Potential Brussels move... help with schools, areas to live etc... PLEASE!

(107 Posts)
lozzyblue Tue 17-May-11 09:19:24

Hi there,

my husband is expecting to receive an exciting job offer this week which would involve us and our young family relocating to Brussels.

Although excited by this, I'm also extremely nervous. I have 2 young children with my third due in 4 weeks so I have my hands full without organising an International move so any help you can give me is really appreciated and might just save my sanity!

My DD is 3, 4 in August (and so due to start school here in September). My DS is 2. I have been looking into schools but feel completely lost and out of my depth. From what I understand it can be really difficult to even get a place in a good school in Brussels as they are subscribed to super early grin(

My daughter is somewhat a creature of habit and I'm really nervous about throwing her into a completely foreign language school with no friends etc and no way of communicating. I have also read that the local schools can be inflexible and unhelpful in settling a new child when they do not speak the language? For this reason I have been looking at a blilingual education - we do not know how long this move will be for... I would guess a minimum of 2 years however I don't see it as somewhere we will stay forever.

The school which has caught my eye so far is Ecole Internationale Verseau? Does anyone know the school? the area? how likely it is we could get a place? The timing of our potential move is also stressing me out as we are fast approaching the Summer holidays I fear it will make our plans even harder.

My husbands potential employer is not actually in the centre of Brussels - it's in Ixelles I believe. Are there any areas you could recommend for us to look at property which would suit a reasonalbe commute for him (within 30 mins ideally) and in close proximity to a good school? We would be looking for a 4 (ideally 5) bedroom house with a garden. I would quite like an English speaking community close by and parks, amenities would be a bonus too!

I know I'm asking a lot and I'm aware I've rambled but my head is at bursting point with so many questions and fears about how I'll cope rattling around!

Thanks in advance for anyone who bothers to read or can help point me in the right direction!


natation Tue 17-May-11 10:19:32

There are lots of threads about moves to Brussels ans schooling and where to live, give them a read, lots of info there.

Le Verseau is NOT a bilingual school and NOT near Brussels, about 25km south east, would involve 2 round trips of 60-90 minutes each day from Ixelles or central Brussels, I personally would not consider it unless I were really in love with the school, not with having to put 3 children in a car anyway.

Quite a few bilingual schools, but beware of the lack of children with English and/or French in some of these schools.

You will find a place in a local French school, just depends on area, may not be your first choice school.

Ixelles is quite a long commune, before recommending where to live, I'd be nosey and sk the address first, the north is near the centre, the south of the commune is quite suburban.

The British School of Brussels is starting a bilingual French / English class for your eldest daughter's age in September, the aim is for most if not all the children to speak English and / or French already, you will have to double check whether this is still the aim of the class, it is to avoid the situation in some of the bilingual schools where Germans / Finns etc make up the majority of the class and master neither English nor French. For a child staying only initially for 2 years but looking for a French education, I think this is a very good choice. IF interested, contact them very very quickly. The

natation Tue 17-May-11 10:21:04

PS not true that local schools are ALL unhelpful in settling in newcaomers, some are most welcoming of newcomers, you'll find many in the south and east of Brussels.

lozzyblue Tue 17-May-11 11:15:19

Thanks Natation. I didn't intend to imply ALL local schools are unhelpful with settling newcomers - I think it's just my nerves making me irrational!

Thank you so much for the info you provided - the BSB bilingual class looks really interesting. I have emailed them to find out about places for this year however the fees from Yr 1 onwards are so expensive and I don't think my husband's employer will cover unfortunately.

The company is on Av Arnaud Fraiteur and actually Tervuren - where BSB is, is one of the places I had looked at properties. Do you know anything about the area or surrounding to it?

Thanks again.

Superspudable Tue 17-May-11 13:55:49

Hi Lozzy

My children started out at a "bilingual" montessori school and then moved to a local French speaking school last September - no regrets, brilliant proactive school with fantastic teachers and only 18 per class. There are 7 different nationalities in my eldest son's class and they are both now fluent in French - so I think it has been a great advantage to send them there and they settled very quickly. Obviously you have to make an effort with the teachers and parents but that is the same at any school and I like that the kids are all local.

My observation from some of the bilingual schools is that for many children, neither French nor English is their first language so they are not that strong in either. Also, let's face it, if you were given the choice of speaking your mother tongue or French, most children will stick to English which kind of defeats the object of exposing them to another language. But then again, both my DH and I speak French so I think it scared us less! But my point is that most of the "bilingual" schools will not make your children bilingual...

If you're interested in a 5 bed, 3 bath house in SE Brussels with a great enclosed garden within walking distance of above school, tram / metro - let me know, ours is available from end July! Looks like your DH's workplace is near to Delta metro station, which means Auderghem, Etterbeek and that part of Ixelles could all be good - but you really want to be somewhere near the line 5 metros on Hermann Dubroux side (we are about 15-20 mins walk from Hermann Dubroux metro station or 10 mins from a tram to there).

BSB is an interesting prospect but VERY expensive and Tervuren is a long way out of BXL in my opinion. Leafy and bourgeois...and Dutch speaking.
But much of BXL is very green. My house is 2 minutes walk from a huge forest and we have a choice of 3+ parks within walking distance. So don't discount living in BXL proper! It is a very green place and easy to get about on public transport too depending on where you are.

scaryteacher Tue 17-May-11 14:50:50

BSB is low on numbers at the moment, so getting a place shouldn't be too difficult!

Tervuren is 20 minutes away from the centre of Brussels by car (if the road is clear) and it takes dh longer to get to and from NATO by car than it did for him to get to Schumann by tram and metro each morning.

Tervuren is lovely to live in, ostensibly Dutch speaking, but most people speak English.

Portofino Tue 17-May-11 17:20:00

This mammoth thread is absolutely packed with info about schools and locations. grin

If you have a spare day hour or 2, I would suggest having a read through and coming back with questions....

Also if you would be here by the summer, maybe worth looking at some French (or dare I say it, Dutch) classes in the holidays. I know they are available - even for the littlies.

Portofino Tue 17-May-11 17:25:29

Plus last year, I enquired at the french speaking Ecole de Fermette in Wezembeek Oppem, and there didn't seem to be a big pressure on places. This is the next village over from Tervuren. You have to live there (in W-O), or in one of the other Communes A Facilities eg Kraainem, to get a french speaking school place, which ruled me out, though I live quite close to there.

Wezembeek is also where the headquarters of the Brussels Childbirth Trust is located with all the mother/baby/toddler groups. BCT It is well worth joining, for the opportunity to meet people and for local support.

Portofino Tue 17-May-11 17:27:31
natation Tue 17-May-11 18:11:30

Our house is also available for rent from around 1st August, 4/5 beds, a 5 minute walk from metro line 5, the other side of the forest to superspudable. We cannot afford rent :-( as the our husband's employer is no longer paying rent, so we have to move.

I personally would look in Watermael-Boitsfort (1170), Auderghem (1160) or Woluwe St Pierre (1150) especially in Chant d'Oiseau area. Use this website to search for properties. A 4 bed with garden, near public transport, near a good school, in good condition, should set you back from 1400 to 4000 euro, depending on how luxurious you want, plenty of properties targetted at expats will still come in at under 2000 per month. The numbers in brackets are postcodes for the communes, essential to know them when searching Immoweb. I recommend using a plubic transport and ordinary map and also google maps, when searching.

natation Tue 17-May-11 18:17:43

Oh and another PS, ecole le Verseau does do a few hours of English for native level per week, the rest of the time is in French. It's a great option for long term, if you want your child to be proficient in writing in English for example. For short term, I am not sure if the distance is worth it. Ok maybe I am biased, it's just when children are young, for me being near school and going to school with children from the same street is far more attractive for me than sitting in a car for 2 to 3 hours a day and commuting 250km a week, I prefer 10 minutes walk per day.

Finally, here is a full list of bilingual schools in the greater Brussels area.

Eastern Brussels and Vlaams Brabant near Eastern Brussels Area

Ecole Acacia
143 Rue Louis Hap,
1040 Bruxelles (Etterbeek)
02 736 13 86
aged 2-12 years, varied fees max €5k?? per year

Brussels International Catholic School (BICS)
457 Chausséé de Wavre
1040, Bruxelles (Etterbeek)
aged 2 ½ to 18 years, up to €7,000 per year (without financial support)

Montessori House Brussels
195 Avenue Teruvren,
1150 Bruxelles (Woluwe St Pierre)
02 733 63 55
aged 2-6 years in 2 classes, up to €10,050 per year

International Montessori (Tervuren Rotselaelaan)
1 Rotselaerlaan,
3080 Tervuren
02 767 63 60
aged 2 ½ -11 years, up to €13,380 per year (without financial support)

International Montessori (Tervuren Savoorke)
24 Bergestraat,
3080 Tervuren
02 767 02 76
aged 15 months - 6 years, up to €11,040 per year (without financial support)

International Montessori (Wezembeek-Oppem)
4 Molenweg,
1970 Wezembeek-Oppem
02 782 12 36
aged 2-6 years up to €11,040 per year (without financial support)

International Montessori (Sterrebeek)
79-I Mechelsesteenweg,
1933 Sterrebeek
02 784 27 84
aged 2 ½ months – 6 years, up to €11,040 per year (without financial support)

International Montessori (Woluwe Hof Kleinenberg)
97/99 Kleinenbergstraat,
1932 St. Stevens-Woluwe
aged 2-16 years, up to €14150 per year (without financial support)

Lycée Français Jean Monnet
Avenue dy Lycée Français 9,
1180 Bruxelles (Uccle)
02 374 58 78
aged 3 to 18 years, up to 6k per year

British School of Brussels
Leuvensesteenweg 19
3080, Tervuren
02 766 04 30
bilingual classes starting September 2011 for Reception (age 5), Year 1 (age 6) and Year 3 (age 8)
aged 1 to 18 years, up to 27k per year

Superspudable Tue 17-May-11 18:20:39

I agree with natation's search area - WSP can be more expensive than Auderghem /W-B but no less desirable/convenient/practical and I think schools may be more sought after and therefore harder to get into but she'll put me right on that one!

If you use google maps, and get directions to DH's office from certain streets / areas, you can click on a public transport icon and it will tell you how long it takes by public transport! Genius!

Superspudable Tue 17-May-11 18:22:18

My kids were at Intl Montessori Sterrebeek last year so I can answer questions on there (or any of their other sites) - basically two teachers, one english speaking, one french speaking but both understand the other language...

Superspudable Tue 17-May-11 18:24:28

Also there are BCT playgroups within BXL now in Ixelles (avenue Louise / avenue de la toison d'or) and plenty going on in local BCT groups - definitely recommend joining as soon as you know you're coming! We're all in the same boat and it's a superb support network!

natation Tue 17-May-11 18:35:11

Oh another PS, for the bilingual classes at BSB, especially the reception class one, it would not surprise me if they had more applications for it than places. There will be one Fr/Eng class and two English classes, the latter two I am guessing will be easier to get into than the new bilingual one.

Tervuren to university are of Ixelles for a commute? Well by car or tram (44 change to 7) at rush hour expect a minimum of 45 minutes. Tervuren is great if you wish to remain within an expat community centred on BSB, International Montessori and St Paul's schools, but for a commute to Ixelles..... well to me it would be better to concentrate on the Brussels communes because you can half commuting time. I admit it, I am hellishly biased, just know too many people who live in Tervuren who never venture into Brussels, or even Leuven in the other direction which is well worth a shopping / social trip.

lozzyblue Tue 17-May-11 20:43:31

Wow - thank you all so much for your input! Certainly lots to get thinking about!

Thanks again and once I've digested the huge amount of info I will certainly be back in touch!


LillianGish Tue 17-May-11 20:53:48

I can't tell you where to live in Brussels, but I would urge you not to worry about throwing the kids in at the deep end with a new language. When we moved from France to Germany ds had not yet started school. He went to a German nursery at 18 months where he learned to speak German and then joined his sister at the French school a year later where he learned to speak French. When we left Germany four years later both my children were trilingual. I have never regretted it and the kids have absolutely thrived on it. It is a brillliant opportunity and your kids are at just the right age to benefit.

scaryteacher Tue 17-May-11 22:39:02

From Tervuren I tend to use Leuven or Waterloo for shopping, as opposed to going into Brussels, and also use Woluwe Shopping Centre, and Louvain-Le-Neuve.

It depends what you want - I always used the local small town near us rather than venture into Plymouth when in UK, so it's horses for courses really.

lozzyblue Thu 19-May-11 02:32:15

Ok ladies so if we decide to go local, I feel I'm going to be really caught out with timing. From what I have understood places at the preferred schools I'm each area will be hard to come by and as we would potentially arrive in August and still need to decide on a permanent home, we will be unable to organise starting at a school as it's school holidays right?

Ideas? Advice?

You've all been so helpful so far and I know these questions are probably difficult to answer when we ourselves have not even visited but really it's helping to steer my thoughts and relax me a little!

TIA, Lauren

natation Thu 19-May-11 07:15:29

If you can decide on approximate location before arriving, it will make it easier you as schools do not finish until 1st July. You could start enquiring right now. IF you leave the location decision to arrival, you should find the head in school during the last 2 weeks of August, plus the teachers in too the last week - it is their responsibility to equip their classrooms so most spend several days at the end of August cleaning / re-arranging. You can use this time to visit schools. Some schools will have specific days advertised for late enrolments, look on their websites. A full list of local schools in French is available here, search according to commune post code. You are not limited by geography, you can send your child wherever you want, if there is a space.

I am guessing your children are born in 2007 and 2009, therefore you need to ask for places in "2eme maternelle" for the 2007 child and "acceuil" for 2009 child who could start at 2 1/2 - means this class often has children joining during the year as the children come of age.

There is a lot of double booking of school places, as most schools do their own enrolments so parents enrol at several schools. Parents must decide on a school by 15th September, so in August and the first 2 weeks of September, many school places become available as parents decline their double booked places. So if you can get your child on several waiting lists, you may be phoned and offered a last minute place.

Most schools are "fondamentale" which means they have maternelle classes for 2 1/2 to 6 year olds and primaire classes for 6 to 12 year olds, covering 10 school years in total. A few schools are maternelle or primaire only but most of these are linked together. Finally there are a few maternelle only schools without a linked primaire, these tend to be the smallest schools with just 4 classes, one for each year, I even know one with jsut 2 classes. They can be a good choice if looking for intimacy, the disadvantage being that transition to primaire can be problematic, you have to secure a space in a primaire which is going to have either maternelle classes or a linked maternelle and all those children have priority over your child coming from a stand-alone maternelle not linked to a primaire. In Brussels, I'd say 2/3 of schools are "fondamentale" type, to give you an idea of size, a minority have one class per year, more typically there are 2 classes per year, some even have 3 classes per year. Brussels does not have enough schools, heads are being asked to take on more and more children per class. Expect 25 per class, even in maternelle. If you find a school in east Brussels with 20 in a class, well you must enquire as to why!!! So in a 2 class per year popular fondamentale, you'll find typically 450 children, don't be scared at the numbers, look rather at how each individual class is managed. Our children's school is now at 420, will grow next year to 450, yet in the maternelle classes, it is calm and quiet and has a small school feel to it, with the exception of the start of the day which is the only time the whole school is together in one playground.

Superspudable Thu 19-May-11 08:16:18

Our school definitely had places for late enrollments at the end of August last year, and my Canadian friends enrolled at the end of June so it is definitely possible. Feel free to PM me if you want the school's details, it is in Auderghem and has maternelle and primaire so goes from 2 1/2 to 12.

My DCs both have less than 20 per class, and it IS still an excellent school! The "catchment" has seen a falling birthrate / ageing population and the head is keen to keep the numbers down that way... so please don't always assume that a school with spaces is not a good one.

lozzyblue Thu 19-May-11 08:25:16


once again thank you! And not only for the info above, but the info you provided me with in your PM. We expect to have much more information regarding this move today so I may finally be able to plan a bit more and would hope to get out potentially next week for an initial visit. Everything feels a bit crazy because of the timing... not only in terms of schooling but with baby number 3 due in 4 weeks I really need to get a move on and would like to get the initial visit done PRE baby!

I've been looking at houses in the areas you suggested and also in Waterloo. I know that it's much further out but don't want to discount it before a visit... do you have any thoughts on Waterloo as an area?

One other thing I've realised is that rent is so much higher than the UK... is the cost of living in general SO different??

Portofino Thu 19-May-11 08:43:01

I think it's swings and roundabouts really with the cost of living. Food and clothes are more expensive. Wine and eating out are cheaper. Facilities are generally good - schools, healthcare etc. There are loads upon loads of inexpensive things to do, particularly for children. I would say we have less cash, but a much better standard of living than we did in the UK.

lozzyblue Thu 19-May-11 09:21:49

Superspudable, have only just seen your message... our posts must have crossed! I will PM you now - very interested to hear your thoughts on your own school. Thanks!

lozzyblue Thu 19-May-11 09:34:19

Portofino, I guessed it would be really... it's just hard to get your head around sitting here in the UK, especially as we are waiting on the concrete details (fingers crossed for answers today!)

It's so scary doing anything like this once you have children to consider isn't it! Silly really as I'm pretty sure that they'll be happy anywhere as long as they're with their mummy & daddy (at this age anyway - lol!)

Portofino Thu 19-May-11 09:40:04

I think it is great for kids here. Lots of parks, brilliant playgrounds, swimming pools (cheap), all the provincial domains. There is no end of weekend and holiday activities laid on.

I remember being back where you are now though. I hated having my life in someone else's hands. I had many a sleepless night before we left, especially as I had to resign from a very good job, and had no clue how easy it would be to get another one. We haven't looked back though. My dd is now 7, and totally bilingual. She has Belgian friends and expat friends and goes to Brownies/dancing/swimming etc.

natation Thu 19-May-11 10:26:03

I have only ever visited Waterloo, never lived there. Those I know who live in Waterloo don't tend to venture outside. Housing is only slightly cheaper there, due to the presence of St John's school, expats keep the rents at the higher end of the market high. I don't know anyone who commutes to Brussels for work from Waterloo, they all work in the area, only now those who live in Brussels and commute to Waterloo. Waterloo is a self-contained small town, everything you would need is there apart from night-llife which I am guessing with 3 children will not be high on your priority list. When looking at houses, I really would advise if you are using a relocation agent to do your own homework too, heard too many stories about people in inapprioriate properties and locations because they have been fobbed off by relocation agents trying to "dispose" of hard to rent housing. Prices you see on Immoweb also are negotiable, knock at least 10% off the prices you see. Are you paying your own rent though? It makes a difference to what housing you look at. Finally, unless coming form Waterloo by train, there is no way you can commute in under 30 minutes, count on a minimum of an hour at peak times. Tervuren for me would be a better option than Waterloo, but then for French schools you would have to commute into Brussels, 6km minimum to the nearest French school.

As for cost of living, some things are more expensive but you can often source these more expensive things in the UK, some cheaper. Child care is loads cheaper and much more varied. Child benefit for 3 children will bring in over 500 euro per month, double what you would get in the UK. 3 children are also very beneficial for tax purposes.

Our children's maternelle would have space for your 2 year old probably, the 4 year old would be on a waiting list. The next school to us, a non Catholic communal one, may have space. The Catholic schools in our area are far more popular than the non Catholic ones, but not necessarily the case everywhere, in central Brussels the non Catholic ones are more popular for example. Only 2 schools in our commune, out of 11 maternelles, always seems to have places. 5 out of 6 Catholic ones are normally waiting lists, the stand alone maternelle is full, the other 4 non Catholic communal ones are 50/50 for a place.

lozzyblue Thu 19-May-11 14:28:56

Yes I think we will be avoiding the relocation agent where property is concerned as we were messed around by them on a move to Canada a few years back - which as a result we ended up pulling out of - we were much more niave and considered they should have been the experts!

The only real reason for considering Waterloo is not to save money but to get more space and land for the money. It appears from Immoweb that the houses are larger with more land in Waterloo, however I'm aware how little I can learn from a website before actually visiting the area!

My husband currently commutes into London for work and does approx 1h20 journey each way on trains. Obviously this is something we want to cut substancially but we're still pretty flexible if it means getting the right school/property/area for us.

Does anyone know much about income tax there? I'm sure dh's company will go through it if he accepts the role but I understand it's around 50%?

Portofino Thu 19-May-11 14:40:00

Yes - about 50%. I nearly had a fit! However if this is a short term contract and eg you keep your house in the UK it is possible to get an Expat tax rate, and pay vastly less. He should ask about this! My dh does this, even though we sold up and have nothing other than pensions and family in the UK. Childcare and activities, out side of school hours, are tax deductible and the school and any clubs/holiday schemes give you a statement each year.

So for example, dd goes to after school garderie, stays for school lunches, does a dance class and does holiday club, trips away etc. All this is tax deductible. As Natation said, child benefit is higher, and your tax code takes into account your married status, whether or not you work, and how many dependants you have. Plus if you pay a cleaner through the Titres Services set up, you can also deduct that I believe. So in reality you could pay much less than 50%

Health insurance is another biggie. He should ensure that his employer covers the family with a policy.

natation Thu 19-May-11 14:40:06

You MAY get a bit more room for your money, but when I last looked at houses where I am compared to Waterloo, the difference was not significant. If you have a budget of between 1.5k and 2.5k, you can easily find a house even in an expensive area of Brussels with 4 beds and a decent garden. Brussels is quite green in the south and east. A house listed upwards of 150m2 living space is more than adequate for 2 adults and 3 children. A garden ideally of more than 100m2 too, garden space is not always listed in adverts.

Tax depends on family circumstances and income. With 3 children plus non working wife, tax will be less than 50%, thats a figuere often quoted but only relevant if a single person. I pay NO tax with 4 kids and I think I can earn around 20k per annum before paying tax. You can claim child care, home improvements, all sorts of things against tax to reduced the bill, most people overpay tax and received several k refunds a year later. Tax is only one financial factor to consider. Cheap child care, expensive food, rent, expensive utilities. Your husband will probably get paid partly in food / sports / eco vouchers, get free or heavily subsidised public transport and / or a company car. You have to factor all this in as well.

Portofino Thu 19-May-11 14:43:16
Portofino Thu 19-May-11 14:48:09

natation, yes they do like a non-taxable benefit here! I get my bus pass paid, meal vouchers, subsidised holidays and eco vouchers. Dh has a company car and a fuel card (so free petrol).

Also the wages are calculated on a 13.85 month year. So when they quote you a monthly salary, you get that x 12, plus a 13th month in November/December, plus 0.85 of a month "double" holiday pay in April/May. Many companies pay an annual bonus on top of that.

lozzyblue Thu 19-May-11 14:49:20

Wow - and this is why this forum is proving so helpful because on the surface 50% seems so much but hearing all you have to say makes it far easier to swallow!

Well, I've just heard from hubby and he's booked in for his call later today so I hope we have much more info to be working with shortly! It's so hard doing all this leg work blind!

Portofino Thu 19-May-11 14:51:22

Also holidays - 20 days plus public holidays in the legal minimum. The BH's sometimes fall on the weekend, so these get added on to the total. Many big companies offer much more "extra-legal" leave, or compensation leave for working longer hours. I got 38 days this year! So that is nearly 2 weeks more than I had in the Uk.

lozzyblue Thu 19-May-11 15:07:02

fab! any more thoughts along these lines is great as I'm sure we'll have some negotiating to do even if it's just these little things.

it's a completely new role rather than a transfer or secondment but the organisation has assured us a full relocation package so we're hopeful it will be comprehensive.

natation Thu 19-May-11 15:43:43
natation Thu 19-May-11 19:47:11

Just been comparing houses between east Brussels communes and Waterloo. What is evident is that at the higher end of the market where you find many expats and few Belgians (75% of Belgians own their own home and often rent more, so they tend not to rent high value houses, if they can afford the rents, they usually buy instead), you are looking at rents above 1.5k for a 4 bed house, and in Waterloo, these houses tend to be detached houses, in east Brussels there are far less detached houses and more semis or very Belgian "bel-étage" type terraces, that a house on 3 or floors, gorund floor with garage and office / laundry, first floor with living room and kitchen, top 2 floors with bedrooms.

If considering Waterloo, think about :

Waterloo is not on the train lines which pass very near your husband's work. Delta and Etterbeek stations are within walking distance of his work. Etterbeek trains go to Hoeilart, Genval, Rixensart which are places you'll get bigger houses for your money. These little towns have a fiar number of expats, ideal if you really are looking for more country and less city. Delta trains connect with south Uccle, Beersel, again somewhere houses are bigger, but Uccle can be mighty expensive.

Waterloo is connected to Brussels by the ring road R0 and then E411. Expect 60 minutes in rush hour minimum, only at the quietest times oculd you make it in 30 minutes. The commute by car will cost quite alot, compared to public transport travel from one part of Brussels to another.

Ixelles (1050), Auderghem (1160), Watermael-Boitsfort (1170), WSP (1150) will mean a public transport commute of between 5 and 30 minutes. I don't think you will find many people saying the recommend driving into Ixelles over taking public transport at rush hour. You can find very green streets only a few minutes cycle ride from your husband's work.

lozzyblue Thu 19-May-11 21:16:40

I really appreciate you putting your time into helping me. Everyone here has really gone above and beyond and I'm extremely grateful to you all.

DH got the job offer but we won't see specifics until tomorrow morning so likely another sleepless night for me lol! wink

Portofino Thu 19-May-11 21:20:03

Good luck! And of course we are all here and actually go out from time to time. So when you get here there is already a potential MN welcoming committee wink

Portofino Thu 19-May-11 21:23:55

And natation, I never DID thank you for your kind offer of spine protecting clothing! I think I was a bit in denial wink But anyway, dd had a lovely week, but has shown absolutely no inclination to continue her riding career! She wants to do Karate now, so i have enrolled her in a Toboggan stage in the summer. Whats the betting it's 10 boys and her.....?

lozzyblue Thu 19-May-11 21:24:21

Fab! And I'll have popped out this baby by then so could even indulge in a glass of wine!

lozzyblue Fri 20-May-11 21:02:02

Good evening ladies, me again...! What would be your thoughts/opinions on bringing our car over? Is it worth it or better to sell up and buy when we get over?

TIA smile

Portofino Fri 20-May-11 21:22:26

You need to import it to get insurance - not sure how much that costs, but quite a bit of hassle. We kept our British car for a year and I managed to find a company in the UK to give me a green card. We then bought a belgian one. I guess it depends on your car and how long you plan to stay. Car insurance is quite expensive. Leasing a car is very common here.

Portofino Fri 20-May-11 21:26:23

As an example, I have donkey's years no-claims bonus and my insurance in the UK 5 years ago was about £30 a month. They recognised a certain amount of my no-claims - bonus malus it's called here - and my policy was nearer 100 euros per month. 4 years on, and no-claims, it is about 70 euros, but that is for a new car.

natation Fri 20-May-11 21:28:37

How old is your car? People with cars over 5 years old rarely insure fully comp here, but fully comp is very expensive. IF you have an older car, might be more worth bringing if you insure the Belgian way.

What type of car is it? Worth comparing prices of buying a new one of the same make here, cars can be very expensive to buy here.

What size is your engine and type of fuel? Annual car tax varies between 71 euro and 1825 euro, so if you have a big engine, taxing your car might be prohibitive here.


We brought our car and re-registered it. The most expensive thing was changing the lights, sourced from ebay. Some new cars have a switch to switch the headlights so no need to change. We paid about 300 euro to re-register for everything.

lozzyblue Fri 20-May-11 21:37:07

It's a Volvo XC90 (4x4 2.5L Diesel)

I think it's 6 years old but still worth in excess of 15k I would think. Is there an equivalent of Auto trader there? Might give me an idea of what we'd be looking at to replace it.

We have a choice of taking a company car but our first instinct was that taking the car allowance would be better. Would you agree?

natation Fri 20-May-11 21:46:50

Car tax for 2.5L is 544.50 per year, that's quite a bit more than what you will be paying in the UK I think. To give you an idea of tax, we have a 5 year old small MPV, we pay 1000euro for fully comp (hubby refuses 3rd party like the Belgians would do) which is twice what we paid in the UK. Our car tax is just about the same price as in the UK as it has a 1.9D engine. I would have thought you are looking at up to 2000 euro per year for your car fully comp. You can do online quotes, Ethias for example.

My gut instinct reading what you have written is to sell your car and take the company car. Company cars do not tend to be luxurious here, certainly one that does not cost alot to insure or tax. Expect something like a VW Passat estate or perhaps a small MPV like a Renault Scenic, Citroen C4. 4X4 are not common here.

Portofino Fri 20-May-11 21:55:07

natation, I never cease to be amazed at your detailed knowledge of everything grin In my experience, you pay a small amount of extra tax for a company car, which does not compare with the cost of buying one, taxing and insuring it. In this high tax environment, company cars are really common.

Portofino Fri 20-May-11 21:56:19

And if the car allowance is added the wages it will be taxed!

Portofino Fri 20-May-11 22:00:59

DH got to spend about 30000 euros on a company car. I was expecting a nice BIG family car with any number of seats and a huge boot. He came back with a VW passat with suede heated seats (only 4 of them mind) and all manner of flash accoutrements.

natation Fri 20-May-11 22:02:56

LOL I only know about cars as we received a 50 euro fine for not re-taxing ours, despite the working, being paid from, and sometimes living in the UK, and the car going constantly between the 2 companies, well we decided to conform and re-register....so the moral is, do not think about keeping your car on British plates for too long. So we had to quickly become versed in Belgian insurance, whether to sell and buy here etc, in the end for our car, it was better to re-plate.

Portofino Fri 20-May-11 22:08:20

I did the eye-rolling, shouldn't you have got at least an estate car thing at the time. I will get my own back when we go on holiday and dd throws up on the suede seats.... grin

Portofino Fri 20-May-11 22:10:27

pale beige suede seats no less! I have a Seat Ibiza that is filled with sweet wrappers and crap. DH has been living in a dream world.....

lozzyblue Fri 20-May-11 22:58:33

And still researching... do you ladies know anything about Uccle? Nice area? Schools? International community? Facilities etc?

Hope you don't mind me bombarding you with questions?!

Portofino Fri 20-May-11 23:12:14

Uccle - yes nice area. Lots of expats certainly. Can't comment on the schools. Expensive probably!

natation Sat 21-May-11 07:33:13

Uccle is lovely, but it is quite varied in that the north is very city like and the south is very suburban, huge houses, but farther from any facilities such as sports centre which is situated in the north of the commune.

If your husband is working in the VUB (Flemish uni) area of Ixelles and living in Uccle, their is the Bois de la Cambre between the 2 areas - part of the larger forest Forest de la Soignes. It's not easy to cross the Bois de la Cambre, it's a major major car jam spot, the very worst place to commute through in the city. So the option is public transport and there are really only 2 routes to consider from Uccle to Ixelles if you are looking for a 30 minute max commute. There are 2 train stations in the south called Vivier d'oie and St Job which take you quickly to Delta train station. But it's an area with not so many schools to choose from either, if interested in that area, I would definitely secure a school place before looking for a house. It is really beautiful down there, very expensive, the most expensive area of Brussels. Route 2 is tram no7 which goes along Ave Churchill in the north of the commune, to me that is a better choice as loads more schools, near more shops and sports facilities, 2 parks. It's another area very popular with expats there.

A disadvantage of Uccle is that there is no metro access to the city centre. The metro is not slowed down by car traffic, unlike the trams and buses which run through Uccle to the city centre. Trams 3,4 and 7 which run through Uccle are at least the modern ones which are better for puschair access.

Take a look at the public transport map to see the routes. your husband's work is nearest to a bus stop callled "fraiteur" just off the VUB "shield". Nearby you'll find Delta metro/train stop and Etterbeek train stop. Look at the connections to Uccle, in Ixelles itself, Watermael-Boitsfort, Auderghem, WSP. You can also do a point-to-point research of commutes using this website.


natation Sat 21-May-11 07:41:33

And yes good schools, all of south and east Brussels has good schools. If you stay in Brussels, nearly every commune has a swimming pool (Auderghem is an exception, but one in W-B nearby), every single commune has at least one sports centre, supermarkets you might be disappointed about, at least the east side of Brussels has a Cora, largest supermarket in Brussels I reckon, plus 2 Carrefours, Uccle on the south side has a Carrefour too. Big shopping centres are also non existent here - biggest in Brussels are Woluwe shopping in WSL, next to Roodebeek metro, Westland shopping in Anderlecht (most expats would never have even heard or visited that one), City 2 in the city centre. There is nothing like Bluewater, Westfield, Trafford Centre.

scaryteacher Sat 21-May-11 18:19:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

natation Sat 21-May-11 19:00:30

Excellent point. Even if you only bring your car over for a short time, not expecting to re-plate, just in case you do change your mind and re-plate, getting a certificate of EU conformity is much easier from the UK than getting it here in Belgium. Hubby knew this before we moved and simply phoned up VW UK and got a free certificate through the post. So it might be worth phoning up Volvo UK and ask for one now.

Re-plating requires getting insurance, plenty of English speaking brokers, standing a a few queues, going for a Belgian MOT - done at central points, not by a garage and there are webcams so you can see before you leave if there are queues, hubby drove there, went through the queue, back in less than an hour. The queue at the Customs office took longer. Just don't go on a wednesday when schools are out - my friend stood 5 hours recently getting plates for her husband's new motorbike!

lozzyblue Sat 21-May-11 21:27:58

Sounds like a bloody nightmare! I think we've now decided that we'll sell the car grin and will probably take the company car - but we have time to make that decision so not stressing about it.

Natation - that transport map gave me a headache lol! Will keep looking and trying to make some sense of it! But on a serious note, thank you. I'm sure it will make much more sense once we have been out and get a feel for the place.

Something else I've been considering is with rental properties... Should we expect appliances (washing machine, dryer, dishwasher etc) to be in the property or not? Or does it differ with each property?

Also, will all of our electrical items transfer problem free (tvs, hairdryers, games consoles etc)?

lozzyblue Sat 21-May-11 21:57:37

Natation, I noticed you offer to point out a few key areas to SalM on her thread... could I be so rude as to ask you to do the same for me... I know you have suggested lots of areas already but I'm thinking if you could give me an opinion on what areas might fit for us best according to your list we could try to focus our short recce trip (hopefully end of next week btw!)

maximum price 2000 euro
number of bedrooms 4 minimum
city, suburban, country city/suburban
new house or period house we do like modern tbh, but not a dealbreaker
new town or period town no preference
maximum commute time to work less than 30 mins ideally - up to 45
near public transport for work / pleasure public transport links for work - avenue arnaud fraiteur, ixelles
near sports facilities ideally
near parks ideally
language of locality french
language of schooling french
number of expats and whether you prefer Brits / want to avoid them!!! expat community would be nice I think!
want to walk to school or happy to drive and how far walk would be FAB

I hope you don't think I'm being cheeky but I really dont want to have to rely too much on relocation agents! We also really need to leave with a good idea of preferred area to be able to make contact with schools before summer hols.


natation Sat 21-May-11 21:58:43

kitchens vary, but nearly always contain appliances. Our current home came with cooker, fridge, dishwasher, microwave. We had the option of buying the last family's washing machine and tumble dryer but opted to bring our own with us. Our new place comes again with fridge, cooker and dishwasher.

That brings me onto the subject of contracts. Landlords may talk expats into fixed 1/2/3 year contracts AVOID THESE contracts. They are fixed length, if for some reasono you have to leave, you are liable for all the remaining months. There is also NO WEAR AND TEAR. You give the place back in exactly the same condition you took it over (impossible of course) and the landlords screw you for the deposit which is by law 2 months rent, plus they try and screw you for even more. Belgians apparently get around this by not paying the last 2 months rent! Go instead for a 3/6/9 contract. In the first year, if you break the contract, 3 months rent as penalty plus more if you have given less than 3 months notice. In the 2nd year, 2 months rent as penalty, in the 3rd year, 1 months rent as penalty, finally in the 4th year, no penalty. In this contract, there is an element of wear and tear, but still not in the British rental market sense. In all types of contract, there is normally and entry and exit inspection, cost shared between landlord and rentees. It's essential you read the initial entry report, you have a month to contest and add to it - turn on the central heating even in Summer just to check it works as an example, you only have this month to check for any defects in a property and ask the landlord to acknowledge and try and correct. If you miss a defect, you might end up paying to fix it yourself. This is where relocation agents can come in handy in explaining Belgian contracts.

No problem for electrical items, you can just change the plugs. We have just put travel adaptors on small items, though for home insurance, this might be a bit of grey area.

Try this map which will show you where all 19 Brussels communes are. I have a wonderful street map which is falling apart and cannot find a replacement of anywhere. It shows all the public transport routes on their actual street routes, it has every commune in a different colour so you can see where the boundaries are, it has many of the schools marked, all the sports centres and swimming pools. We chose our current location using this map. Unfortunately I have never found an online map as good as my paper street map.

natation Sat 21-May-11 22:23:46

If you run a search using Immoweb, max 2200 euro per month, 4 beds, in 1150, 1160, 1170, 1180 post codes, it comes up with 142 houses from 1200 euro per month. You can knock down the prices by 10% as a rough guide, which is why putting the maximum at 2200 is realistic.

Here's a house 2 minutes from Place Dumon, near where I live, for 2000 euro per month, 5 beds, quiet street. You are less than 5 minutes walk to Stockel tram / metro / bus stop, it would be about 30 minutes commute by metro or tram to Ixelles. You have 2 schools (Stockel and SC de Stockel), a cinema, supermarket, shops, friterie (very very very important - that's a chip shop), late opening convenience store, bakery, playground, all 5 minutes walk on foot. Only the sports centre / swimming pool is further, that's 5 minutes by tram or car. I am only pulling this house out because I recognise it!

Here's another house which caught my eye in Auderghem. It's 5 minutes walk from Herman-Debroux metro, 2 schools (Blankedelle and St Hubert), the sports centre, not far to Carrefour supermarket either, very near the forest, walking distance to Rouge Cloitre adverture playground. It's about 15 minutes by metro to Delta and Ixelles. If you are paying your own rent, this is a great price.

lozzyblue Sun 22-May-11 06:48:16

Great - actually I think as part of our deal the relocation agents will do entry/exit inspection which from what you have said sounds extremely important!

So, one final question (I think)... will it make any difference if we do our recce visit over a weekend or during the week? I'm thinking in terms of seeing property etc. We were thinking of doing a Sunday/Monday but obviously pointless if everything closed on a Sunday.

natation Sun 22-May-11 08:03:06

Estate agents are not open on Sundays but many are on Saturdays, nearly everything is closed on Sundays in Brussels. You would really need 2 week days and that's just for housing and area choice. It's hard knowing what should come first though, schools or house.

If it were me, I would concentrate on housing particularly along metro line 1 from Stockel to Mérode (Stockel is the longest commute at around 30 minutes) and metro line 5 from Herman-Debroux to Mérode, tram line 94 from Tram Museum to ULB stops, bus line 95 from Wiener to Thys stops. That's 4 efficiently fast and relatively direct transport routes. If you have a fold-out map or look on google maps, all these public transport routes are found within the following roads and all this area gives you a maximum 30 minutes commute on public transport.......Ave de Wezembeek-becomes Ave Vandervelde-becomes Ave Paul Hymans-becomes Ave de Broqueville, Boul St Michel-becomes Boul Louis Schmidt - becomes Boul Général Jacques, Ave F Roosevelt, Chaussée de la Hulpe - becomes Ave Delleur - becomes Boul du Souverain (plus few roads to east in area called Blankedelle), Ave de Tervuren, RO, back to Ave de Wezembeek. This is Auderghem (1160), Watermael-Boitsfort (1170), WSP (1150), southern part of WSL (1200), southern part of Ixelles (1050).

The best areas of WSP to look at for a quick commute is "Chant d'Oiseau" as near to Pétillon metro as possible, "Stockel" as near to Stockel metro. In W-B the area along bus route 95, "Place Keym" I think it is and down towards the sports centre is particularly close to work, or even down into the south of the commune to"Place Wiener". In Auderghem and W-B too, the roads as near to Beaulieu, Demey and Herman-Debroux metro stations.

You could still look at Uccle, but I am sure you will find all you are looking for in the above area.

It will take quite alot of research, unless you can persuade a relocation agent to stick to the instructions to look where you want, not anywhere else. Most Immoweb adverts do not list the address, estate agents do not like giving addresses out before securing appointments!!! There is an option on Immoweb to request the address at least.

Portofino Sun 22-May-11 10:05:10

The entry/exit survey is done by a nominated surveyor in my experience - and you have to pay for it. It is VERY thorough - for example we had to pay for a bulb that had gone in the bathroom.

Both places we have rented have come with a fully fitted kitchen but we had to buy a washing machine/tumble dryer. The tv's worked.

www.collishop.be and www.krefel.be will deliver.

Most of the houses come with a cable connection, but to get the BBC channels you normally need to upgrade to digital tv these days. Belgacom and Voo are the main ones in Brussels. You can get packages for TV/Phone/Internet.

TV from Home can set you up with a satellite dish and freeview box. It is common not to be allowed to put a satellite dish on the front of a house so it depends which way the house is facing. We got caught out with this when we moved. Our satellite dish is languishing in the garage, whilst next doors in on a 10 ft pole at the end of the garden.

lozzyblue Sun 22-May-11 12:45:50

So would you recommend making contact with schools in preferential areas as a first port of call? Maybe ask re availability and be put on waiting lists as this could guide our decision? Or will they not really entertain us until we are there properly?

natation Sun 22-May-11 13:08:01

I would recommend if possible finding out about vacancies in schools BEFORE looking at areas. You might find some areas have no vacancies at all in schools, so just pointless looking at houses nearby, unless you are prepared to travel. Communal schools officially are not allowed to keep waiting lists. Many were built with extra classrooms to allow for expansion, unfortunately even our local communal for example has now no space left and now turns children away. The Catholic schools in all the areas listed are more popular and also tend not to have extra classrooms, so less likely to have space.

lozzyblue Sun 22-May-11 13:24:25

Would you recommend calling or emailing? My French is rusty to say the least! Is there likely to be an English speaker in the school offices??

natation Sun 22-May-11 13:37:30

Call AND email too. You may or may not get an English speaker in the office.

Portofino Sun 22-May-11 15:11:41

Another thought I had - we opened an account with ING and they gave us an "account" for the rental deposit. Basically they guarantee that amount, and we pay an annual fee for the priviledge - about 50 euros per year. It means we never needed to tie up several thousand euros. Definitely worth asking about.

Portofino Sun 22-May-11 15:13:32

Happy to help with email enquiries if you know what schools / areas you wish to try.

lozzyblue Sun 22-May-11 16:43:17

Thank you Portofino - that's so kind of you. I have actually sent a few emails already this afternoon but in English... will it be frowned upon? blush

Portofino Sun 22-May-11 18:51:16

I have not heard anyone speaking English ever at dd's school. That doesn't mean they can't of course - would be odd amongst educated people...See if you get a response.....

Superspudable Sun 22-May-11 21:25:39

I know exactly where that Auderghem house - I walk past it almost every day - it is a absolute steal in that area for that price.... in a great location, near public transport and excellent schools...

I probably put in my PM, but one of the secretary's at our school definitely speaks good english, but if you need any help contacting them (and if you want to!), please let me know.

Longtime Sun 22-May-11 23:57:22

I'm happy to help send e-mails to schools if you're interested. If you send me the text in English and the relevant e-mail addresses, I'll put it into French for you and send.

Also, I would advise looking at houses near metros and trams rather than buses. The buses get caught up in the same traffic as cars obviously with the added disadvantage that they stop every couple of minutes. I've been here 26 years now, 16 of them without a car, and try and avoid buses if I can!

Longtime Sun 22-May-11 23:59:04

Also, if you let me know when you're coming over, I could maybe meet up with you to discuss areas/houses you've seen.

lozzyblue Mon 23-May-11 20:59:31

Just wanted to drop a quick note on here to thank all of you ladies who have been so helpful to me this past week. We are still tying up a few things before we sign on the dotted line but we intend on making our move in August.

We're hoping a short recce visit next week will be possible to get in to see a few schools and a quick look at areas - and it will need to be quick as I'm in my 36th week of pregnancy so likely to be just an overnighter!

I would love to meet up with those of you who are able to but because of time constraints it will likely have to be in August when we get over properly.

No doubt I will still be on here bombarding you all with questions in the meantime and once again, thanks!

Lauren grin

Portofino Mon 23-May-11 21:29:46

Grab Longtime if you can when you come. She is lovely, speaks the language and knows what to do wink

PM your email address and we can add you to our list. You might be a bit busy initially but we go to the cinema, Indian, lunch on a reasonably regular basis....

lozzyblue Thu 26-May-11 08:51:43

Good morning ladies,

I have a dilemma which I'm hoping you can help with. As you know I have been hoping to get out to meet with schools next week, and have already made contact with a few schools who have confirmed they would have space to take my children in September 2011 and offered to meet with me. Unfortunately I was told yesterday that I should expect to have a c-section which if it goes ahead will take place next week... so, there's my dilemma.... My consultant has advised me it would not be sensible to go too far from home but I don't want to miss out on these school places. It is not ideal by any means but would it be possible for me to enrol the kids in a few schools until I get out? Will the schools be ok with this? I'm feeling a little stressed again - think I just have too much going on in my poor head right now! Any advice you can give will be appreciated.

Lauren confused

natation Thu 26-May-11 10:05:06

Which schools are they? You can try enrolling over the phone or by email, see how it goes, explain the situation to the schools. I would only travel in your case if I were a pretty relaxed person, and probably on Eurostar it, rather than sitting too long in a car.

lozzyblue Sat 28-May-11 19:54:18

Evening ladies,

Hubby keen on looking at property in ixelles also as that's where he'll be working... (avenue arnaud fraiteur).

Do you know of schools in ixelles or close to which you would recommend? Also what are your opinions on the area generally?


Portofino Sat 28-May-11 20:10:13

Don't know it particularly well. My first thought is "posh". There are certainly some lovely houses. My visits have been limited to visiting the Horta house and De Valera's Irish pub in Place Flagey.

natation Sat 28-May-11 22:18:59

Unfortunately the schools in Ixelles are very much "yes" or "not really". Best regarded you are so so unlikely to find a place. That's Ecole communale Tenbosch, St André and St Joseph Boondael. The only one I have heard reasonable things about which may have space is Ecole communale Jardins d'Elise.

Take a good look at the Ixelles map, some of it is not as accessible to hubby's work as Watermael-Boitsfort or Auderghem for example, or even Etterbeek. Your hubby's work is right on the Ixelles border with Auderghem and Etterbeek. Tenbosch / Chatelain areas are furthest away. Only the area south of Boul Général Jacques and east of Ave Franklin Roosevelt is a quick commute, this area mergers in with Watermael-Boitsfort, this is where you find Jardins d'Elise and St Joseph Boondael schools. This area is far more suburban than the rest of Ixelles which is very "city" and can be quite pricey and a huge pain to park in.

natation Sun 29-May-11 13:29:09


This is the only house under 2.2k with 4 beds on Immoweb at the moment which specifically says it is in the area of Ixelles nearest to hubby's work. It looks a beautiful house, only one immediate downside is the small garden

Portofino Sun 29-May-11 15:17:01


http://www.immoweb.be/en/Rent.estate.cfm?idbien=3147101&ongletactif=2&jpgnameinp=3147101_1.jpg&xincludedetail=2&xgallery=gallery&mycurrent_section=Rent&xbg=N#onglet Chant D'Oiseaux]]




BelgianWaffle Mon 06-Jun-11 13:19:52

Hi lozzyblue,
We have two children, one at creche here and one is at a francophone local school, Jardin des Ecoliers, which is great. Very multicultural, lovely teachers and he is very happy and his French is fluent, even though mine is not! If your children are small, and you are not going to be staying in Brussels forever then try not to get too caught up in the whole competetive school thing. Obviously you want what's best for your children but for infant school, aside from learning to count and the alphabet, what is important is that children feel secure, happy and enjoy the learning environment.

Some bits of Ixelles are very urban- the bits just off Chaussee d'Ixelles, for example. Then there are other bits which are very well-heeled, such as the Chatelain/Leoputre/Tenbosch area, which is equivalent to Notting Hill/Holland Park in London Terms.

Good luck with the move!

lozzyblue Fri 24-Jun-11 21:01:13

Hello ladies,

Firstly, thank you Belgian waffle for your recent post. It's great to hear your experiences.

So, an update from me.... baby number 3 arrived by c-section on June 10th - we had a girl! :-) She is now 2 weeks old today and feels very much part of the family already - as though she's always been here!

Our relocation is now confirmed and we are due to be moving on July 18th so are in the thick of organising right now.

Apologies to those of you I was chatting with before my daughters arrival if I suddenly went quiet or didn't respond to messages!

Looking forward to getting out there and hope to be able to meet up with some/all of you in the bear future.

Lauren x

Portofino Sat 25-Jun-11 18:53:33

Congratulations on the new baby! Hope we all get to meet you when you are here and a bit settled. All here if you need any help getting sorted.

rungirlrun Fri 08-Jul-11 23:32:52

been reading all your e-mails with interest as looking at a job offer in Lakdaal. Understand it is quite out in the sticks so very interested in any advise on schools/town to live in.
All only english speaking with DH, DS - 9, and DD 7 years old. Looking at International school seems v expensive. Would it be too cruel to send them to local school without any local language capabilities.

Appreciate any advise.

natation Sat 09-Jul-11 08:58:03

Laakdal is far from any sizeable English speaking community in Antwerp or Brussels or any international schools, so I would take advantage of the excellent local schools, 6 of them in Laakdal, Dutch is the language of the area. As you are far from a language border where the use of Dutch to communicate is often an imovable rule, you should find the local authorities happy to speak to you in English and the teachers at school happy to speak English too, plus the neighbours.


Dutch should not be too hard for a 9 and 7 year old to learn in a year, of course it is harder the older the children get, but one of the easiest languages to learn for anglophones.

If your 9 year old is at all sporty, a possible source of native English speakers would be the local rugby club, same spirit of sportsmanship before skill in Belgian rugby and Laakdal often play the British school at rugby too so it would bring you into contact with the English community there.


IF you end up long term in Belgium, remember Dutch universities in Netherlands are becoming increasingly popular with Brits as many degrees are in English. For bilingual English Dutch students, this is a great option and tuition fees are currently just under 2k euro per year and you can get student grants too.

Longtime Sat 09-Jul-11 22:11:09

Although it's a long time until you have to think about universities rungirlrun, at the moment there isn't actually a great choice of bachelor courses in English - they are mainly business, economics and European studies (eg law) of some sort. There are many masters courses in English. However, the amount of bachelor courses is increasing and so by the time yours are old enough to consider this, hopefully there will be a much wider choice.

Natation's right about Dutch being a relatively easy language for anglophones to learn - much easier than French or German. Some children do find it easier than others to absorb a language but as long as you are quite relaxed about the fact that they may (and only may) have to redo a year in order to catch up (it is not so unusual for children to redo a year somewhere in their secondary education in Belgium) then I'm sure it will work out fine.

Longtime Sat 09-Jul-11 22:12:21

(Of course, if they do go a local school from now until university age then you won't have to worry about degrees in English!)

rungirlrun Sat 09-Jul-11 22:57:29

thanks for the advise. Looks like local school is the way to go.

Anyone know if Lakdaal is a good place to live. With 6 good schools it can't be that small. i have the impression is was more industrial as when i have been i have always stayed at hotel about half an hour away.


natation Sat 09-Jul-11 23:33:55

I do not know Laakdal apart from our boys playing rugby there.
According to Wikipedia, population is 15000, made up of 5 villages - Groot Vorst, Klein Vorst, Varendonk, Veerle, Eindhout - llok on google maps and you can make them all out. Only just over 200 non Belgians living in the population. You may find the schools are 1 or 2 per village, my guess is quite rural , industry looks like it is along nearby E313 motorway. A bigger town is Tessenderlo

Longtime Sat 09-Jul-11 23:51:54

I'll ask dh tomorrow as he previously had to travel around Belgium a lot for his job.

rungirlrun Sun 10-Jul-11 19:34:43

thanks natation and longtime. Appreciate the info.

What experience do you have of putting english speaking children into non English speaking schools? Will they hate me forever and go back years in learning or quickly soak it all up and become bi-lingual ?

If it was just a job for me it would be a much easier decision but bringing the whole family out for 'just a job' is a much harder decision. i can see it would enrich their lives in the long term but it is getting through the short term uproute first!

Appreciate any advise/experiences you can give me. How long have you been out there. Glad you went? Any regrets? sorry if i am being too nosey but just trying to weigh up things in my head.

Longtime Sun 10-Jul-11 19:54:51

Dh says that all along the E313 there are quite a few well known chemical companies but doesn't really know Laakdal.

I notice that it's near Mol. There is a European school in Mol which usually has places if you want a cheaper English education which will include other languages later on. Might be a good compromise between the two systems. You do have to pay but not nearly as much as the usual international schools. www.esmol.net/index.php?rub=agenda&date=2011/07/10

Longtime Sun 10-Jul-11 19:56:19


Longtime Sun 10-Jul-11 19:56:57


Hmm, the convert links thing doesn't work if you don't press enter after the link.

natation Sun 10-Jul-11 21:17:44

Hubby off to Tessenderlo tomorrow evening, just a few kms from Laakdal gemeente, anything you want to know in particular about the place?

Never though of ES Mol and now has given me an idea to send our eldest there - there are 2 boarding houses where children can stay for less than 2500 euro per year and the category 3 fees (non EU civil servants) for secondary are only 5000 euro per year. Will be phoning ASAP to see what availability there is there, will ask about primary too.

Longtime Sun 10-Jul-11 23:11:28

Natation, I am so pleased that I've been able to pass on some information that's been useful to you as it's always you doing the passing on of information!

We thought of Mol for ds1 but decided against it before enquiring. That was only really because we felt it wasn't the right time for him to be away from home.

rungirlrun Mon 11-Jul-11 20:51:53

Thanks Longtime, that does look like a great compromise and alot closer to Lakdaal. Will definitely pay a visit if the moves comes off.

You are a great source of info that it would take hours to find myself. Thankyou.

natation Sun 24-Jul-11 09:15:27

Hi there
highjacking the thread a little. We are being evicted (well sort of, only staff in Brussels being made to give up our lovely 5 bed house for a 1 bed apartment which will cost employer more to rent than this house so we have to leave and rent another cheaper house at own cost and hubby takes the 1 bed apartment) and our Brussels is home has just gone up for rent on Immoweb. It is situated in Stockel, a very desirable part of Brussels, 5 minute walk to the metro, 1 minute walk to the tram. It's ideal for a larger family (caution steps into garden). Next to great schools, shops, cinema, sports centre, transport, really a great place to live and I'm very sad that we are forced to leave.


Longtime Sun 24-Jul-11 20:19:28

natation, how ridiculous is that?!? I'm just updating the Lifers' market so I'll put it on there.

Ballet Wed 14-Nov-12 11:36:10

hi ,Actually I am also looking out for Good french school with not so large class size and also environment shoudl be diverse.
which french school you children goes to?

can you suggets some pls.

natation Wed 14-Nov-12 15:24:51

good French school in Brussels = class of 24-26
unpopular French school = class of 22 or less

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