Aneesh in Brussels: "Potatoes, waffles, chocolates and beer are big part of the Belgian lifestyle"

Expat interviews
  • Aneesh in Brussels
Published on 2015-01-29 at 00:00 by team
Aneesh, Indian expat, settled in Brussels three years ago. IT engineer, he also enjoys traveling across Belgium and the European Union with his family...

Where are you from, Aneesh, and what are you doing nowadays?

I come from Kerala, a state to the south west part of India, towards the Arabian Ocean coast. I am a telecommunication engineer. Before moving to Belgium, I have been working with various information and telecommunication technology companies in India. I have lived in multiple cities in India. I am currently working for telecommunication infrastructure technology company in Belgium. I lead a team of engineers here.

Why did you choose to move to Brussels?

It was a technical opportunity. I was looking forward for opportunities to work with upcoming technologies in the field of telecommunications. My current organization had a good position to offer, and that was based in Brussels. So, here I am.

What were the procedures to follow for an Indian national to move there?

Procedures are straightforward. My hiring organization in Belgium secured a work permit for me. For the work permit application, I had to provide my degree/diploma certificate, a health-checkup (medical) certificate and copies of my passport. I then applied for my (and my family's) visa (D-type, long stay) with the consulate of Belgium in India. In addition to the work permit that I received from my employer, I had to provide police clearance certificate, medical certificates, employment contract from my employer, undertaking from my employer stating they will subscribe me to medical insurance and assist me in finding housing in Belgium.
Once the visa is approved, we bought the tickets and came here. After arriving in Belgium, I reported to the local commune (town hall) with my family and we applied for the temporary foreigners residence permit. Police comes for verification at your address and within a month. We then got the residence permit.

How long have you been in the country?

I have been here for last the 3 years. I live with my wife and a little girl who is now 4 years old. She goes to school.

What has attracted you to Belgium?

As I mentioned above, it was not a selection from various options, but the job I selected which brought me here. Still, when I learned I had to move here, I did some research, and found that Belgium is a nice place to live with very good healthcare and social security, and Brussels especially due to its cosmopolitan nature.

What are the local labor market's specificities?

In my case, I moved here with a job in hand. But the labor market currently is not very good with the after effects of global slowdown, as well as increasing unemployment rate in the whole EU.

Was it difficult to find accommodation there?

It was not difficult. Various online portals helped me a lot. After studying various localities, I shortlisted the areas where I would like to settle down, and specifically searched for the ones which match my budget. I also took random strolls through the streets in which I was interested, watching out for "For rent" boards! You can choose from service apartments, independant houses and apartments.
Service apartments are very comfortable but expensive (so rather ideal for short-term stays). Independant houses and apartments vary in price range, depending on the locality and amenities. One thing to note is that most landlords would like to sign long-term contracts. During my search, only 3 to 4 out of 10 apartments I visited were ready for short-term contracts like 1 year renewing.

How do you find the Belgian lifestyle?

Well, it has its own way of working. Most establishments are based on their own working hours. Most of the stores close at 6 or 7 pm, except for some which are open till 8 pm on Fridays and selected stores which are open on Sundays. Otherwise, almost everything is closed on Sundays.
The lifestyle is also conservative. New things are not accepted that fast. Professional life and personal life are clearly separate here. You will rarely have a good or best friend among your office colleagues. Moreover, almost everything work on appointments, even haircuts if you want a specific one.
Finally, potatoes, waffles, chocolates and beer (I cannot skip mentioning them) are big part of the Belgian lifestyle.

Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?

For the beer part, yes!

What does your every day life look like?

On working days, I am in the office from 8 am to 5 pm. Then, I spend the rest of the time with my wife and little girl. I also attend an evening French language course two days a week.

How do you spend your leisure time?

I travel a lot with my family. We explore other European Union countries as well as other Belgian cities. I also enjoy taking my kid to do stuff she likes.

What has surprised you the most at your arrival?

Coming from India, I found Belgium's public administration and infrastructure (roads, public transport, etc.) very impressive. One may argue that it is not the best in Europe, but as far as I am concerned, I was positively surprised.
As regards petty crimes in Brussels, being the capital of EU, the level is very high. Mugging or pickpocketing, breaking your parked car to take away GPS and stuff is very common in the city.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Brussels and in Belgium in general?

The cost of living is high in Brussels compared to other suburbs or even other European cities. If you move here with a nice pay, it is easy to live here. For job searchers, self-employment is not in a big scale. Hence, it can be tough.

What are the differences between life in Belgium and in your home country?

It is quite complex. Here, the public infrastructure and facilities, etc., are good, but I miss my homeland all the time for the invaluable things.

Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates?

Try to learn either French or Dutch. Integration becomes easy if you speak one of these.

What are your plans for the future?

I am not a person who plans for real long term. As long as this job keeps me busy and excited, I will work and live here. We never know, what's there tomorrow.

Share your expat experience!

Contact us to be featured in the Interviews section.