I’ve lived now for almost 6 years in Belgium as a student for two years and for the rest I’ve been working. During this period, I’ve picked up a few things about Belgium that you might find useful for your stay here. So, enjoy and take it in. I’ve written them in a random order, but they are all precious 🙂
- Chocolate, beer and fries! After you have tried some, you will understand that Belgium is kicking some behind at these three! This is the place for best chocolate, best beers and best fries in the world!
- Bread culture. Belgians love their bread. They are capable to queue for an hour if necessary for their favorite loaf of bread.
- Sandwiches for lunch! As they love bread, don’t be surprised if you see Belgians have sandwiches for lunch every day. Many of them will just bring their own.
- Many and good restaurants! They might eat tons of bread, but they also like going out for dinner. So, you’re in luck if you like eating out, cause this country does it right.
- Don’t buy an expensive umbrella! It rains a lot and so if you’re not into walking around wet, then get an umbrella, but a cheap one. It’s also very windy and that’s a no no for your precious umbrella. After each session of rain, you will see a lot of broken umbrellas in the trash.
- Registered letters! You can’t solve anything without sending a registered letter. Because it’s recognized as a legal proof, everyone uses them. So, whenever you want to get something done with your landlord, police, work, you name it, just send a registered letter. Trust me!
- The town hall! (commune-fr., gemeente-nl.) This place will be your nemesis! It’s a very bureaucratic country and sometimes things get complicated. You don’t speak the languages, you’re missing a paper from your file, you don’t have enough pictures or they are just in a bad mood! So, make sure you triple check your file before you apply for anything, have tons of pictures with you at all times and cash!! If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Keep at least one copy of all your documents. For the above reasons (mainly), you need to keep a copy of your documents, proof of payments (if you paid cash), diplomas and any paper that proves everything you’ve done or you didn’t do in Belgium. This will help you tons!
- Patience is an uber virtue! If you don’t have it, brace yourself or go to another country. It takes time to get your cable, to get your ID, to get a doctor’s appointment. It can take from a few days (almost never) to a few months. No joke!
- Polyglots! On average, Belgians speak 2 languages. Learning languages here is very common, affordable and accessible. So, take advantage of this.
- Language will take you places. If you’re in Wallonia, it’s great if you speak French, if you don’t, wish you all the best! If you’re in Brussels, English is just fine! And if you’re in Flanders, use sign language if you have to, but never French. Mostly, they all speak English.
- Bonus cards for everything! Most stores, pharmacies, supermarkets, etc. have their bonus cards. Every whatever number of points you get a discount, prize, etc. For them, it’s a little price to pay for getting info about what you buy, when, how often and what is your pattern. Clever and simple and buyers are just happy to get something for “free”.
- Paid in checques (paper tickets) You’ll be surprised how much you will buy with some cheques. So, you have the following:
- Cheque repas – meal vouchers (for the numbers of working days to serve you as “money” for lunch. You pay aprox. 1/5 of the sum.
- Eco-cheques that can buy you eco products like bike, eco-friendly fridge, eco light bulb, train tickets, etc. You get 250EUR/year.
- Titre-service – cheques that use to pay for cleaning your house, ironing, getting grocery done. So, for cleaning, for example, you pay 1 cheques/hour. They cost 7.50EUR/each. The beauty of these is that you get 1/3 back from the state.
- Training cheques. If you want to study mainly languages in an institution recognized by the state, then you get to pay half of the price. Pretty wicked 🙂
- Country of company cars! It is very common to get a car as an employee as part of the salary package.
- Overwhelming taxes. Belgium is among the most taxed countries in the world. That’s why companies give out cars, cheques, etc. This way, they can give out things that don’t get as much taxed.
- Cycling: After Holland, Belgium has the most bicycles/capita. It’s national sport, means of transportation for loads of people and country wide loved. If you live in the city and you do most things in the city, it’s interesting to have one too.
- Comics culture: Belgians pride themselves with having great comics creators and they are considered as their own group in the history of comics. Tintin is Belgian, you know.
- Art Nouveau; This is the birth place of Art Nouveau. You must take a tour and see all the buildings, it’s splendid.
- Music festivals: Especially in the summer, there is an overwhelming number of music festival all over the country. You have all kinds of genres and very famous artists coming here. If you’re into music or not, it’s a great opportunity.
- Belgium is a complex country. I will let this video explain 🙂
I’m sure I didn’t cover everything, but this should do for now! Enjoy and get ready!
P.S. Also read the post I wrote about Brussels. Some practical info