Living in Belgium is a popular choice for many expats. It is a relatively small but densely populated country with an estimated population of just over 10 million people. The country consists of three separate and almost autonomous regions, each of which has different languages;
- Flanders is situated in the North of the country and is the majority of Belgium’s industrial resources. People here predominantly speak Dutch/Flemish. Approximately 58% of the population resides here.
- Wallonia is the country’s southern French-speaking region, and approximately 11% of the countries inhabitants can be found here.
- Brussels, the capital and home of the European Union, is officially recognized as bilingual.
Belgium is rich in history, as evidenced by beautiful buildings and works of art. It is also famed for its cuisine, and many expats enjoy sampling the chocolate, waffles, and delicious Moules Frites. A perfect accompaniment to these delicacies is Belgium beer, with literally hundreds of different types available throughout Belgium’s major cities.
The majority of people living in Belgium practice Roman Catholicism (75%), with the remaining 25% being Protestant or following other religions.
Belgium as an expatriate destination
The high living standards in Belgium, coupled with excellent health care, education, and public facilities, have made Belgium a popular destination for expats. The community of expats living in Belgium is currently estimated at approximately 750,000, almost a tenth of the population.
Belgium does experience difficulties with illegal immigrants, and for this reason, immigration laws have been tightened in recent years. EU citizens can enter and reside in the country without any difficulties, but non-EU citizens may face significant challenges basing themselves here as an expatriate.
Cost of living in Belgium
Although the standard of living in Belgium is very high, this is accompanied by a relatively high living cost. In the 2012 Mercer cost of living, Brussels did not feature in the world’s top 50 most expensive cities. For expatriates relocating from Europe, it may offer a cheaper alternative than their home country. The fact that Belgium’s currency is the Euro entails that expats living in the country can benefit from the strength of the Euro when traveling throughout Europe and abroad.
For full details of the cost of living in Belgium, please see our international relocation guides. They contain detailed information about living costs across different types of lifestyles and living options. Because our guides are written by ex-pats who live and work in the cities, you can be assured that the information is accurate.
Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French).
People living in Belgium can expect temperate conditions with mild winters and cool summers that are rainy, humid, and cloudy.
Expat job and career opportunities
Nationals of the European Union have the right to live and work in Belgium, with the only requirement to register for a residence permit once a job has been located.
Unfortunately, it is much more difficult for non-EU nationals to find work as potential employers are required to gain the local labor office’s approval before they can hire someone from abroad.
Belgium is a good destination for those looking for work in public affairs or social policy. However, many people in the country are bilingual, and if you can only speak one language, you may not be able to compete with other applicants. Opportunities also exist in high skill areas such as engineering and computing, where labor shortages still exist. Still, again, you will be expected to be fluent in at least two languages.
Key facts every expat should know about Belgium
- Many employers pay a 13th-month ‘bonus’ to their employees, which is usually awarded at the end of the financial year.
- Many rental properties in Belgium are not “equipped.” If you lease one of these, you will be required to provide your own appliances and, in some cases, even cupboards.
- Leases in Belgium must be registered with the local office of the Receiver of Registrations, Ministry of Finance, within four months of being signed. If the registration is late, you will be fined.
- In Belgium, you are required to have all foreign documents legalized. You will be expected to get a numbered and dated certificate known as an Apostille whenever you submit any form of official paperwork that originated outside Belgium.
- All Belgium residents over the age of 12 are required to carry their identity cards with them at all times. If you are asked to produce your card and cannot do so, you can be placed under administrative arrest for up to 12 hours.
Living in Belgium: Brussels City Guide
Expat Info Desk currently has a city guide available for living in Brussels. This exhaustive guide contains everything you need to know about relocating to this Belgian city and will assist you to:
- relocate efficiently and effectively with minimum stress.
- Settle your new life quickly and easily and find the help and assistance you need when you need it.
- Identify areas to live in that suit your lifestyle and budget.
- Find the right places to meet like-minded people.
- Find schools that are suitable for your children and their learning needs.
- Ensure that your family gets the most of their experiences abroad.
- Prepare for the new culture in advance and avoid any cultural traps.
- Deal with any transition challenges.
- Cut through red tape and avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.
Unlike a book, the guides are regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that the information is accurate and reliable. Because the guides are written by real expats who live and work in Brussels, you can be assured that you are accessing the information you need as written by people who really are in the know.