarship information. BELGIAN UNIVERSITIES Several of Belgium’s universities are regularly rated among the top 400 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 55,000 students, of which around 16 percent are international. 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. Ghent University, or UGent, became the first Dutch-speaking university in Belgium in 1930, and is now attended by more than 50,000 students and staff, including a sizeable international crowd that is attracted to the university’s science and engineering programmes. 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 20,000 students across 9 faculties, comprising around 20 percent of foreign students. It 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. The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is the Dutch Language University in Brussels, initially formed as a part of the Frenchspeaking 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 20,000+ 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. 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. 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 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 education in English. The college offers three-year European Bachelor’s degree programmes in business, communications, international affairs, and international and European law. Vesalius and its degree programmes are registered and accredited with the Flemish government in Belgium. 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 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 programme 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. The Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp has specialised in research and training in tropical medicine and healthcare in developing countries since 1906. They have been recognized by the World Health Organization as a reference centre for AIDS research and tropical diseases. The small body of 500 post graduates and medical doctors study here.

FEATURED HIGHER EDUCATION • BBI Brussels Campus | Avenue Marcel Thiry 77, 1200 Brussels | +32 (0)2 779.88.96 New campus | Boulevard du Triomphe 173, 1600 Brussels | From 15th of June 2017 • UIBS -- Campus Antwerp | Meirbrug 1 -- Campus Brussels | Guimard 7 • Vesalius College Pleinlaan 5, 1050 Brussels | +32 (0)2 614 8170 | • Vlerick Business School | -- Brussels Campus |+32 (0)2 225 4111 Bolwerklaan 21, 1210 Brussels -- Ghent Campus | + 32 (0)9 210 9711 Reep 1, 9000 Ghent -- Leuven Campus | +32 (0)16 24 8811 Vlamingenstraat 83, 3000 Leuven -- St Petersburg Campus | +7 (812) 493 5402 Nevsky pr. 104, 191186, St. Petersburg, Russia For a full list of schools, please consult the listings on page 66.


Both marriage and registered partnerships offer legal rights. Belgium may be famous for bureaucracy, but partnership matters in Belgium are much simpler. Belgium was the second country to legalise same-sex marriage (its neighbour, the Netherlands, was first), 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 (usually 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. 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 legal age for marriage is 18 years, although minors over 16 years of age can get married

with parental consent or in extreme cases like pregnancy.

Belgium government website (dofi. for more information.

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 or your partner 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 via a rental agreement. 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. COHABITATION The Cohabitation Contract is a legal arrangement where a couple (same-sex or heterosexual) can live together and be recognised as a legal couple that share responsibility for joint expenses and claim joint benefits without being married. This is available for residents of Belgium and can be recognised for residency or visa purposes for a foreign partner as a Type C visa. The contract can be terminated anytime by one or both partners. See the

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. But if a spouse can prove adultery or violence between the spouses or against children the divorce can be obtained almost immediately. 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.




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 5.4 percent in late 2016 ( 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. In 1999, the government’s new legislation on equal opportunity in the workplace outlawed sexual harassment and continued the ban on gender discrimination in hiring, working conditions, wages, and termination. While equal treatment of men and women is guaranteed by the constitution,


a slight pay gap of 9.9 percent exists -- the 6th lowest in Europe. Most vacancies in Brussels are for highly skilled workers in the services sector such as finance, international 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. 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 another advantage. FINDING A JOB For English speakers, Expatica ( and news providers The European Voice and The Bulletin advertise international positions typically


Capital region, VDAB (www. for Flanders, Le Forem ( for Wallonia, and ADG ( for the German community. (NOTE: These websites are in Flemish, French and/or German only.) 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 EuroBrussels, which shows jobs in EU organisations based in Brussels. EU citizens can also take advantage of the EU job portal, EURES ( Headhunting agencies are reasonably common in Belgium, but tend to specialise in executive positions. WORK PERMITS 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. If you can communicate comfortably in French or Dutch, then the weekend or online editions of national newspapers are excellent places to start, such as Le Soir, La Libre, Het Laatste Nieuws, and De Standaard. 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. covers the Brussels-

It’s no surprise that a foreign national who wants to take up employment in Belgium must obtain a work permit. There are three types of work permits available that vary from a limited or unlimited access to Belgium’s labour market: Type A, Type B and Type C. The most common type of work permit for highly qualified third-country nationals is a Type B work permit, which is linked to a specific employer and has a limited validity period. EU, EEA and Swiss nationals do not need a work visa. If you have a permanent residence permit for an unlimited period of time, you also will not need to obtain a work permit.

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 worked in Belgium for at least four years under a Type B permit, or those who have lived uninterruptedly for ten years legally in Belgium. For certain nationalities (Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, Morocco, Serbia, Tunisia, Turkey, and Croatia) and expats with families in Belgium there is a chance to apply after two or three years. • Type B: This type is the more usual work permit and is valid for a single, specified employer for up to 12 months. 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 for the Type B permit. After renewing a B permit four or more times, or have lived and worked in Belgium for four years on the B permit, you can apply for the A permit. The work permit application is submitted by the employer or its representative to their Belgium regional employment authority. The employment authority issues a decision about two to four weeks after filing the application. If the employer receives a work authorization, then a work permit is issued to the employee, who can use the permit to support his/her residence permit or visa. Type B is usually valid for one year and renewed annually. Residence permits are valid for the same duration as the work permit (plus




one month), and may be renewed along with the work 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 (the government has a list). It may be required to show that the role cannot be filled with an EU national, and that the intended employee has the necessary qualifications. An exemption from this exists for highly qualified third country nationals and executive staff. Highly qualified personnel is defined as individuals who have completed higher education of at least a bachelor level and who are employed in that capacity with a minimum gross annual salary of €39,824 (for the year 2016), while executive staff is defined as staff holding a managerial position and who have a minimum gross annual salary of €66,442 (for the year 2016). • Type C: This temporary work permit is valid for up to 12 months, is renewable, and covers temporary residents and those waiting for a decision on their residency, such as spouses of certain diplomatic workers, students, asylum seekers and so on. It is dependent on the person retaining their residence permit. EU BLUE CARD In addition to the Type B work permit, highly qualified third country nationals, also referred to as “highly skilled migrants” can also make use of the Blue Card scheme. The EU Blue Card is available to highly qualified third country nationals who are subject to Belgian social security, have at least a bachelor degree and a minimum annual gross salary of €51,494 (for year 2016). A Blue


Card holder may reside and work in Belgium for an initial period of 13 months, which is renewable. The advantage of the EU Blue Card compared to the Type B work permit is that the EU Blue Card holder has free access to the labour market after two years of employment on the Blue Card. SELF EMPLOYED PROFESSIONAL CARD Foreign nationals who wish to be self-employed in Belgium, they require a professional card. The employment authorities assess eligibility for a professional card on a case by case basis, and take into account the economic importance of the project for Belgium. The only fixed conditions relate to the applicant’s legal right to stay in Belgium, the applicant’s compliance with regulatory requirements (particularly those related to the anticipated activities), and the interest of the project for Belgium (in terms of job creation, facilitation of import/ export activities, innovative nature of the envisaged activities, etc.). Standard processing time for the professional card application is about 3 months. STARTING WORK The average working week is 38 hours (40 hours max). Longer working hours are common, particularly in international institutions, with a certain extra amount of rest days to accommodate the longer hours. 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. The average wage for a salaried employee in 2016 was €3,414 euros gross per month. HOLIDAY AND PAID LEAVE In Belgium, you must (in principle) work for one year before any holiday entitlement is paid, although at the same time an employer can take a holiday leave after the first 3 months of work. Bottom line is that holiday leave is 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. Even more, anyone not entitled to 20 annual leave days because they have yet to work a full year by the end of December are entitled to additional holidays the following year in order to complete the number of holidays. In addition there are 10 legal holidays in Belgium, many of them religious days, plus regional holidays. When a holiday falls on a weekend day, this day will be replaced. SALARY DEDUCTIONS 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.


SOCIAL SECURITY Joining Belgian Social Security is bureaucratic but not difficult. There are separate rules and separate institutions for the employed, 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, work-related 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. 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.

you carry out the necessary paperwork (i.e. registering with your town hall or getting your residence visa, if applicable). Visit for information in several languages. Anyone living and working in Belgium very 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. The salaried should contact the national social security office, RSZ-ONSS (www.onssrszlss., and the RSVZ-INASTI ( is the social security institute for the selfemployed.

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




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 selfemployed. All 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 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. Bottom line: the amount reimbursed depends on your type of care, your provider used and whether you are disabled, widowed, retired or employed for example. 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 whomever you choose. You can speak with neighbours, colleagues or try asking on for recommendations when you arrive. Embassies usually keep lists of doctors who can 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 mutuelle/mutaliteit workers 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 will need to send your receipt or doctor’s treatment certificate to your health insurer for reimbursement, which


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. 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 dial an on-call dentist at +32 (0)2 426 1026. HOSPITALS

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 whomever you choose. For any specialist work, such as crowns and bridges,

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 EMERGENCY TREATMENT In a medical emergency call the panEuropean 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 (€1.50/min.) for the chemist on-duty, or enter your postcode on to find the nearest one. HOSPITALS Visit 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 call) • 0903 99 000 (€1.50/min).

Doctors (on duty call) • Brussels: 02 479 1818 • Rest of Belgium: 100 Dentists (on duty call) • Brussels: 02 426 1026 • Rest of Belgium: emergency number 100 • Veterinary (Brussels only) 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




FITNESS CLUBS It’s easy to stay fit in Belgium with a range of expat-focused fitness clubs. 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.

oriented club where members can take advantage of the landscaped gardens and outdoor activities.

Ashtanga Yoga Institute of Brussels 610 Chaussée d’Alsemberg, 1180 Brussels | (0)2 340 6781

Corpus Studios 33 rue Borrens | (0)2 513 0766, and 33 rue Caroly | (0)2 513 0766

Ashtanga offers courses at all levels – mainly in French, but in English on request. Aspria Aspria offers three upmarket venues in Brussels with a complete range of fitness and wellness facilities. Aspria Arts-Loi’s (Rue de l’Industrie 26, (0)2 508 0812) centrepiece is a 21-metre swimming pool while Aspria Avenue Louise (Avenue Louise 71, (0)2 610 4073) is the ultimate pampering spot in the posh Conrad Hotel. Aspria Royal La Rasante (Rue Sombre 56, (0)2 609 1910) is recognised for its sporting history and is a family-


Basic-Fit This chain has many locations around Belgium and offers good deals on membership. Check their website for the closest address.

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. David Lloyd Uccle Drève de Lorraine 41, 1180 Brussels (0)2 379 3200 This complex has 11 tennis courts, squash courts, two swimming pools, and fitness rooms. Sportcity Avenue Salomé 2, 1150 Woluwe-StPierre | (0)2 773 1820


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 Rue Bonneels 13, 1210 Saint-Josseten-Noode | (0)2 280 0270 Popular with the EU crowd, this friendly no-nonsense club has nine glass-fronted squash courts, aerobic rooms and a climbing wall, plus sports for kids. World Class Health Academy Clos du Parnasse 10, 1050 Brussels (0)2 503 1557 As part of the Renaissance Hotel, it caters largely to expense-account executives and EU civil servants. Wellness Paladins 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.




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 (50Hz) 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 or 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, The Flemish


regulator is VREG (Vlaamse Regulator van de Elektriciteits-en Gasmarkt, 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: • Sibelga: • Eni: • Essent: • Luminus: • Lampiris (green): 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. • Brussels: 02 739 5211 • Flanders: 02 238 9699 • Wallonia: 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 (, 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 ( You can register internet or WiFi services that are either unlimited or based on a fixed data usage per month. For mobile phones, there are three main providers to choose from – Base (, Orange (former 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 Flemishspeaking region and the Brussels region, but you will need to pay an annual television licence fee if you live in the Wallonia region – currently €100 for television. 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 to J must pay in April while those with surnames beginning with K to 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. Belgacom/Proximus, Numericable, Telenet and VOO 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.



• Billi | 022 900 900 |

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 cables may even be offered.

• Cybernet | 04 270 4700

There are 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.

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. • Proximus | 0800 55 800

• EDP Net | 03 265 6700 • SFR Belgique | 02 226 5353 • Scarlet | 0800 84 000 • Telenet | 0800 66 046 • TV From Home | 0485 387 402 • Voo | 0800 800 25 |

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.




Travel is made easier by Belgium’s integrated transport system. Belgium has an excellent public transport network both 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, De Kusttram, providing easy access to the entire coastline from the French and Dutch borders. The MOBIB-card has replaced old magnetic cards and paper tickets, and are available for purchase at any local railway station or online at www. The card costs €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- to 12-year-olds can travel free under some adult passes, or pay for a child’s pass. 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 the yellow and red TEC buses in Wallonia. Not all tickets are interchangeable between the companies, but certain tickets allow access to all three networks, such as the ‘jump’ ticket for Brussels transit 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 52

tram drivers, although pre-bought tickets are 20 percent cheaper. If you are under 26 try the Go Pass 10: a deal offering 10 journeys for up to 10 people for €51 total. Short journey trips can get 10 trips for €20 with the Key Card deal (and 10 journeys by train to anywhere in Belgium for €76). With 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 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. GHENT/LIEGE Further afield, Ghent is served by De Lijn (Oost-Vlaandaren), and Liege by TEC. Transport companies • STIB/MVIB | 070 23 2000


• De Lijn | 070 22 0200 • TEC | 010 23 5353 | (EUR 0.30/min) DOMESTIC TRAINS The dense train network in Belgium is state-owned and operated by SNCB/NMBS. 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 €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). 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.


• SNCB/NMBS | 02 528 2828 (7am to 9:30pm daily) | 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. If you want to drive to England, it’s just a short journey to Calais for the Eurotunnel shuttle service. SNCB/NMBS Europe | +32 (0)70 79 7979 | Eurostar | +44 1233 617 575 TGV/SNCF | 3635 (EUR0.40/min) Thalys | +32 (0)70 66 7788 AIRPORTS The country’s main international airport is Brussels Airport, Zavertem. Charleroi, also known as Brussels South, is used mainly by low budget airlines like 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 €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 (€5–15); 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 €85, although you can get pre-booked or shared transfer options for less. • Brussels Airport Zaventem 0900 70 000 (EUR0.50/min) • Brussels Charleroi Airport 0902 02 490 (EUR1/min) 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 low-cost Belgian air carrier, TUIfly (Jetairfly), added holiday destination flights like Split, Rome, Berlin, Morocco and Spain. • Antwerp International Airport +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.

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’ ( from 11pm to 6am, for €5 to €6 per person. You can book by calling 02 800 3636, and wait at any of their pick-up places located at some 200 STIB stops. Private driver apps like Uber have also appeared across Belgium. Brussels Brussels Region Taxi Department 0800 94001 Taxis Bleus | 02 268 0000 Taxi Verts | 02 349 4949 Antwerp Antwerp Taxi | 03 238 3838 Liège Taxis Melkior | 04 252 2020 Ghent V-Tax | 09 222 2222 |

• Liège Airport | +32 (0)4 234 8411




DRIVING AND PARKING 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.

pass a driving test, provided they have an international licence.

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.

Bear in mind that the minimum driving age in Belgium is 18, so those who are 17 or younger will not be able to drive on their own, even if they have a licence in their home country.

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. The Belgian government allows a one-year grace period for those who need to


REGISTRATION TAX Once you are registered as a Belgian resident, the car you drive must also be registered in Belgium within the next six months after registering if you plan to stay in Belgium for longer than one year. Registration tax in Belgium is for your number plate, which stays with you and not with the 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 (€30) and will have to


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. Touring Mobilis is a leading smart phone app (free) that sends personalised traffic alerts about roadways, traffic jams and congestion throughout the country. 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. 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 fuelheavy 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 built-up 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.

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.




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 away from numerous local and international destinations. Here you’ll find a range of activities to help you 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 | Mon.-Fri. 11am-1am, Sat. 11am-midnight, Sun. noon-midnight 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 Mannekin Pis. It is the perfect place for a Kriek on draught and a quick bite. Bier Circus | Rue de l’Enseignement 57 | Tues.-Fri. 11:30am-2:30pm and 6pm-midnights, Sat. 6pm-midnight 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 | Mon.-Fri. 4pm-1:30am, Sat.-Sun. 4pm-3am 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 Daily 10am-midnight 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 Doré Rue des Alexiens 55 | Tues.-Sat. 11am-midnight, Sun. 11am-7pm 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. A La Bécasse | Rue de Tabora 11 Daily 11am-midnight 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 Mon.-Wed. 5pm-2am, Thurs. 5pm-3am, Fri.-Sat. 5pm-4am 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 Daily 9am-1am ‘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 | Mon. 8pm-midnight, Tues.-Sat. 4pm-midnight 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 Mon.-Fri. 11am-2am, Sat. 11am-3am, Sun. noon-2am 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 ‘t Brugs Beertje | Kemelstraat 5 Mon., Thurs-Fri. 4pm-midnight, Sat.-Sun. 4pm-1am

Stadsbrouwerij Gruut Grote Huidevettershoek 10 Mon.-Thurs. 11am-6pm, Fri.-Sat. 11am-11pm, Sun. 2pm-7pm

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’.

The Gruut brewery might not have a jazzy scene like Café Den Turk, Ghent’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.

Cafe Vlissinghe | Blekersstraat 2 Sun. 11am-7pm, Wed.-Sat. 11am-10pm


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. Brouwerij De Halve Maan Walplein 26 | Sun.-Fri. 10am6pm, Sat. 10am-7pm This is one of the oldest standing breweries in Brugge that not only does tours but also serves traditional Flemish pub food while locals and tourists mingle together over some of the freshest beer in town. Ghent De Dulle Griet | Vrijdagsmarkt 50 Mon. 4:30pm-1am, Tues.-Sat. noon-1am, Sun. noon-7:30pm 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 evidently stops you walking out with one of the specialised beer glasses.)

The mega UGC ( 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 ( is a great resource for up-to-date 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 | 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 1950s 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 | Galarie 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 | Rue Baron Horta 9 02 551 1900 | On the film scene since 1938, formerly named 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 | Chaussée de Wavre 18, Ixelles | 02 502 3700 Don’t let first impressions put you off this 1950s 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 | 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 | Rue d’Arenberg 3 | 02 511 2477 |

(, to name a few.

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.

In Antwerp the Permeke (www. 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.

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 (www. 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 (www.waterstones. com) and Passa Porta


Similar reading clubs and children’s activities are held throughout the year in Ghent’s libraries ( Liège’s central library (www.lib. may have fewer modern English language books but an excellent choice of CDs and DVDs. 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 into a magnificent therapy and relaxation centre. The water is a relaxing temperature of around 32 degrees Celsius. Dip your toes The Belgian coastline 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 horse-drawn carriage ( 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. 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 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 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.dinant-tourisme. 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. SHOPPING Belgium’s shopping has reasonable prices and a decent supply of international goods. It is a fulfilling experience, with luxury shopping arcades and pedestrian streets in major cities, and 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. Grocery wise, there are plenty of large super and hypermarkets to choose from, such as Aldi, Carrefour, Delhaize, 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 public transport, while city centres comprise mostly cheaper (less-tasteful) goods, or high-end 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. Major discount days and sales take place in January and July – dates are strictly government controlled.

FOOD FROM HOME 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. BRUSSELS British • Stonemanor Steenhofstraat 28, Everberg Chaussée de Waterloo 41, Rhode-Saint-Genèse Chinese • Kam Yuen | Rue de la Vierge Noire 2–4 French • Oliviers & Co Anvers | Brussels | Liege | Namur • Rob | Boulevard de la Woluwe 28


Italian • Casa Italiana Rue Archimède 37–39 • Piola.libri | Rue Franklin 66–68 Japanese • Tagawa | Chaussée de Vleurgat 119, 1000 Brussels Rue de l’Eglise 96A, Stockel Square, 1150 Woluwé-SaintPierre Avenue des Meuniers 123, 1160 Auderghem Mediterranean • Midi Market Around Gare du Midi | Sunday 6am to 2pm Scandinavian/Nordic • Ikea | • Gourmet Food & Gifts Rue Archimède 59, Brussels 02 735 1138 Allé Petit Paris 5, Waterloo 02 353 0430


Spanish • ABC Mateos | Rue Sainte Catherine 46 www.poissonnerie-abc-mateos. com • Economato Marisol | 02 521 4736 Europe esplanade 9 • España Calidade Avenue de la Porte de Hal 63 ANTWERP Chinese • Sun Wah Supermarket Van Wesenbekestraat 16–18 American • Graré Prins Boudewijnlaan 175, Wilrijk Jewish • Hoffy’s | Lange Kievitstraat 52

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS AND IMPORTANT DATES IN BELGIUM 2017 January 1:. . . . . . . . . . New Year’s Day

August 15: . . . . . . . . . Assumption Day (Assumption of Mary)

March 26: . . . . . . . . . . Clocks go forward one hour as daylight saving time (DST) starts.

September 24:. . . Day of the French-speaking Community*

April 16/17: . . . . . . . Easter Sunday/Monday

November 1:. . . . . . All Saints’ Day

May 1:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Labour Day

November 2:. . . . . All Souls Day (not a public holiday)

May 16:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mother’s Day

November 11:. . . . Armistice Day

May 25:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ascension Day (40 days after Easter) May 26:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ascension Friday (banks are closed)

November 15:. . . . Day of the German-speaking community*

June 5:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Whit Monday (seventh Monday after Easter. Also known as Pentecost Monday)

November 15:. . . . Dynasty Day, Feast of the Dynasty or King’s Feast (not a public holiday)

June 11:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Father’s Day (not a public holiday) July 11:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Celebration of the Golden Spurs (Day of the Flemish Community)*

December 6: . . . . . . St Nicholas Day (when Sinterklaas/ Saint Nicolas fills children’s shoes with presents)

June 12:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Father’s Day

December 25: . . . . Christmas Day

July 21: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . National Day (Belgian Independence Day)

October 29:. . . . . . . . Clocks go back one hour (DST ends)

*Observed only by the respective communities.

SCHOOL HOLIDAYS School calendars vary according to region. You can find dates for Wallonia-Bruxelles at, or for Flanders at BELGIAN FESTIVALS Belgium’s cities burst alive with colourful festivals throughout the year, perfect to seen on a weekend trip. Belgians 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 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 ( The Carnaval de Binche is several hundred years old and has been listed by UNESCO because of its cultural significance and

longevity. 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 monk 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, councilors 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.



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• France

+32 (0)2 548 8711

• New Zealand

+32 (0)2 512 1040

+32 (0)2 647 7812

• Germany

+32 (0)2 787 1800

• Norway

+32 (0)2 238 7300

• Australia

+32 (0)2 286 0500

• Greece

+32 (0)2 545 5500

• Poland

+32 (0)2 780 4500

• Austria

+32 (0)2 289 0700

• Hungary

+32 (0)2 348 1800

• Portugal

+32 (0)2 286 4360

• Bosnia Herzegovina

+32 (0)2 502 0188

• India

+32 (0)2 640 9140

• Romania

+32 (0)2 345 2680

• Brazil

+32 (0)2 640 2015

• Indonesia

+32 (0)2 775 0120

• Russia

+32 (0)2 374 3400

• Bulgaria

+32 (0)2 374 4788

• Ireland

+32 (0)2 282 3400

• Slovakia

+32 (0)2 346 4261

• Canada

+32 (0)2 741 0611

• Israel

+32 (0)2 373 5500

• Slovenia

+32 (0)2 213 6337

• Chile

+32 (0)2 743 3660

• Italy

+32 (0)2 643 3850

• South Africa

+32 (0)2 285 4400

• China

+32 (0)2 771 2038

• Japan

+32 (0)2 513 2340

• Spain

+32 (0)2 230 0340

• Croatia

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• Latvia

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• Switzerland

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• Cyprus

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• Lithuania

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• Turkey

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• Czech Republic

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• Luxembourg

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• Ukraine

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• Denmark

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• Malta

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• United Kingdom

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• Egypt

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• Mexico

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+32 (0)2 811 4000

• Estonia

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• Morocco

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• Finland

+32 (0)2 287 1212

• The Netherlands

+32 (0)2 679 1711


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• Carl Martens Immobiliën Britselei 24, 2000 Antwerp +32 (0)3 226 8500 | • Engetrim Jan van Rijswijcklaan 162, 2020 Antwerp +32 (0)3 218 6304 | • Sidimex Frankrijklei 94, 2000 Antwerp +32 (0)3 203 0202 | AARTSELAAR • ERA real estate Antwerpsesteenweg 68–2, 2630 Aartselaar +32 (0)3 227 4182 | OVERIJSE • Immo2002 Ringelberglaan 21, 3090 Overijse +32 (0)2 687 2779 | LIÈGE • Optimum Rue Louvrex 98, 4000 Liège Rue de la Loi 42, 1040 Brussels +32 (0)4 221 4875 | OFFICES • VIPOFFICES Bld. Saint-Michel 47, 1040 Brussels +32 (0)2 400 0000 | HOTELS • Stanhope Hotel Rue du Commerce 9, 1000 Brussels +34 (0)2 506 9111 | • Thon Residence Aparthotel EU Rue de Trèves 126, 1040 Brussels +32 (0)2 204 3913 | • Thon Residence Florence Florencestraat 1, 1000 Brussels +32 (0)2 543 3390 | • Thon Residence Parnasse Rue d’Idalie 8, 1050 Brussels +32 (0)2 505 9800 |





BANKS • Belfius +32 (0)2 222 1202 | • BNP Paribas Fortis +32 (0)2 433 4100 • ING Avenue Marnix 24, 1000 Brussels +32 (2)2 464 6664 | • KBC

HEALTH INSURANCE PROVIDERS • Bupa Global Victory House, Trafalgar Place Brighton, BN1 4FY, United Kingdom | +44 (0)1273 761 141 • Expat & Co Noordkustlaan 12/6-7, 1702 Groot-Bijgaarden (Dilbeek) | +32 (0)2 463 0404 | • IntegraGlobal +44 333 405 3003 | • Now Health Suite G3/4, Building Three, Watchmoor Park Camberley, Surrey, GU15 3YL, United Kingdom +44 (0)127 660 2100 | • Partena Business & Expats Rue Montoyer 41, 1000 Brussels | +32 (0)2 444 4700 |



• Symbio Avenue de Tervueren 68–70, 1040 Etterbeek +32 (0)2 733 9740 | | TAX ADVISORS • Law Right Avenue Brugmann 183, 1190 Brussels +32 (0)2 643 1100 | • Spectrum IFA Group Rond Point Schuman 6/5, 1040 Brussels +32 (0)2 234 7750 | • Taxpatria | -- Culliganlaan 1B, 1831 Diegem, Brussels | +32 (0)2 403 1207 -- Amerikalei 219, 2000 Antwerp +32 (0)3 337 3520 |


EDUCATION BRUSSELS AND SURROUNDINGS PRIMARY SCHOOLS • BEPS International School Avenue Franklin Roosevelt 23, 1050 Brussels +32 (0)2 648 4311 | | • British International School of Brussels -- Avenue Emile Max 163, 1030 Brussels (infants) -- Avenue 59 Emeraude, 1030 Brussels (junior) + 32 (0)2 736 8981 | • British Junior Academy of Brussels Boulevard Saint-Michel 83, 1040 Brussels +32 (0)2 732 5376 | | • European Montessori School Avenue Beau Séjour 12, 1410 Waterloo +32 (0) 6 789 3939 | • Montessori House Belgium Rue Pergere 117, 1420 Braine L’Alleud +32 (0)2 385 1503 | • St Paul’s British Primary School Stationsstraat 3, 3080 Vossem-Tervuren +32 (0)2 767 3098 | PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS • British School of Brussels Pater Dupierreuxlaan 1, 3080 Tervuren +32 (0)2 766 0430 | • Brussels American School Avenue JF Kennedy 12, 1933 Sterrebeek +32 (0)2 717 9552 | • Brussels International Catholic School -- Rue Général Leman 86, 1040 Brussels (pre-school and primary) | +32 (0)2 230 0218 -- Chaussée de Wavre 457, 1040 Brussels (pre-school) +32 (0)2 640 3536 -- Rue Froissart, 57-59, 1040 Brussels (secondary) | +32 (0)2 343 8540 | • European School of Brussels I -- Avenue du Vert Chasseur 46, 1180 Uccle, Brussels -- Rue de Berkendael 70–74, 1190 Forest +32 (0)2 373 8611 (Uccle) | +32 (0)2 340 1480 (Forest)

• European School of Brussels II Avenue Oscar Jespers 75, 1200 Woluwe-St-Lambert +32 (0)2 774 2211

• St John’s International School Drève Richelle 146, 1410 Waterloo +32 (0)2 352 0610 |

• European School of Brussels III Boulevard du Triomphe 135, 1050 Ixelles +32 (0)2 629 4700

ANTWERP • Antwerp International School Veltwijcklaan 180, 2180 Antwerp + 32 (0)3 543 9300 |

• Internationale Deutsche Schule Brüssel Rue du Long Chêne 71, 1970 Wezembeek-Oppem +32 (0)2 785 0130 | | • International Montessori Schools Rotselaerlaan 1, 3080 Tervuren | +32 (0)2 767 6360 | -- International Montessori ‘Hof ten Berg Hof ten Berg 22, 1200 Woluwe-Saint-Lambert +32 (0)2 669 9080 | -- International Montessori ‘Savoorke’ Bergestraat 24, 3080 Tervuren | +32 (0)2 767 0276 -- International Montessori ‘Hof Kleinenberg’ Kleinenbergstraat, 97-99, 1932 Sint-StevensWoluwe | +32 (0)2 721 2111 -- International Montessori School | Molenweg 4 1970 Wezembeek-Oppem | +32 (0)2 782 1236 • International School of Brussels Kattenberg 19, 1170 Brussels | +32 (0)2 661 4211 • ISF Waterloo International School Chaussée de Waterloo 280, 1640 Rhode St Genèse +32 (0)2 358 5606 | • Japanese School of Brussels Mulderslaan 133, 1160 Audergem +32 (0)2 672 1038 | • Lycée Français de Belgique Jean Monnet Avenue du Lycée Français 9, 1180 Uccle, Brussels +32 (0)2 374 5878 | • Scandinavian School of Brussels Square d’Argenteuil 5, 1410 Waterloo +32 (0)2 357 0670 | |

• DYP International School Kontichsesteenweg 40, 2630 Aartselaar + 32 (0)3 271 0943 | • Da Vinci International School Verbondstraat 67, 2000 Antwerp | +32 (0)3 216 1232 • International School Breda Mozartlaan 27, 4837 EH Breda, the Netherlands +31 (0)76 560 7870 | | • Lycée Français Int. Anvers Lamorinièrestraat 168/1, 2018 Antwerp +32 (0)3 239 1889 | www.lfanvers.orgBIERGES BIERGES • Ecole Internationale Le Verseau Rue du Wavre 60, 1301 Bièrges | -- Primary: +32 (0)1 023 1717 -- Secondary: + 32 (0)1 023 1727 LEUVEN • International School of Leuven Geldenaaksebaan 335, 3001 Heverlee +32 (0)1 637 5790 | MOL • European School Mol Europawijk 100, 2400 Mol + 32 (0)1 456 3101 | | MONS • Shape International School Avenue de Sofia 717, 7010 Shape +32 (0)6 544 5726 | (Director General) |




HIGHER EDUCATION • BBI | Brussels Campus | Avenue Marcel Thiry 77, 1200 Brussels | +32 (0)2 779 8896 New campus | Boulevard du Triomphe 173, 1600 Brussels | From 15th of June 2017 • European University | -- EU Barcelona | +34 (0)9 3201 8171 Ganduxer 70, 08021 Barcelona, Spain -- EU Geneva | +41 (0)22 779 2671 Quai du Seujet 18, 1201 Geneva, Switzerland -- EU Montreux | +41 (0)21 964 8464 Le Forum, Grand Rue 3, 1820 Montreux 2, Switzerland | info.mtx@euruni.ed -- EU Munich | +49 89 5502 9595 Theresienhoehe 28, 80339 Munich, Germany • Maastricht School of Management Endepolsdomein 150, 6229 Maastricht, the Netherlands | +31 (0)43 387 0808 | • Rotterdam School of Management Burgemeester Oudlaan 50, 3062 Rotterdam, the Netherlands | +31 (0)10 408 2222 | • SAE Institute Brussels Rue Gachard 10, 1050 Ixelles | +32 (0)2 647 9220 | • Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management Avenue FD Roosevelt 42, 1050 Brussels +32 (0)2 650 6673 |

• United Business Institutes (UBI) | -- Brussels | +32 (0)2 548 0480 Avenue Marnix 20, 1000 Brussels -- Luxembourg | +32 (0)2 799 0182 Château de Wiltz, 9516 Wiltz, Luxembourg • United International Business Schools (UIBS) -- UIBS Amsterdam (Extension Campus) Spaces Business Center Herengracht 124–128, 1015 BT Amsterdam, the Netherlands | +31 (0)20 521 9423 | -- UIBS Antwerp (Main Campus) International Education Center, Meirbrug 1, Box 29 2000 Antwerp, Belgium | +32 (0)3 283 5126 info@antwerp.uibs.orgs | -- UIBS Barcelona (Main Campus) International Education Center Rambla de Catalunya 2–4, 08007 Barcelona, Spain | +34 (0)93 452 2227 | -- UIBS Brussels (Main Campus) International Education Center Avenue des Arts 10–11, 1210 Brussels, Belgium +32 (0)2 203 7780 | -- UIBS Geneva (Extension Campus) Regus Business Center Rue du Rhone 14, 1204 Geneva, Switzerland +41 21 5605626 | -- UIBS Lausanne (Extension Campus) Regus Business Center Voie du Chariot 3, 1003 Lausanne, Switzerland +41 (0)21 560 5626 |

-- UIBS Milan (Extension Campus) Regus Business Center | Via Santa Maria Valle 3, 20123 Milan, Italy | +39 0200681086 | -- UIBS Tokyo (Extension Campus) Regus Business Center Park Tower 3-7-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, 163-1030 Tokyo, Japan | +81 (0)3 5326 3477 | -- UIBS Zurich (Main Campus) International Education Center Brandschenkestrasse 38, 8002 Zurich, Switzerland +41 (0)44 201 1222 | • Vesalius College Pleinlaan 5, 1050 Brussels | +32 (0)2 614 8170 | • Vlerick Business School | -- Brussels Campus |+32 (0)2 225 4111 Bolwerklaan 21, 1210 Brussels -- Ghent Campus | + 32 (0)9 210 9711 Reep 1, 9000 Ghent -- Leuven Campus | +32 (0)16 24 8811 Vlamingenstraat 83, 3000 Leuven -- St Petersburg Campus | +7 (812) 493 5402 Nevsky pr. 104, 191186, St. Petersburg, Russia LANGUAGE SCHOOLS • de Rand Kaasmarkt 75, 1780 Wemmel | +32 (0)2 456 9780 | • F9 Avenue Louise 120 Louizalaan, 1050 Brussels +32 (0)2 627 5252 |

-- UIBS Madrid (Main Campus) Regus Business Center Carrera de San Jerónimo 15, 28014 Madrid, Spain +34 (0)91 454 7281 |


• Excel Interim |

• Expatica |

• Pro-link Europe |

• Jobat |

• Adecco |

• Rainbow Resources Group |

• Jobs Career |

• Axis |

• Russell Reynolds Associates |

• Jobs in Brussels |

• Hays |

• Spencer Stuart |

• Monster |

ANTWERP • Bakker and Partners |

• Vacature |

• Kelly Services | • Manpower | • Randstad |


• Robert Half |

• Consultants in Personnel Management

BRUSSELS • Advice and Executive Search |

ONLINE JOB SITES • Brussels Jobs |

• Daoust |

• ELM |

• Excel Careers |

• English Language Jobs |


• Xpat Jobs |



• American Women’s Club of Brussels

• International Baptist Church Antwerp Lange Lozanastraat 36, 2018 Antwerp +32 (0)3 290 5262 |

• Openbare Bibliotheek Permeke (Public library) De Coninckplein 25–26, 2060 Antwerp +32 (0)3 221 1333 |

BRITISH • Antwerp British Community Association

• St Boniface Anglican Church Grétrystraat 39, 2018 Antwerp +32 (0)3 239 3339 |


• Antwerp British and International Women


• British & Commonwealth Women’s Club of Brussels

• Beth Hillel Synagogue (non orthodox) Vroegegroentenstraat 80, 1190 Forest +32 (0)2 332 2528 |

• Brussels Central Library Rue des Riches Claires 24, 1000 Brussels +32 (0)2 548 2610 | • Children’s Library, Centre Communautaire Crousse Rue au Bois 11, 1150 Brussels +32 (0)2 771 8359 | • French community libraries Find locations: 0800 20 000 | • Muntpunt library (Flemish community) Munt 6, 1000 Brussels +32 (0)2 278 1111 | • Royal Library of Belgium Boulevard de l’Empereur 4 Brussels +32 (0)2 519 5311 | • Waterstones Boulevard Adolphe Max 71–75, 1000 Brussels | +32 (0)2 219 2708

• Brussels British Community Association • Royal British Legion • Welsh Society of Brussels OTHER • Antwerp Indian Association • Irish Club of Belgium • Jewish Community of Antwerp


• Professional Women International

• Centrale Openbare Bibliotheek Graaf van Vlaanderenplein 40, 9000 Ghent +32 (0)9 266 7000 |

• Women’s International Club Brussel

LIÈGE • Bibliothèque Chiroux Rue des Croisiers 15, 4000 Liège +32 (0)4 232 8686 | GROUPS AND CLUBS

MUSIC, SONG AND DANCE • BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts • Brussels Choral Society


• Brussels Light Opera Company

• American Theatre Company

• Brussels Madrigal Singers

• BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts

• International Chorale of Brussels

• British American Theatrical Society (BATS)


• The English Comedy Club • English-language theatre in Brussels

• Brussels Hash House Harriers • Caledonian Society of Brussels

• Irish Theatre Group

• Lions Club of Belgium

• Viewfinders English-Speaking Photography Club

• Rotary International





• American Club of Brussels

• Antwerp International Protestant Church Veltwijcklaan 180 (Enter from Morenhoutlaan) 2180 Antwerp-Ekeren | +32 (0)3 644 2046

• American Women’s Club of Antwerp

• Holy Trinity Brussels (Anglican) Rue Capitaine Crespel 29, 1050 Brussels +32 (0)2 511 7183 | • International Baptist Church Lange Eikstraat 76-78, 1970 Wezembeek-Oppem +32 (0)2 731 9900 | • International Protestant Church Avenue des Héros 40, 1160 Auderghem +32 (0)2 673 0581 | • Our Lady of Mercy Parish Place de la Ste. Alliance 10, 1180 Uccle +32 (0)2 354 5343 | • St Andrew’s Church of Scotland Chaussée de Vleurgat 181, 1050 Brussels +21 (0)2 649 0219 | • St Anthony’s Parish (Roman Catholic) Avenue des Anciens Combattants 23-25, 1950 Kraainem | +32 (0)2 720 1970 • St Paul’s Tervuren (Anglican) Hoornzeelstraat 24, 3080 Tervuren +32 (0)2 767 3435 | • The Well Place Van Meyel 15, 1040 Etterbeek +32 (0)2 734 3502 | BRUGGE • St. Peter’s Bruges St. Peter’s Chapel Bruges (‘t Keerske) Keerstraat 1, 8000 Brugge GHENT • St John’s Anglican Church Sint-Elisabeth Begijnhofdries 1, 9000 Ghent LIÈGE • English Church of Liège-Anglican Salle Polyvalente Adventiste, Boulevard Frère-Orban 29, 4000 Liège | +32 (0)8 584 4482 OOSTENDE • The English Church Langestraat 101, 8400 Oostende | +32 (0)59 43 6744





Antwerp International School. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33

Partena Business & Expats. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

Art Of Living S.A. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7


B BBF Serviced Apartments. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 BBI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 Be Welcome. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 BEPS International School. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 BNP Paribas Fortis. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23, back cover BSB British School of Brussels. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

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

Rent More. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

T Transworld. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

U United International Business Schools (UIBS). . . . . . . . . 37

V Vesalius College . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Vlerick Business School . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . inside front cover

E European School Mol. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Expatica Dating. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Expatica Jobs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . inside back cover

I ING. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Internationale Deutsche Schule Brüssel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 International Montessori Schools. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 International School Breda. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 ISF Waterloo International School. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34



























































































































Once the practical aspects are dealt with, your life in Belgium can really begin. Exploring and settling brings its own set of joys and challenges, and provides you all the information you need to happily live, work and love in Belgium. LIVE Belgium has more castles per square mile than anywhere in the world, and coupled with the world’s densest rail network, Belgium’s sights are easy to see.’s Out and About section covers cultural sights, activities and places to visit. Belgium is a top Michelin-star contender and local Belgian recipes offer an array of tasty and hearty dishes, with Dutch and French influences changing per region. Check out the top Belgian foods on Raising bilingual children? Struggling with language? Cultural shocked? Expat life is rewarding but not without challenges. Get a dose of daily or weekly support by signing up to Expatica’s newsletters, where hand-picked blogs written by seasoned expats and relevant news features are delivered straight to your inbox. WORK Language plays a major role in the hiring process. For international jobs, you can see Expatica’s specialised job listings at Brussels Capital with its many foreign institutions is a hotspot for internationals.’s Employment section can guide you on where to look for work, and what your employment contract should cover. LOVE Finding love in a foreign country can be challenging when you don’t know the dating norms. Meet likeminded singles on Expatica’s online dating site for expats at Lost in translation? Learning Belgian culture can do wonders for cross-cultural relationships, as well as navigating the dating scene. You might not be offended by standoffish behaviour if you knew Belgians are typically gentle and reserved. Read about dating Belgians and culture on




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Publisher: E. Jacqueroux, BNP Paribas Fortis SA/NV, Montagne du Parc/Warandeberg 3, 1000 Brussels, RPM Brussels, TVA BE 0403.199.702, FSMA n° 25.879A


Expat Survival Guide BE 2017  

Relocating abroad is a thrilling, life-changing experience. But before you can enjoy your new home to the fullest, practical aspects must be...