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Expats moving to Belgium will find themselves in one of Europe's most diverse and fascinating countries. Located in the heart of the continent and housing the headquarters of the European Union and NATO in its capital, Belgium is a melting pot of influences from around the world.
Belgium is rich in both cultural history and cultural pleasures. What wine is to France, beer is to Belgium. With a reputation for gastronomy and the greatest selection of the world’s finest brews, this eclectic nation is warm and welcoming to anyone planning to settle here.
The country is, to a large extent, split between two dominant culture groups, the Flemings and the Walloons. The Flemish community is Dutch-speaking, mostly based in the north of the country and constitutes around half of the Belgian population. The French-speaking Walloons live in the south and east of the country and make up around a third of the populace. There is also a significant German-speaking population on the eastern border with Germany.
All three of these languages are officially recognised and, while they may be predominant in certain areas, the Belgian capital is bilingual by law. This infiltrates every aspect of daily life in Brussels, from street signs to business dealings. It's this unique mix of cultures that is one of the most challenging aspects to come to terms with, but also one of the most fascinating.
Brussels is the political powerhouse of Europe with its historic Gothic buildings and European Union office blocks. Outside the thriving capital there lies picturesque countryside, the wooded gorges of the Ardennes, and an assortment of undiscovered lazy seaside towns.
With one of the world’s highest standards of living and a great quality of life, expats moving to Belgium can take full advantage of its housing, healthcare, education and infrastructure. The country also boasts a highly developed and incredibly dense motorway network, which links it with other European routes and facilitates access to neighbouring countries.
There's a price to pay for all this, and the good life in Belgium incurs a high cost of living. However, expats who can afford this high cost of living will undoubtedly have a unique and positive experience during their stay.
Official name: Kingdom of Belgium
Population: About 11.5 million
Capital city: Brussels
Other major cities: Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi, Bruge and Liège
Neighbouring countries: Belgium is bordered by The Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the south and France to the west.
Geography: Belgium is a small Western European country made up of three main geographic regions, the northwest coastal plain, the central plateau and the Ardennes. The Ardennes is a heavily forested, rocky plateau in the south of Belgium. The rest of the country has a rather flat landscape, with a few natural lakes and many artificial waterways and canals.
Political system: Federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Main languages: Dutch, French, German, English
Major religions: Catholicism is the most widespread religion, with Islam and Protestantism making up a smaller demographic.
Currency: The Euro (EUR) is the official currency and is divided into 100 cents
Time: GMT +1 (+2 from the end of March to the end of October)
Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are used.
International dialling code: +32
Internet domain: .be
Emergency number: 112
Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road. The country has an excellent public transport system. Expats can generally get by without having to own a car.
"Be gentle, learn the language if you have time, and just let the locals get used to you ... it all comes together in the end." Read more of Di's advice for adapting to Belgium in her Expat Arrivals interview.
"Moving to a new country demands lot of effort so admit it and seek help when needed." For more of Louise's thoughts on settling in in Belgium, read her interview.
Are you an expat living in Belgium?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Belgium. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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