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Located in the heart of the continent and housing the headquarters of the European Union and NATO in its capital, Belgium is a melting pot of influences from around the world. As a result, expats moving to Belgium will find that it is one of Europe's most diverse and fascinating countries.
Belgium is rich in both cultural history and cultural pleasures. What wine is to France, beer is to Belgium. With a reputation for gastronomy and an outstanding selection of the world's finest brews, Belgium is a diverse nation that is warm and welcoming to anyone planning to settle here.
Living in Belgium as an expat
To a large extent, the country is split between two dominant culture groups, the Flemings and the Walloons. The Flemish community is Dutch-speaking, primarily based in the north of the country in Flanders and constitutes around half of the Belgian population. The French-speaking Walloons live in the south and east of the country in Wallonia, making up around a third of the populace. There is also a smaller German-speaking population in the eastern part of the country, near the border with Germany.
All three of these languages are officially recognised, and while they may be predominant in certain areas, the Belgian capital is legally bilingual. This infiltrates every aspect of daily life in Brussels, from street signs to business dealings. This unique mix of cultures is one of the most challenging aspects to come to terms with but also one of the most interesting.
Brussels is the political powerhouse of Europe with its historic Gothic buildings and European Union office blocks. Outside the thriving capital lies picturesque countryside, the wooded gorges of the Ardennes, and an assortment of undiscovered lazy seaside towns.
Cost of living in Belgium
Living in Belgium comes with a significant cost, and the good life in Belgium incurs a high cost of living. This means that expats need to be prepared for higher expenses in various aspects of their daily lives. From housing and transport to groceries and entertainment, the prices tend to be steeper than in many other countries.
The country's robust economy and stable job market can help offset the expenses for expats who can secure well-paying employment, and expats in Belgium who can embrace the higher cost of living can expect to enjoy an excellent standard of living in return.
Expat families and children in Belgium
With one of the world's highest living standards and excellent quality of life, expats moving to Belgium with children can take full advantage of its housing, healthcare, education and infrastructure. Belgium has a high-quality public transport system and a highly developed and incredibly dense motorway network, which links it with other European routes and facilitates access to neighbouring countries.
The country's education system is also well-known for being free of charge and offering exceptional teaching standards. Still, most expats in Belgium opt for private or international schools, as these often allow children to continue learning in a familiar language and curriculum, which eases their transition. Additionally, some international schools offer globally recognised curricula, making them ideal for expat families that are always on the move.
Climate in Belgium
The weather in Belgium is not one of the country's selling points. Though not necessarily unpleasant, light rain is fairly constant throughout the year and can be a bit inconvenient. To reduce the risk of being caught off guard, carrying a small umbrella in case of sudden showers is a good idea.
Those not fond of heat will surely enjoy the mildness of Belgian summers, with temperatures hovering around 72°F (22°C). Winters can be chilly, with temperatures ranging from just above freezing to around 39°F (4°C), and there may be snowfall.
With its rich cultural heritage, gastronomic delights and exceptional quality of life, Belgium beckons expats seeking new horizons. The country's multiculturalism presents both challenges and captivating experiences, and its central location offers easy access to other European destinations. All in all, for those ready to embrace its diverse culture and bask in its high quality of life, moving to Belgium promises expats an immensely rewarding and enriching journey.
Official name: Kingdom of Belgium
Population: 11.9 million
Capital city: Brussels
Other major cities: Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi, Bruge and Liège
Neighbouring countries: Belgium is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the south and France to the west.
Geography: Belgium is a small Western European country with three main geographic regions: the northwest coastal plain, the central plateau and the Ardennes. The Ardennes is a heavily forested, rocky plateau in southern Belgium. The rest of the country has a rather flat landscape, with a few natural lakes and many artificial waterways and canals.
Political system: Federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Main languages: Dutch, French, German, English
Major religions: Christianity
Currency: The Euro (EUR) is the official currency and is divided into 100 cents.
Time: GMT+1 (+2 from the end of March to the end of October)
Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are used.
International dialling code: +32
Internet domain: .be
Emergency number: 112
Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road. The country has an excellent public transport system, including trains, trams and buses which connect various cities and regions in Belgium. Expats can generally get by without having to own a car.
►Planning your big move? Check out the Pros and Cons of Moving to Belgium
"I think I most enjoy the randomness of Brussels. It is so different to where I live in England. There are people here from all over the world, speaking all sorts of languages and representing every culture and viewpoint you can think of. This makes it feel very vibrant. Quality of life is very good overall." For more of David's thoughts on settling in in Belgium, read his interview.
"Be gentle, learn the language if you have time, and just let the locals get used to you... It all comes together in the end." Read more of Di's advice for adapting to Belgium in her Expat Arrivals interview.
Are you an expat living in Belgium?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Belgium. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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