Moving to Brussels in September 2013 with kids

(61 Posts)
cecilem Wed 24-Apr-13 19:26:21

Hello All:

I recently found this site, and I was hoping to get some advise and opinions.

My husband and I along with our three children, aged 18, and twins, boy and girl, age 9, will be moving to Brussels from the US for a several year stay in September 2013. The oldest speaks fluent french, so she will be applying to a university, but the 9 year olds only know a few words.

We will be renting a house in the 1500 - 2000 range and are currently focusing on uccle and forest, but we are interested in your observations for the best location, etc. What are the best and the worse places (to avoid) to live in the Brussels area, which are french speaking? (crime, etc).

We are not sure of what to expect as far as the schools are concerned. We can not afford private (5,000+/child), so were planning to look at the public/religious french schools. What's the best stragedy for getting them into a school at this late date? What should we do? Where are the chances the best? We know it will be late in the school year but we were told that the commune where we live has to offer a school, is this correct?

And what's your experience regarding 9 year olds starting a new language? We are concerned that they won't be able to pick it up. Begining in 5th year, is it likely that they will be held back if they don't learn french quickly? Thanks.

cecilem Thu 09-May-13 17:43:04

We plan to go to Brussels for a visit in July, primarily to look for housing, but we might also try to contact some schools. This visit assumes that we have received a positive visa decision by then. Being American's it's a little different for us, than for English or other eu citizens. We can go for a brief visa anytime, but a move has to have the bureaucracy's stamp of approval Plus, it's a cher to fly there including the accommodations, and doing so before we had the visa would be a little risky and reckless. We want to be confident that everything will work out, but we don't want to be overconfident. Thanks.

Cecile

Portofino Fri 10-May-13 19:59:25

The schools will closed in July. Most of them have a late summer window for late applications, but each school will be different. You need to contact them before 29th June when the holidays start.

marchmad Fri 10-May-13 22:13:49

Completely pointless looking for housing without securing a few school places. You need to get school places now OR you need to wait until the end of August and just hope luck is on your side and look for schools/housing at the same time.

cecilem Sat 11-May-13 01:49:39

I was under the impression that most schools would be open until about mid July. But you say that's wrong. When is it likely that they would all be open, but before the school year starts. Our plans are not fixed.

marchmad Sat 11-May-13 06:28:25

Last day of school is 28th June. First day of school is 2nd September.
www.enseignement.be/index.php?page=23953

Most heads / secretaries will be in school still the following week, but not all hours, some will have heads which stay a further few days. You cannot rely on anyone actually answering the phone or be willing to show you around an empty school in July or August. Some schools do publish the presence of heads / secretaries in the first week of July and last week of August. It really is though NOT the best time to see a school with no teachers and no children.

It's equally not a good idea to do tours of schools in the last 2 weeks of June. 2nd last week is CEB week, then last week will be full of end of term celebrations. The time to visit schools is mid May to mid June.

Portofino Sat 11-May-13 08:53:15

As I said, each school will be different as to when someone will be there over the summer. You need to contact them NOW! Marchmad has given you Stirling advice already. There isn't much anyone can add really.

superfluouscurves Sat 11-May-13 14:32:16

Yes, would definitely urge you to visit well before end of June. When you are in another country it's hard to appreciate how "seasonal" Belgium is - everything closes down for July and August. Brussels is particularly quiet during those months - it is a totally different city during term times!

I think you may be confused with many UK schools who start their summer holidays in mid-July (and French schools stagger the starting dates according to region). But all 'native' Belgian schools always finish their academic year on the last day of June and re-open on the first of September without exception.

Good luck!

cecilem Sat 11-May-13 23:53:55

I contacted one school in Uccle. They asked about our twins french language abilities. I advised that they are now getting tutoring from their sister and it would continue over the summer. They responded that they had some places and they would reserve them. They asked that we meet with them and tour the school during the last week of August. We also have places reserved in a school in W-B. So I guess that going in late August may become my plan. The only problem I forsee is that rental houses may not be available when we want them. What is normal in terms of rental offerings in August and September?

marchmad Sun 12-May-13 10:06:41

Now you have school places in 2 areas, you ideally need a couple more school places in those 2 areas but not immediately near the schools where you already have places. This is the maximise the chances of housing which would place one of the school places as nearest or 2nd nearest primaire to home and also a decent secondaire in the same category.

If you cannot sign a contract for housing because you don't have visas, then you have no choice but to wait till you have your visas. I would however want to see potential schools whilst they are still open. Can not one of you come over to look for 3 or 4 days in the next 4 weeks? You might absolutely hate the schools you've chosen from afar, you might find you don't like the area they are in. For the cost of a plane ticket, I think doing this research is worth it.

By August, there will be less rentals available, peak time is the next couple of months for moving in August. The upside is that you will have more negotiating power for the remaining housing, to lower rents, because if landlords don't manage to rent in the +1500 euro category which is high end of Brussels rents and rarely affordable to the majority of Bruxellois, then there is a good chance their properties will remain empty until the following Summer when expats come to look again the higher numbers.

cecilem Sun 12-May-13 19:51:13

Sure I would like to go to Brussels in June, but it is a 9 hour flight and 4-5 days would cost about $3 - 4,000, a lot unless there is a significant benefit. Also we can't be 100% certain that the visa will be approved or completely approved or what if it is not approved until November. We don't want to act too impulsively. We filed in January, so we believe that we will know something by the end of June, but that's a guess. I would mention that on different occasions the embassy has told us the visa could take 6, 8 months or a year to decide.

As I said, the twins are now getting tutoring from their sister and it would continue over the summer. So we want them to have some foundation, although they certainly won't be fluent. Thanks to all of you for your help.

Cecile

marchmad Sun 12-May-13 20:33:52

I can see flights to near Brussels from NYC for €800 and you can get a room in private accommodation for less than €40 a night, so you can do a whole trip for less than €1000.

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