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Please come and talk to me about living and working in Brussels(14 Posts)
We are currently in the UK and have two dd, aged 5 (yr1) and 3. My dh has been offered a secondment in Brussels with a view to a permanent position. I have a completely open mind about relocating but know absolutely nothing about Brussels or what it's like to live, work, go to school etc there. Would you do it? Have you done it? What is it like? Are your children happy?
Brussels is a great place to bring up dc. To get a flavour of the place, do go and have a look at the 'Living Overseas' topic (and/or move this thread over there). There are quite a few recent threads about primary schools. The true experts are 'Longtime', 'Natation', 'Portofino' and others who I'm sure will be along to advise soon.
Also, this thread contains some good summaries of the place.
this thread also useful
Personally, I find the architecture/traffic/pollution depressing but I am at that stage in life where I long for green fields. But education and health care are excellent. (Education rigorous but also quite stressful with lots of emphasis on testing. Belgians in general are v. child-oriented though.) Easy to make friends. Great access to culture for adults and dc. Exceptionally good access to sport and extra-curric activities for dc. One of the best things is having bi- or tri-lingual dc after a few years and of course developing friendships with people from all over the world. (Sad thing is that they tend to leave after a few years though!). Houses not (generally) well appointed as UK housing but you get more space for your money (depending what area of UK you have come from of course). Public transport good. Belgians know how to enjoy themselves: there is always something interesting going on at weekends: jazz or food festival, local fair etc. Food = amazing and consequently, it is very easy to pile on the pounds!!
Good luck with your decision.
Should have said, your dc are at the perfect age to make the move in terms of languages. Need to get organised if you want school places for Sept though - Bxls primaries massively over-subscribed.
I love it. Very family friendly - activities for kids are varied and generally cheap. There is no school on Wednesday afternoon for example and you will find dance and sports classes galore. The schools do great after school and holiday cover too if you need it. Child benefit is good and goes up the more kids you have eg. 100 euros for the first child, 150 for the 2nd. Tax allowances made for a non-working spouse and children and all childcare and activities for the under 12s in tax deductible, as are cleaners, ironing services etc. on the other hand tax rates are HIGH, so it might be worth finding out if your dh is eligible for the ex pat allowance.
Huge range of activities laid on in the school holidays. Lots of parks and days out. You do tend to get a lot of house for your money compared to big cities in the UK. Depending on where you live of course.
Schools tend to be quite strict, children facing the teacher etc My dd loves her school though. They seem to do a lot of trips etc. And yes, super is very correct re. Getting a move on if you want places for September. You can ring to check for places without making a commitment. Where will your dh be working?
Do you plan to work too? Work is not impossible to find as an English speaker, though it helps if you have transferable skills. If not, there are lots and lots of non-working expat spouses so it would be easy to find company. 99% of Belgian children start Maternelle aged 2.5. school is not compulsory til the year they turn 6 though. Maternelle is classed as school rather than nursery though. Structured learning through play but with one fully qualified teacher (and maybe a TA) per class. The little ones get a nap at lunchtime.
We've moved this to our Living Overseas
Bonne chance with it all
Your 5 year old would start 3rd Maternelle if she turned 5 in 2013, or 1st Primary if she is 6 before the end of this year. They don't start formal reading and writing/maths etc til Primary 1 here so she maybe ahead of her peer group re lessons which will give her time to master the language.
Now is the best time to look for houses as many international families move on and out of Brussels and worst time to look for schools as most places at the best schools will be taken, however I know quite a few success stories lately ONLY when parents have been persistent with telephoning schools over and over again and adding in emails in addition to phone calls.
It would help if you said where work would actually be. Often people say Brussels and in reality work is 40km out of the city. If work is in Louvain-La-Neuve for example, it would be far easier to get a school place, harder to get a house, simply because there are less rentals in that area but less population growth meaning more free school places.
Thanks Olivia, couldn't find the living overseas bit, sorry .
Thanks for all the replies. I am getting quite excited about the possibilities. The girls would love it I am sure. They are already bilingual English/German with some knowledge of Welsh. A few more languages wouldn't faze them at all.
I'd be keen to do some work, too.
Have to discuss more with dh this week and check those links
There is a Welsh speaking BCT contact who I'm sure would be delighted to have fellow Welsh speakers in Brussels for his son!
There are plenty of activities in German too here, many based around either the Catholic or Protestant churches which are both in WSP or at Imagine community centre in Wezembeek, where the BCT also have their HQ.
BCT is the anglophone organisation of parents, a bit like NCT in the UK but less snobbery and more united by language than whether mums are tree hugging baby wearing extended breast feeders! There are a fair few German speaking families who are also members.