How has your life changed in Belgium

Hello everyone,

Has your life changed since you moved to Belgium? If so, in what way?

Tell us more about all the changes in your life regarding your family, job, or friends. What about your frame of mind? How would you define your mood?

Leisure activities improve our health and social interactions. How much time do you dedicate to leisure activities and networking nowadays?

Would you say that your standard of living has improved in Belgium? What income differences have you noticed?

On a scale of 0 to 10, tell us how much your expatriation to Belgium has transformed your life (0 = no change, 10 = dramatic change).

We look forward to hearing from you!


I came from Canada, where winters are much more severe than in Belgium.  I lived for many years in the UK, most recently in Canterbury where I found the people cold and unwelciming and adequate  housing completely unaffordable.  I find Belgium's healthcare performùs better than in Canada or the UK.  Of course, advanced care is very good in all three places but run-of-the-mill care is only moderate in Canada and downright poor in the UK.  Belgium and Canada are less obviously class-conscious and much more egalitarian than the UK.  Music plays a much lrger part of life in the UK than in canada or in Belgium.

So far, I have not enjoyed my experience here (I moved to Brussels on Dec 1, 2016). This is the 7th country where I've lived and worked, following the US, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, and Japan, and in practical terms, it's at the bottom of my list.

Why? First of all, nothing's open after work. I can barely even buy groceries. I've yet to make it to a mall, all of which close at 7 and aren't open on Sundays.

The immigration process is an absolute nightmare - endless paperwork, fees, and visits to various offices. I get conflicting information on every visit. No one seems interested in doing their job properly. I've been here for 4 months, with no end in sight. One chap said his paperwork took over 9 months to complete. In every other foreign country, the process was done within 2-3 weeks and a single application, and I never had to think about it again. Here, I'm running in circles. It's disruptive to my job and it's a generally miserable experience.

The taxes are among the most extreme in the world - I'm losing almost 50% of my paycheck to various withholdings, yet the public services are mediocre at best. If the government were a car, by price it'd be a Ferrari, yet by quality it'd be a Dodge. Speaking of cars, a lot of companies offer company vehicles as a perk to get around the taxes, since it's almost impossible to make a decent living by pay alone. But the traffic and parking situation is less than ideal, as a result.

The doctors are a nuisance - cash in full up front, regardless of the cost of the service (imagine you need an MRI - need I say more?), and no reimbursement until you have a social security number, which as I said takes ages. And even once you have your docs, it requires a bunch of paperwork to get reimbursed, much like everything here. In the UK, healthcare was free - free of cost, and free of hassle. In the US, I paid a bit more but at least I knew my terms and what I'd get back and when.

The pharmaceuticals are also a headache - the industry is heavily regulated here, so I can't even buy ibuprofen at the grocery store. And the pharmacies have extremely limited hours - often 10-4 or 10-5, M-F - again, virtually unusable. I restock my pills whenever I go abroad on the weekend. It sucks to be forced to do this. In Japan, pharmaceuticals are also available only in pharmacies, but some are open until 10 pm, so it was never a concern.

The banks also have extremely limited hours, and many are closed during the lunch hour as well, which is the only time I can manage to get free from the office. Not everything can be done online. I can work around it, but it's a nuisance.

As far as my physical well-being goes, well... definitely worse than ever before. I have a chronic knee problem, so I'm somewhat restricted in terms of the types of exercise I can do. I like to swim, but all the swimming pools are closed by the time I leave the office, except for a couple days a week. It's very restrictive. And the weather isn't great, so outdoor activities are limited by the rain and wind.

As for mental health... not great. I feel like I'm living in a straightjacket. Feels like there's nothing to do after hours except drink or go home. I feel like I'm living in a city under martial law, with a curfew in place. It's ridiculous. Outside the core city centre, there's nothing happening - the bars and restaurants are empty. Doesn't seem like a healthy economy, and above all, it's a drag. Boring is the word.

For a European capital, it's extremely disappointing... and things are even worse elsewhere in Belgium. I don't think I'll be here long, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

I came to Bruxelles to educate my two children, and, then develop a project in music. Although I have an enterprise which is pending. Coming to Belgium is a great way being tolerant. We get to know that no matter our ethnicity we are bond by one love.  The patience needed while dealing with lesser issues. Till date we are still searching for a way to better our lives overall, be it in Belgium or elsewhere. My music got safely into the author's protection arena, where no one would claim they were not mine. I am still looking forward to making it bigger. Meaning a band in place not yet, touring no, with no visible album on ground, only in view. My two children  were out of school,  having found good schools initially. This has been a great blow to my personality as someone who respects education. I hope, coping with the situation is just by the way. This must be redressed. Right now doing exams to pass the driving tests is upfront. As time consuming as that, my music had been set back rehearsals wise. A jam session will be in place this Thursday at Halles in the centre where I will possibly will render some songs. For now I have been pleased with living in a place I feel safe. I used to live in debauchary, now having changed all that is unbecoming of me here  in Brussels,  my happiness knows no bounds. I am aspiring to naturalise sooner or later. What I miss most is literary retreats, where I possibly would be acquainted with other like minds. In all, nothing is better than living in a place where we find solace.

What part of Brussels do you live and work in cbthomas2006?

I am sure it is slightly better in larger cities like Brussels or Antwerp, but anyone who is planning to move to Belgium should NOT consider smaller towns in Flanders. People are incredibly xenophobic and racist, few speak any language besides Dutch. People stare at me and my wife when we speak Swedish or English. It is incredible. It is like moving to Europe circa 1948. They still have hot soup in the vending machines at offices as if we were all hungry peasants and the war just ended. Class stratification is one of the most obvious things that catches everyone eye in Belgium. This society is still early post-feudal and it boggles one's mind that this country houses capital of United Europe. God help us all, as Americans would say.

[at]AngelaTheGreat, I live at the south end of Schaerbeek, two blocks from the edge of central Brussels, a 30-min walk to the Grote Markt.

I was initially working at the southeast edge of the city, but then we moved to a new office in the city center.

[at]MOHCTEP (monster? ;) - I am also shocked by how trapped in the past Belgium seems. It was really shocking to learn that the extremely limited business hours aren't just an old habit, but something they deliberately legislated, ostensibly to avoid "unfair competition" from shops who might choose to operate on a different set of hours.

I haven't experienced any xenophobia in Brussels, but otherwise the mindset seems very old-fashioned, day-to-day operations remain clunky and inconvenient, and locals seem oblivious to how Belgium compares to neighboring countries. I can't wait to get out of here.

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