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Anyone in Belgium? Whats it like for a SAHM?

(12 Posts)
ohgoonthen Wed 03-Aug-11 23:55:27

DH has just been offered a job in Belgium and it's a fantastic opportunity but it has come a bit out of the blue! We have been living abroad for 6 years now and were just arranging to move back to the UK for DH's job when this popped up. Neither of us have ever been to Belgium and have certainly never considered moving there so we are just starting to do our research. We have a 10 month old DD and I'm a SAHM a the minute.

Anyone already there that can give a me few ideas about what its like and if you enjoy it there?


RuthChan Thu 04-Aug-11 01:08:04

Life in Belgium is pretty good.
There are lots of Brits and other nationality foreigners there, which can make it easier to make friends and settle in.
There is an organisation called the BCT, the Belgium Childbirth Trust. It started life as a branch of the NCT, but is now independent. It is an excellent way to meet people, settle in and find friends. They run lots of mother/baby groups etc, which you could take your DD to.
Most foreigners find it hard to make friends with Belgian people, but the foreigners here are very welcoming.

Do you have any idea which area of the country you are likely to move to?
Will it be a French or Flemish speaking area?

Belgium has a good educational system, both local schools and an extensive network of international schools for English language education.
It also has excellent medical facilities. Most doctors speak excellent English and I have had no problem with medical care on a day to day basis, or when giving birth to my DS.

Belgium is an expensive place to live, but there are all the facilities etc that you would expect.

Lots of MNs live in Belgium, so you'll have no shortage of advice from us all.

kittensliveupstairs Thu 04-Aug-11 07:07:05

I've just left Belgium and agree with Ruth, it is a great place to live. I can't add anything to Ruth's points but would disagree that it is expensive. We lived in Switzerland before Belgium, that is expensive.
I must confess to driving to Holland once a week to do a big shop. Food is much cheaper there even than Belgium.

Portofino Thu 04-Aug-11 09:20:49

I was only a SAHM briefly but agree with the others - it is an extremely family friendly country. Loads of parks and clubs and activities for children. Most expat families are centered in Brussels or Antwerp and surroundings though. Second Ruthchan's suggestion of the BCT - a great way to meet people.

Longtime Thu 04-Aug-11 16:00:53

I've been here for 26 years and a sahm for 22 of those (with part-time home-based other things). It is very easy to live here. From a language
Point of view English is becoming more and more important so thats easy too.

The BCT is brilliant for sahms. You'll find it if you google bct Belgium. Any specific questions please feel free to pm me

scaryteacher Thu 04-Aug-11 16:44:00

Been here 5 years now as a SAHm and find plenty to occupy me if I want it.

I think Belgium is expensive for food and clothes, but that's comparing it to UK. I find that Amazon (who now deliver to Belgium free if the order is over £15) is my best friend, and I buy lots of clothes online as well.

I went into Superdry in Woluwe shopping centre today and a Tshirt was 49 euro. I paid £49 for a Superdry hoodie in Covent Garden in May and the T shirts were £20 there, so that is a huge difference in prices.

Portofino Thu 04-Aug-11 18:45:13

And it is reasonably cheap and easy to get back to UK if you need to. Even Next and M&S deliver to Belgium now. And there are a few "English" shops so you never need be without Bisto/Marmite/Cadburys

ohgoonthen Thu 04-Aug-11 23:34:19

Sorry don't have much time right now to reply but thankyou everyone for your responses. We would be living in Leuven or somewhere near it.
From what you have all said, it sounds like my DD would enjoy it there and we would find it quite easy to settle down.
I am very used to online ordering for clothes etc. as where we are now is cheap for rent, tax etc etc but very very expensive for clothes, food and the everyday stuff. I think I would enjoy being much closer to the Uk aswell so I could nip over now and again.

Can anyone give me rough ideas of living costs there for example tax, rent, travel, food. I know it's a huge thing to ask but I'm getting very different opinions from different websites and am slightly confused now. Would much rather hear from someone who is there.

Thanks again

scaryteacher Thu 04-Aug-11 23:50:34

Food can be expensive. A decent size chicken doesn't exist - 1.2-1.8 kilos if you're lucky, and a good one (not v cheap supermarket chicken) will cost about 12 euros. Sainsbury/Tesco are much cheaper. A colleague of my husband's goes back to Ashford once every month to shop as it's cheaper.

Rent where we are is 2k per month for a 4 bed house with garden. Car tax is huge if you have a car with poke - our car tax was just under 3k for 2 cars and they are both 14 years old! The buggers here will try and get you with a mise en circulation as well as car tax if you bring a car here.

I spend about 100+ per week for food for the three of us and bring back stocks from the UK of pasta, rice, stock cubes, jam, marmite, mango chutney, dishwasher tabs, shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste, tooth brushes, cereal, cheese etc as those are expensive here. I also bring back cat food.

Portofino Sun 07-Aug-11 20:52:59

Leuven is lovely. My car tax is about 250 euros per year for a 1.4/1.6 car. Rent is variable according to where you live. Check for prices. The leafy of suburbs of Brussels can be extremely pricey. The villages between there and Leuven for example will be cheaper. I spend about 120 euros a week for 3 of us, but buy quite a lot of beer and wine blush and don't do the stocking up in UK quite so much. This includes cat food and washing powder etc - which can be up to about 10 euros for large box. Carrefours own tabs are about 3 euros.

Public transport is cheap and is often offered for free by employers (or a company car). Tax is 50% after about 30k. You get allowances for children and a non - working spouse. Also, if it is a short term assignment, it is possible to get an expat tax rate. Child benefit is nearly 100 euros per month and goes UP with each successive child. Swimming and sporting activities also tend to be cheap. Children also have access to a free kindergarten place from 2.5. Most schools tend to be open from 7.30 to 6.00/6.30pm so if decide go back to work in the future, child care costs are minimal. Holiday clubs are also inexpensive.

Portofino Sun 07-Aug-11 21:14:49

So we have a 4 bed house between Brussels and Leuven. Figures monthly unless stated.

Rent: 1400
Gas/Elec: 250 shock It has gone up big time this year!
Water: about 150 a year (we have rainwater tank for the loos/garden tap)
Car insurance: 75 (much more than UK but have newish car)
Petrol: 60
Afterschool club and school lunches: 100
Home insurance: 45
Cable Tv - 175 per year (there is NO free tv)
Phone/Digital TV/Internet: Now I work for the provider so pay a vastly reduced rate. I think this could cost in the region of up to 80 euros per
month depending on the package you take. When i had a separate mobile account it cost about 40 euros per month as well. There are some very good all in packages out there.

DH gets a company car and free phone. I get a free De Lijn pass (costs about 200 euros for an annual pass to the whole network I think) and 6 euros per day meal vouchers.

We pay about 130 euros per year to top up our Mutuelle health insurance.
Cleaners etc will cost you 7.90 per hour through the titres services system. All childcare/cleaning is tax deductible.

natation Fri 19-Aug-11 14:41:00

Just to echo portofino.....

large 4 bed house in one of most desirable areas of Brussels, have one car 1.9 diesel small 7 seater

rent 1500 per month
gas/elec hopefully less than 250 per month (just moved house)
food 800 per month for 6 of us!!!
car insurance (3rd party) 50 per month
car tax 23 per month
school lunch 3,90 each (2,90 per meal, 1 for supervision)
before and after school care 7.30-18.30 4,00 per day
home insurance 30 per month
TV/internet/phone 50 per month
transport for Brussels transport adult 478 per year
transport for Brussels transport child +12 non subsidised 163 euro per year
transport for Brussels transport child +12 subsidised 40,75 per year
Euromut compulsory health insurance for family of 6 108 per year
swim club membership for 5-15 hours per week training 235 per year
dance lessons 8,00 per lesson
holiday clubs from 50 to 200 per week, depends on activity
Brownies/Scouts 80 per year
doctors visit (after Euromut refund) 5,00

Often included in job contract : company car, free or subsidised public transport, tax-free meal / sport / eco products cheques (to reduce your tax), hospitalisation insurance to top-up basic mutuelle health insurance

Very cheap : child care, holiday clubs, public transport, beer, chocolate, rent compared to other European capitals

Expensive : car insurance, tax on single people - families do far better and more children means more tax breaks, food, clothes

How to save even more money :

1) avoid relocation agents or do your homework on house rentals.... we found our house ourselves, comparable houses in the same area are for rent at 2000-2500 euro per month for example, you CAN get much cheaper. I am rather good at researching in this area and have a friend who is even better than me who helped me find our house, if you need help in this area, just pm me. When you see rents on Immoweb, the main accommodation rental website, try and knock 10% minimum off price, unless the price has already been reduced. NEVER accept a fixed contract, unless your boss is paying the rent, ALWAYS ask for a standard 9 year contract where rights as tenants are protected and you can break the contract.

2) bring your UK car ONLY if it is economical - big car engines attract a lot of car tax here, can go to 3000 euro per year, plus big cars cost a lot more in car insurance, 3rd party insurance is norm for cars over 3 years old. If you bring your own car over 6 months old, bureaucracy is a bit of a hassle but not too hard, plus also get EUROPEAN CERTIFICATE of CONFORMITY for free from UK, you will be charged for it here and you need it to import the car

3) claim refunds for children's activities and sports club memberships (including adults) from your mutuelle insurance eg you can claim over 100 euro per year back per child for children's activities

4) claim tax relief on child care for under 12s - you can claim back lots of things to reduce tax bill, here you need expert help

5) claim Belgian child benefit, very generous if you have 3 or more children. We get 825 per month for 4 children, against perhaps 300 per month if we were still in the UK.

You will find Leuven cheaper than Brussels but there are less expats in the city, as most Belgian mums work full or almost full time, you will find less to do for a SAHM than in Brussels where there is a huge network of expat mums and activities. It is however a lovely city, has a lovely country park there too called Kessel-Lo. I would get a map and plot the work place on it, see how you can get there by public transport. Could get a 3 bed for 1200 per month

If your husband's work is easy to access by public transport, I'd consider either the villages along the N3 which runs from Brussels to Leuven through Tervuren, Bertem, Leefdal, has buses to Leuven every 30 minutes or so - just be aware property prices are inflated by the presence of BSB and other international schools, upside being the large number of anglophone SAHMs in that area. a 3 bed should cost 1000-1400 per month depending on proximity to BSB

An alternative area to live is along the train route from Brussels to Leuven - Zaventem, Nossegem, Kortenberg, Herent. Could get a 3 bed for 1000-1200 per month.

Another alternative not always on public transport to Leuven is east Brussels, where the population is very international and you benefit from the greater facilities you find in a capital city. You could get a 3 bed for 1200 if you look hard, but more likely to pay closer to 1400.

Brussels / Leuven is just fabulous for SAHMs. Just be very careful you choose an area and house you are truly happy with - the only mums here I have found who are miserable are ones whose husbands have gone ahead of them and chosen houses in areas which the wives hate!!! Never trust a man to chose a house!

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