Working in Brussels

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Many expats work in the European Quarter in BrusselsExpats working in Brussels will find themselves in a fast-paced, demanding and aggressive business environment.

Home to the headquarters of the European Union (EU) and NATO, many expats move to Brussels to pursue positions with these institutions and related companies. There are countless local, regional and national branches of these bodies that attract Europeans as well as other expats. There are also opportunities with NGOs, consultancy and communication companies, as well as translation and recruitment organisations.

Foreigners make up three quarters of the city's population, many of whom have permanent residence, and as much as ten percent of the population consists of highly-skilled expats working in EU institutions or similar entities.

Expats tend to live in Brussels briefly to further their careers and to gain professional experience. Often, expatriates return to their home countries between six months and four years.

It follows that expats working in Brussels are often job-driven, highly paid and young. For this reason, the city can be quite transient and work-orientated; despite its size, the international community is not incredibly tight-knit.

Expats taking a job in the city will be relieved to find that the actual act of doing business in Brussels is relatively laid-back, even with the general differences between Flemish and Belgian French business environments.

The majority of the professional world speaks English, the city is small enough to get around easily and everyone loves a business lunch meeting – set aside two hours on a Friday. Belgians are not always averse to a midday glass of wine or two, although this does differ between businesses.

What's more, employees in Brussels are entitled to more legal protection and social benefits than in countries like the USA and the UK. Workers can be granted as much as five to six weeks of leave in Belgium.

It is important for expats to remember that Brussels still has a multicultural, bilingual work environment despite its reliance on English. It should be noted that the Francophone side of business tends to be more formal and the Dutch side more informal, and that these languages play a significant role in Belgian business. It might be an idea for expats to learn one of these languages, and it is a good idea to have plenty of business cards as well.

Expats are required to have a work visa for Belgium to start working in the city. This can be applied for at the closest Belgian consulate in their home country. EU Nationals can work in Brussels without a permit.

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