Belgium help(22 Posts)
It looks like we will be moving to Brussels in the next couple of months and I am wondering if there is FB group for expats that I could join. Does anyone know one please?
We will be moving for DH's job (he is Belgian) and we are currently in another country. I'm worried about finding a job as I don't (yet) speak either Dutch or French. Do you think it's likely I could work without language skills?
It's a reluctant move on my part, so if anyone can tell me how fab family life in Brussels is, it would be much appreciated!
There are masses of FB groups for English speakers mainly based around Brussels region and Vlaams Brabant.
Do you know which of the 19 Brussels municipalities you are moving to?
Jobs in English depend on your skill set.
There is also an online network that is very well established and which for the life of me I can't remember the name of. Linked to a magazine ....
I worked with no language skills. I think it depends what your skills are and where you live ie commuting or expecting to be working near home. Choose where you live carefully as part of that equation.
I loved living there and would love to move back.
The Bulletin. That's it. Looom it up online.
I lived in Brussels as a teenager. There was quite an active "expat" scene even then, early nineties and I can only imagine it's better. There is a weekly mag called " the bulletin" which tells you what's going on, and if you are nearish to an international school, there will be many forriners like yourselves. ( But rent is high). My mum couldn't work as language barrier but had she been officed based, she would have been fine. I know somebody who has lived and worked there for thirty years and still only speaks English ffs!
It feels like being in two countries at times, there is a clear cultural and physical difference between the flemish and walloon areas. It's an interesting place to live....I'd certainly consider moving back there.
The Bulletin is just terrible journalism and usually articles are "sponsored" so very biased and trying to send expats to overpriced services. I'd avoid the Bulletin and use google when searching for any information. It lost any decent reputation several years ago.
Thanks for your advice. I've joined/requested to join the FB groups. The school one is very interesting.
We aren't sure yet where we will live. DH's family are in Anderlecht and Dilbeek and whilst the latter is nice, I fear I will be very isolated if we live there, so it's likely we will move towards the Uccle, Ixelles direction. Depends what we can afford really. I'm nervous about finding schools also. The DC speak Dutch but I'm aware lots of the schools in these areas might be French speaking.
If the DC are in a Dutch speaking school then I'd like them to do after school activities like ballet or swimming, in English. Is this possible? Whilst they are half Belgian, I don't want them to be raised as little Belgians. Totally aware that might sound crazy, but I'm keen for them to be part of the international community. Plus it might help me make some friends!
I would advise that Uccle and Ixelles are the most Dutch unfriendly areas of Brussels, both in terms of numbers of Dutch speakers in Flemish system schools and in terms of any holiday and after school activities. There is a mum in the FB groups who has just moved out of Uccle and to Dilbeek I believe for that very reason. Whilst Dilbeek might have considerably less affluent immigrants there, there are still many immigrant families.
There is a map of the location of all the English activities you'll find on the English mums FB group, unfortunately few activities anywhere near Dilbeek and not that many in Uccle either, most on the east side of Brussels and east Vlaams Brabant.
Berchem-Ste-Agathe / Ganshoren / Jette are "nice" communes in some areas and have a higher percentage of Dutch speakers, like about 20%, Uccle and Ixelles are less than 5%.
How old are your children? Even as Dutch speakers, you might initially struggle to get places in Flemish system schools inside Brussels region, despite priority, as the Flemish schools are dominated 80-100% by french speaking children and the Dutch speaking families have retreated over the last 50 years out of Brussels, selling up their houses to francophones, moving to Vlaams Brabant, but I'm sure you already are aware of that, but it leaves the Dutch speakers left in Brussels region fighting to get place in their own language schools with the sibling priority of francophone children.
Enrolments for the 130 Flemish system (Dutch language primaries) in Brussels region are done using a single enrolment website.
Here is the list of them all.
And you can only enrol again from 17 May 2016.
Thank you so much for all this information. I think that basically I have a shit knowledge of the geography of Brussels. When we arrive (and are based in Anderlecht for a couple of months), we will take the time to drive all around the city and figure the place out. V happy to live over the boarder in Flanders, especially if it makes it easier with schools. DC are 5 and 3 which I presume, like in the country we are in now, are the difficult years to find school places.
What's Kraainem like? That's somewhere that's been mentioned to is also.
Kraainem is wonderful for English speakers but it is a 30 minute drive in ideal driving conditions to Dilbeek. Surrounding communes great too for Dutch/English social life, such as Wezembeek-Oppem, Zaventem and Tervuren which are all Vlaams Brabant.
However where will your husband actually work? That should be quite a factor in deciding where to live too.
School enrolments for Vlaams Brabant happen Monday onwards in that area actually. I would NOT hesitate and spend the weekend considering possible phone enrolments on Monday. You can enrol in several schools at a time, so long as it's not schools in the same "group" where you might be able to choose one, such as only being able to enrol in a single Zaventem school marked GBS (municipality controlled).
PS you enrol on year of birth.
This was the position of free places at GBS Kraainem this year before enrolments open for 2016-17, showing places free for 2012 and 2010 years of birth.
Ignore what I said about enrolments happening Monday at some schools in Vlaams Brabant, I am a month in advance, some are 1st March, such as GBS Kraainem and some are 21st March, such as ones in Tervuren.
You can do everything in Brussels in English if you want to (schools, shops, clubs, theatre groups, tv, etc), but I would strongly advise against this. You need to learn to get by in at least one of the two languages. If your DC already speak Dutch, then I would go with lifeisunjust's suggestions on where to live. In my opinion, Anderlecht is not somewhere I would want to live and Dilbeek too far out (depending on where your DH will be working, of course)
There's a Dutch schools FB group called samen naar school
When are you planning to move?
Brussels is a lot of fun. :-) small city but a capital and very cosmopolitan.
The other place for Dutch speakers is also central Brussels around Dansaert. But probably as people said Jette etc could be a good plan.
r.e. Working without FR/NL - yes it's totally possible depending on the sector. DH works in financial services, where the working language is EN. Other sectors where the working language is often EN include lobbying (there are tons of lobbying organisations in Brussels), some IT companies (Cisco, BT, etc have big offices here), some recruitment offices, many big US/UK law firms, academic/uni posts...
It's not necessarily going to be a walk in the park to find an EN speaking job but it's certainly possible, especially if you have decent experience.
As for living in Brussels/Belgium it's fab! We've been here 14 years (after coming for a year!) and couldn't imagine life elsewhere. Restaurants are cheap, good quality and plentiful, beer is great, chips are even better, childcare is brilliant and affordable and there are tons of things for kids to do in the holidays, public transport works well and is affordable, house prices are still low (and we have a mortgage with a fixed rate for 20 years!!), rents are also pretty reasonable and tenants are well protected... The only downside for me about Brussels was the regular departure of friends heading back to the UK and the arrival of new people. That's one of the reasons we moved out of the city to get a more stable social circle.
Thank you all for your advice and comments. Our problem is that DH hasn't found a job yet. He's in advanced stage interviews for 3 roles, so we know we need to find out where he will be working before we choose where to live. For sure it's won't be Anderlecht or Dilbeek. His family are lovely, but we don't feel the need to live close by them. We will also live in Flanders, mainly due for schools, as we will put the DC in Dutch school but don't want them in a school that is majority French speaking. They know no French and although their Dutch is pretty good (the 5 yr old at least), it will be a big enough challenge swopping over school from English to Dutch as it is.
We are keen to find some English speaking activities for them though. My oldest is desperate to continue being a Rainbow for example.
My plan is to spend a year learning Dutch and going everyday is necessary and following a course. I understand a fair amount from listening to DH talk to the DC all day, but no where near enough and I'm rubbish at speaking it. After that I can look for a job.
The plan is to spend the spring finding our feet. We have offers from friends (who are overseas) to stay in their houses for a while - one in Bruges and the other in Mechelen and this will give DH and I some time to find a house to rent once we know where he will work. I will probably have the DC home with me for that time, so any ideas for activities/camps would be most welcome. I'll be the one asking for playdates on the FB pages! Where we live now, it's all expats and it's not unusual to ask people over for coffee when you've only met them one as everyone has been 'the new one'. I'm guessing it might look odd in Belgium if I invite everyone I meet over for a drink
If you're planning to settle in Brussels region prob mechelen would be then easier in terms of getting to know the Area etc. also has plankendael and technopolis!
Do you know the possible ACCURATE locations for work?
It really wouldn't be worth recommending places like Mechelen to live if your husband is going to be right in the middle of Brussels for work! It's quite a distance.
Brugge is also 100km from the centre of Brussels, bit useless staying there if again job is in Brussels or Vlaams Brabant.
If you can name accurate locations for work, I could suggest where to look to live even in the short term.
You'll find English language Rainbow and Brownie, Beavers and Cubs groups only in Etterbeek (Brussels), in Rhode-St-Genese and in Tervuren. However, Belgian Scouting/Guiding is enormous here. It is mainly Sundays all day (a few packs do Saturdays) every 2 or 3 weeks, between September and May. 2 weekend camps and 1 long 7-14 day camp in July. There is also a Belgian specific non Baden-Powell Scouting system, a bit too connected with pro-Dutch and anti-French beliefs called Chiro which is as popular in some parts of Flanders and Baden-Powell Scouting. My children have done Scouting here since they arrived, excellent for language and tight friendships.
This is the English language Guiding movement in Belgium.
Scouting in Brussels and Brabant in English, lots of girls in Beavers.
Scouting/Guiding in Dutch. This always starts in September. According to year of birth. First 2 years of primary aged 6-8 are in Beavers/Rainbows, 3-6 year primary aged 8-12 are Cubs/Brownies, 1-4 secondary aged 12-16 are Scouts/Guides.
We have a secret Facebook group for mumsnetters in the Benelux. If you want to join just send me a pm. Lots of lovely mners on there.
Starting to despair. Any tips on courses or opportunities for training to improve job prospects? Reasonable French, no Dutch. Not a lady who lunches but struggling to get away from the kitchen sink and back to world of work. Any ideas gratefully received.
If you want to work in Brussels, I would advise learning Dutch first.
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