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Expat Exchange - 10 Things to Know Before Moving to Belgium
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Ghent, Belgium

10 Things to Know Before Moving to Belgium

By Joshua Wood, LPC

AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers

Summary: If you're planning a move to Belgium, here are 10 things expats living there wish they had known before moving to Belgium.

Belgium, a country known for its rich history, diverse culture, and delicious cuisine, is a popular destination for expats from around the world. Whether you're drawn to the bustling city life of Brussels, the charming medieval towns of Flanders, or the rolling hills of the Ardennes, there's something for everyone in Belgium. However, before you pack your bags and make the move, there are a few things you should know. Here are the top 10 things to know before moving to Belgium.

1. Understanding the Linguistic Landscape

Belgium is a multilingual country with three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. Dutch is spoken in the Flanders region, French in Wallonia, and German in a small part of the eastern Wallonia. In Brussels, both Dutch and French are spoken. As an expat, it's beneficial to have a basic understanding of at least one of these languages, although English is widely spoken, especially in the cities and among younger generations.

2. Embracing the Belgian Bureaucracy

Belgium is known for its bureaucracy. From registering at the local town hall to setting up utilities, be prepared for a lot of paperwork. It's important to be patient and organized. Keep copies of all your documents and don't be afraid to ask for help if you're unsure about something. The process may seem overwhelming at first, but it's all part of settling into your new home.

3. Enjoying the Belgian Cuisine

Belgium is famous for its food, particularly its chocolate, waffles, and fries. Belgian cuisine is a blend of French and German influences, with a focus on high-quality ingredients and hearty portions. Don't miss out on trying local dishes like moules-frites (mussels and fries), stoofvlees (a beef stew), and of course, a Belgian waffle. And let's not forget about the beer - Belgium is home to hundreds of breweries producing a wide variety of beers.

4. Navigating the Belgian Weather

Belgium has a temperate maritime climate, with mild summers and cool winters. Rain is a common occurrence throughout the year, so it's a good idea to always carry an umbrella. Despite the often grey skies, Belgians make the most of the weather. You'll find outdoor markets, festivals, and terraces full of people enjoying a drink, even in the rain.

5. Appreciating the Belgian Work-Life Balance

Belgians value their work-life balance. While they are hard workers, they also understand the importance of downtime. Many companies offer flexible working hours, and it's common to leave work at a reasonable hour to spend time with family or enjoy a leisurely meal. This balance is reflected in the country's high quality of life.

6. Getting Around in Belgium

Belgium has an excellent public transportation system, including trains, trams, and buses. The country is also very bike-friendly, with dedicated bike lanes in most cities and towns. For longer distances, the train network is efficient and connects all major cities. Driving can be a bit challenging due to traffic and the prevalence of roundabouts, but it's manageable with a bit of practice.

7. Experiencing Belgian Festivals

Belgium has a rich cultural calendar, with festivals and events taking place throughout the year. From the colorful Carnival of Binche to the vibrant Brussels Summer Festival, there's always something happening. These events are a great way to immerse yourself in Belgian culture and meet new people.

8. Understanding the Belgian Healthcare System

Belgium has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. It's a compulsory insurance-based system, meaning that everyone pays into the system and is entitled to the same level of care. As an expat, you'll need to register with a health insurance fund (mutuelle/mutualiteit) to access healthcare services.

9. Adapting to Belgian Social Etiquette

Belgians are generally polite, reserved, and respectful. Punctuality is highly valued, and it's customary to greet people with a handshake or a kiss on the cheek. When invited to someone's home, it's polite to bring a gift, such as flowers or chocolates. Belgians also value their privacy, so it's important to respect this.

10. Exploring the Belgian Outdoors

Despite its small size, Belgium has a diverse landscape, from the sandy beaches of the North Sea to the forested hills of the Ardennes. There are plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities, including hiking, cycling, and bird watching. Belgium also has a number of beautiful parks and gardens, perfect for a leisurely stroll or a picnic.

Moving to a new country is always a big step, but with a bit of preparation and an open mind, you'll soon feel at home in Belgium. So why wait? Start planning your Belgian adventure today!

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers

AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers

Ghent, Belgium

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SJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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SJB GlobalSJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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