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Belgian Mumsnetters - can I have some advice please

(11 Posts)
PommelandCantle Thu 07-Apr-16 20:41:37


We currently in UK and DH going through interview stages for a job in Leuven. He is French, I am English, DC's bilingual - 9 and 6.5. Unfortunately at this point, we don't know what sort of contract is being offered, ie expat etc. We neither of us speak Flemish.

We'd like DC's in French speaking school, but I am not sure whether we would be better off living somewhere like Kraainem or Wavre for example. We used to live in Tervuren a few years ago, for a couple of years and my DD was fluent in Flemish as she went to the GBS, however she has forgotten it all now. But because of that, I would also like them to have the opportunity to learn it again. DH unfortunately experienced a lot of negativity from the Flemish when they heard him speaking French and he was shouted at on more than one occasion for not speaking Flemish in a Flemish commune. As soon as he said he was French and not francophone, all was forgiven, but the damage was done and he then only spoke English, so he absolutely does not want to live in a Flemish commune. Wherever we live, I intend to learn Flemish as I regret not doing so properly before.

I am burbling a bit here aren't I? Really question is where would you recommend living for French school, but with good Dutch learning opportunities for DC's that don't have a really long commute to Leuven.


lifeisunjust Thu 07-Apr-16 21:31:02

It's completely up to you where you decide because you could like in a village south of Leuven like Hamme-Mille where children naturally go to secondaire in Wavre, or Wavre itself though it is not really a pretty place and not very multi-national or anywhere in east Brussels communes or French speaking Vlaams Brabant.communes which will cost far more in rental and would also allow the children more opportunities to continue many activities offered in English.

Your 9 year old is of an age where she can take herself to school and after-school activities, so bear this in mind.

It's easy to find Dutch lessons in Kraainem, Wezembeek and WSP, at CVOTH and also at the GCKontact.

Look on google maps and see how close Hamme-Mille would be to work. Equally bear in mind there is a de Lijn bus which takes you from WSP/Kraainem/Wezembeek to Leuven in 45

amyboo Fri 08-Apr-16 14:39:41

I'm in Rixensart and have kids in a local FR speaking commune school. I know at least a couple of people who commute to Leuven by car from here. It takes around 25 minutes and you can do it without going near the motorway if you want. There are lots of good schools round here and even a few where you can do EN (either as immersion or a few hours a day - Le Verseau).

I'm obviously biased, but I'd say life around here is much better than in Kraainem - more space, no plane noise, easier to get school places, cheaper properties....

amyboo Fri 08-Apr-16 14:41:29

Sorry, just to add about NL opportunities - Vlaams Brabant is about 5 minutes away so you could easily find NL speaking activities and stages for your kids around here...

PommelandCantle Fri 08-Apr-16 16:25:36

Thanks amyboo. I was wondering about Rixensart as have seen a couple of houses to rent and as you say, you get much more for your money there. What are the school entry requirements like? Although DC's speak French, DS 6, can't read or write it and DD 9 can read and write a little bit. I guess they would be held back a bit or would they get extra help in class till they'd caught up do you know?

Good to know about the commute time as that is a major factor.

lifeisunjust Fri 08-Apr-16 18:47:10

Entry requirements are anything which identifies you like a passport or even asylum papers.

There is no reason to be held back. Schools get extra teaching hours if they have a certain percentage of non francophones in them which means none in Rixensart / Wavre but it is up to each school how they organize other extra teaching hours not specifically funded for linguistic purposes.

The 4 French schools in Kraainem and Wezembeek are in fact easy peasy to get places and I can guarantee you 100% there are places, as these 4 schools are reserved only for residents so don't quite fill up 99% of time and never an entire school, capacity is around 80% in those schools. For WSP, again reasonably easy except for 4 of the 10 schools and those you must either apply on time or wait till August, the other 6 schools never fill. Difficulties in school places are not in eastern Brussels or french Vlaams Brabant, that starts further into the centre, in the north and south of Brussels region.

There is virtually no plane noise at all 1km south of the flight path in WSP. The noise increases as you get nearer to Zaventem and nearer the flight path. The biggest downside to the area is house prices, but for rentals, in fact surprisingly, the prices are not as bad as you would think - you can get a 4 bed in WSP for 1500 euro or less, a 3 bed for 1200 and the upside is that you get a greater choice in the areas where there are more expats, for areas less populated by the moving expat population, less choice of rentals. Different entirely for purchasing.

lifeisunjust Fri 08-Apr-16 19:00:14

Kraainem / Wezembeek / WSP also has Dutch and French speaking stages all within walking distance. In fact you'll find public transport is so good, you'll be able to get around easily and won't need to drive.

IF you're planning on driving to work, do look at google maps. Centre of Leuven to Rixensart is 30km and google maps says in fact 40 minutes. Kraainem/Wezembeek is 20 kms and it's 20 minutes to the centre of Leuven. So in fact Rixensart will take twice as long. Hamme-Mille is the nearest French speaking place and it's 15km away and 20 minutes. It's really lovely there but could be a bit isolating for teenagers. An even smaller place which is connected by train line to Leuven in Pecrot/Nethen and children can take the train directly to the secondary school Notre-Dame Basse Wavre in 10 minutes, so despite it being small, teenagers can be independent there.

PommelandCantle Fri 08-Apr-16 20:38:57

lifeisunjust where abouts are you if it's OK to ask?

lifeisunjust Sat 09-Apr-16 08:21:04

I m near madoux tram stop in wsp but if I worked in leuven I d live closer to e40 and the bus and train to leuven so further north by a few kms.

amyboo Sat 09-Apr-16 16:32:26

Rixensart communal schools take in kids from the fedasil asylum centre. There are also plenty of non-Belgians - DS1 has a class of 16 in 3rd maternelle, of which him and one other are bilingual/non-native. DS2 in accueil has a class of 16, of which 4 (incl. him) are bilingual. The school has therefore plenty of experience at accepting kids with varying language skills. I think you'd find schools round here very accommodating as class sizes are generally under 20/class. BXL people will always tell you BXL is best, but it totally depends what you're looking for. We lived there for 11 years and both work there but I think it's much nicer and easier to raise kids outside the city. But it's a personal choice I guess. If you can, I'd try and visit a few schools/houses in the area and test out the commute to see what you think. No way is it 40 mins to Leuven (in my experience). Schools rounnd here are having their school fetes (fancy fairs) during May/June so it's a perfect time to look round....

amyboo Sat 09-Apr-16 16:36:41

Oh and depending what year your DS2 was born, he might not be in primary yet (they don't start reading and writing until 1st primary). DS1 is 6 and will go into 1st primary in September (born in 2010).

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