Happy Valentine’s @Mortonplace

Valentine’s day is around the corner and at Morton Place where no matter your relationship status no one spends the evening alone. Although for years cohousing was aimed at those who were young and single, now the demographics are swiftly changing. In fact, people choose coliving for a variety of reasons and being in a partnership doesn’t prevent you from enjoying the community that shared housing offers. Although we only offer single occupancy rooms, whether you are single, in a relationship, or married with family, coliving can have a place in your life.

Panorama view of Brussels.

The long term commuter

We increasingly have residents who are posted to Brussels for a fixed period of time for work while their partner or family stay behind. Commuting home on weekends is easy to do but it also makes it difficult to foster new friendships or pursue hobbies locally. Weekday life spent living alone in Brussels can quickly become dull and depressing. For these residents, Morton Place has become a welcome Brussels home. Coliving offers an easy way to make friends in Brussels beyond the workplace. Evenings are not spent alone in a dreary furnished flat, but in a cosy, busy home with fellow international expats.

Morton Place Parvis

A New House for the New You

We’ve all been there: the relationship doesn’t work out and life can all of a sudden feel terribly lonely. Coming home to an empty flat is not always an easy way to mend a broken heart. A house full of new people is a welcome distraction and there is always someone to share a glass of wine with at the end of the day. A coliving home is a perfect way to expand your circle of friends for the new you. Getting involved in new activities, sharing cooking with new people expands your horizons, helps you to forget your worries for a while and start the new chapter in your life.

Entrance to Annexe through green garden

Morton Place Chatelain Cottage

Beat the Pandemic Blues

Working from home has taken its toll on workers especially those who live alone. We increasingly have requests for rooms from professionals who are suffering from the isolation they are feeling. They crave an “in real life” conversation with someone beyond the Deliveroo person. With good covid policies we are able to offer a safe alternative to isolated life, with fellow international expats to chat with around the communal dinner table.

 

Regardless of your relationship status: this Valentine’s day is bound to be social and special if you’re enjoying coliving life.

 

Successful coliving: finding the right fit

Coliving is seeing a huge boom and it seems that every flat share or micro apartment is being rebranded to hop on the trend. The choices are dizzying and often times overwhelming. It is therefore really important for residents to be very clear about what exactly they should look for when choosing their future home. Furthermore, with the pandemic many of our residents are choosing a room without having a chance to visit the house in person. Once you have checked on the usual criteria of location, price and lease terms, we have established a checklist we recommend for choosing your room wisely.

Choosing your coliving

1. Who will my housemates be?

Maybe you are new to the city, or have come out of a relationship and want to make new friends, people choose coliving for a variety of reasons but they all want to get along with their housemates. If your future House Manager isn’t asking you about yourself – how can they know if you’ll get along with your future housemates?  Be skeptical of a house that lets you sign up online without getting to know you. If you are a professional maybe you don’t want to live with students who have a different schedule to your own.  Also check for languages. If you only speak English and German, you might feel a little left out in a house full of French speakers.

Tip: Ask what length of time most residents have been living at the house, high turnover is a red flag and disrupts community bonds.

2. Cleaning and maintenance

Most coliving homes outsource the cleaning and it isn’t done by the residents. If you are the one who ends up cleaning the piles of dirty dishes left in the sink and it makes you grumpy, choose a house with a frequent cleaning service eg twice a week for groups larger than 5. You might also check who takes out the garbage and brings the bottles to the bottle bank.

Tip: its not nice to find strangers walking into your room to clean or do maintenance, find out if there is a fixed maintenance and cleaning team for your house and how long they have worked there 

Morton Place Coliving in Brussels

3. The Wifi

Many of us are working from home during Covid so the speed of the wifi network is important. What was once a good enough connection when everyone was at the office, is no longer adequate when everyone is working from home on zoom and teams. You need a good ratio of people/ speed. At Morton Place we  have 24 hour support for our wifi, and a back up line should the main wifi source go down, which does happen from time to time in a big city.

Tip: If you see wifi boosters in the electricity sockets of your future house and there are more than 5 people living there – chances are the wifi is not going to be strong enough. If you are really worried – ask for a speedtest done a laptop – a mobile phone doesn’t give an accurate reading.

Kitchen Coliving Brussels

4. The Kitchen

Often the most well used part of the house, and never more so then during covid times, all of us are spending more time in the kitchen then ever. So how many people do you share a refrigerator with? How about the freezer? The dishwasher? Do you have a clear, private space to keep your food? If you like to bake, is there an oven, what does it look like inside? If you like a tidy kitchen, have a look in the sink and in the refrigerator to see if your hygiene standards are met, find out who cleans the kitchen and how often. At Morton Place we clean the common areas twice a week by the same cleaning crew for many years.

Tip: if you see residents having to lock up their food or storing it in their bedrooms this isn’t a good sign of trust between the housemates.

5. The Room

Other than the general look and feel – what should you look for in your room? Does your bedroom have a secure lock which you alone can open? What is the bathroom situation? You might find some “bathrooms” are nothing more than a sink and a shower partitioned off in a corner of your room where the steam fills up your bedroom, and the toilet is down the hall and shared with other housemates. A Morton Place our houses are purpose built, so our bathrooms are fully equipped and ensuite, no sharing.

Tip: check the closet space and if you have more clothes than can fit, ask about secure storage options.

Shared Housing Brussels Availability

6. The tour

Pre recorded online visits are great for figuring out the layout of a house but after a few years a house can look tired. If you can’t visit your future residence in person, ask for a live video tour. This allows you to witness whether the house is as advertised and see the house in its lived in state.  Check the garbage situation, the sink situation, the messages on the blackboard. All will give you a feel for the life being lived in the house right now. At Morton Place we invest a lot of time and effort in taking pictures each bedroom so future residents have a good idea of what to expect when they walk through the door. In fact one of the most often repeated phrases by visitors is “wow – it looks just like on the website”.

Tip: If you don’t choose to rent from an established coliving company, be doubly careful, we have heard our share of horror stories of online fraud. When in doubt, don’t send your money.

Accommodation Brussels Belgium

Relax and have fun!

Cohousing is a terrific way to make life long friends during your time in Brussels. Give yourself a few weeks to settle into the routine of your new house.  Investing time in making sure you have made the right choice at the outset will save you a lot of hassle from having to move from a substandard room to a better, more comfortable housing option.

 

 

Support our local  “Marchés”

As Belgium experiences stricter covid restrictions, never has it been more important to support the small local businesses which not only give our neighborhoods character, but nourish our communities. For this edition of our series on the our Top 5 tips for residents at Morton Place, we focus on the outdoor food markets which are steps from Morton Place. A few minutes from Morton Place Chatelain is the the Wednesday afternoon market on the Place du Chatelain. Morton Place Louise and Parvis are steps from the market on the Parvis de Saint Gilles. This market is open almost daily as of 7.30 am until about lunch time with the exception of Mondays when it is closed, and Thursdays when it is open from 12-10pm. Not only do these markets feature farm to table ingredients but food stalls as well. Enjoy the Top 5 tips shared by our favorite foodie Chloé of Brussels Kitchen picking out the best food for you to enjoy at home, please support our friends and neighbors while staying safe.

– Tanya, founder @Morton Place

 

Our top 5 favorite neighborhood market stalls

Time is a bit suspended at present in Brussels and nothing is quite the way it used to be with many of the restaurants which give our neighborhoods life having been closed. Many restaurants and bars are implementing creative solutions with take away or special, limited sized events. But the best place to still enjoy a bit of the atmosphere of our community is at our local markets, Morton Place Parvis and Chatelain are among the more vibrant  fresh food markets of Brussels.

Markets are open

Despite covid and the darker autumn skies, our markets are open, thriving and they need us! Brussels has one of the coolest outdoor markets scenes in Europe, with street food stalls that would rival those of any indoor food market in London or Madrid. You’d think we’d have more covered markets but no – in Belgium it’s outside rain or shine. And now more than ever, our local markets of the Chatelain and Parvis need our support.

If our stall holders have to adapt, we will adapt too. So for now forget enjoying an aperitif while lingering in front of the food stalls with our friends. Instead, we visit the markets with our tote bag in hand, ready to fill it with fantastic food but this time as take away. The market on the Place du Chatelain is on Wednesdays from 1-7pm. The market on the Parvis de Saint Gilles is daily as of 7.30 am until about lunch time with the exception of Mondays (closed) and Thursday when it is open from 12-10pm. Not only do they feature farm to table ingredients but food stands as well.

We have selected our favorite stands – food, but not only – from the Châtelain and Parvis de Saint-Gilles markets. Because even your meal can no longer to be enjoyed on the spot, it’s nice to look your chef in the eye, exchange a few words and say thank you before enjoying your meal at home Let’s go.

Favorite market stalls at the Marché de Chatelain

Market Vendor and flowers

Neighborhood Gem: florist Ben van Hoo

Ben Van Hoo

Our first stop is for flowers. If you like pretty things, and as a resident of MP this is very likely, you will surely appreciate beautiful and affordable flowers. Ben’s stand is a golden nugget, no more and no less. Every week, the stand can be found on Wednesdays at the Châtelain market (but also on Saturdays and Sundays at the Flagey market). Ben selects the prettiest seasonal, organic and local flowers. It gives bouquets a rustic air, light as a breeze, colored as a summer’s day, or enchanting as a winter’s snow fall. Our most recent bouquet included Pampas grass, red holly berry flowers, and huge gladioli. A wonder.

The bonus? The bouquets, pre-made and soberly wrapped in craft paper cost only € 15.

Another bonus: you can also compose your bouquet yourself.

Thai food at stall

Neighborhood Gem: Thai food stall

Thai Food (the apple green tent can’t be missed)

While this Thai street food stand doesn’t really have a name it can be recognized from afar thanks to its apple green tent. Impossible to go wrong with tent or to choose a wrong dish as the food is good. Olivier tells us that with his wife Jeab, they’ve been working market stalls for 11 years. After living 6 years together on Koh Samet, a small island below Bangkok, where they ran a guesthouse, they came to settle in Belgium and made it their mission to introduce authentic Thai cuisineto Brussels. They can be found every Wednesday at Le Châtelain, and the rest of the week at the Boitsfort, Saint Job and Vieux Tilleul markets.

Their specialty, ideal for this season: Thai chicken noodle soup. A cousin to the classic Vietnamese Pho, the base is close but its broth differs with wonderful flavors very specific to Thailand. A treat for the modest sum of € 7.

Bonus: Olivier and Jeab have adapted the recipe to make it ideal for take-out. The noodles are pre-cooked and packaged separately from the broth, to prevent overcooking. Once back home, just heat them up for a minute in the broth, and it’s ready!

Borek

Neighborhood Gem: Aslan Borek

 

Aslan Borek

This is our latest crush no more and no less. Before being convinced by the taste, we had already fallen in love with the gestures. A ball of dough that is bounced between the fingers, then twirls in the flour, before being flattened, garnished, ending up cooking to a nice crisp on the plancha. We had our eyes on this stand for a while before having the patience to wait in the long lines for their Borek. The first good news, for us, is that there are no more lines. The second is, it’s not only mesmerizing to watch, but their food is also delicious.

Damla, whose maiden name is Aslan, works as a team with her husband Arnaud. It’s been two years since they gave up everything – they were respectively a sports coach and a sales engineer – to pursue their dream to work  “les marchés”. First in Lille, then in Knokke, and finally in Brussels, where they have been for just over a year. They can also be found on the Flagey market every Sunday.

Tip: Try the spicy beef borek, or the mushroom one, or both. These are our two favorites, but they are all amazing.

 

Favorite food stalls at the Marché du Parvis

El Taco Mobil

It is thanks to El Taco Mobil that we discovered the Parvis market. When their stand disappeared from the Flagey market, we went looking for them – that’s how good their food is. If there’s one thing that doesn’t take to the streets in Brussels, it’s a good Mexican taqueria. Not a frozen wheat tortilla Tex-Mex chain, no, a real Mexican, where the corn tortillas are made by hand. El Taco Mobil is exactly that, but mobile version. In addition to the authentic tortillas, Selene makes her homemade salsa verde, and garnishes her tacos with pulled pork, grilled beef and organic and seasonal vegetables. The dream. Our only regret: only being able to taste their incredible cuisine on Thursdays.

Our tip: Enjoy your tacos with a horchata, a traditional Mexican drink made from rice milk and cinnamon, homemade by Selene.

 

Ty Penty

Ty Penty is one of the great classics of Brussels food trucks, turning out the unmistakable sweet and savory Breton galettes. The line, usually endless, has been synonymous with their success for many years now. People come for their buckwheat pancakes of impeccable quality and for the kindness and smile of the owners. Our favorite, the ham, cheese and egg “complete” has never disappointed. They can also be found in Flagey on Saturdays and Sundays, on Mondays at Place Van Meenen and on Tuesdays at Square Meeus.

 

The must: accompany your pancake with a traditional bowl of cider – or a bottle – Breton of course.

The must of the must: finish off  with a traditional sweet pancake (this time with wheat flour). The pear and chocolate one is to die for.

 

Marché du Chatelain: Place du Chatelain 1050 Ixelles

Wednesday 12:00- 19:00

Marché du Parvis de St Gilles: Parvis de St Gilles 1060 Saint Gilles

Monday closed

Tuesday 07:45–14:45

Wednesday 07:30–13:00

Thursday 12:00–22:00

Friday  07:30–13:00

Saturday  07:30–14:00

Sunday 07:30–14:00

 

5 Cafés to (really) get some work done

It’s back to school. And even if summer isn’t quite over, or never quite started, there’s something pretty uplifting in the air. With many of us working from home, we often need a change of scenery so here’s a look at cafés where we are able to get some real #wfh done and all within close distance to Morton Place.

When you’ve had enough of working from home

We self-employed are often hopping from client to client or in my case from House to House and I have some favorite spots in the Morton Place neighborhoods where I know I can concentrate and get things done. Surprisingly, I find it easier to stay focused when working in a café. But the key is knowing how to choose the right place and avoid the cafés with bad Wi-Fi connection, loud music or the incessant noise from the various machines.

 

Although my list evolves, in conjunction with Chloé from Brussels Kitchen we have selected for you the cafés which, in our opinion, combine all the elements necessary for a good productive working day, from the quality of their coffee, sturdiness of their tables – to their playlists and all within an easy stroll from Morton Place!

Cafés near Morton Place Chatelain

Matcha Coffee

Belga & Co Bailli

Belga & Co is our go-to when we want a café where we are guaranteed to get through the To Do list. The concentration that reigns there is exemplary; customers even go out to the garden to make a phone call, just to be sure not to disturb the others. The three adjoining rooms, the dark walls, the sober and warm decor make it feel a bit like home. But with better coffee.

 

Our Tips: the sunny garden for a break (or phone call!)

Our favorite drink: coconut milk cappuccino

The best time to go: around noon, to be sure to get a table easily and after the morning rush

 

Belga & Co – 7 rue du Bailli, 1050 Ixelles

 

Coffee and cookieKami

Kami is the new kid on the block, having opened after the others in the neighborhood, yet they have found their place and we love it. If you are lucky enough to nab a spot in the small conservatory, you can be even more secluded with a nice view of the garden and it’s song birds. Inside is comfy as well, with benches that allow several people to sit around a table, ideal for mini improvised meetings around a coffee.

 

Our Tips: the excellent home-made pastries, especially the “financiers” which are to die for, and the grilled cheese sandwich on soft sandwich bread.

Our favorite drink: Ethiopian filter coffee in batch brew

Best time to go: 9 a.m., as of opening

 

Kami – 355 chaussée de Waterloo, 1060 Saint-Gilles

 

 

 

 

Coffee shop with plants The Wild Lab

It’s our favorite address to start the day off right. They serve one of the best breakfasts in the capital. Too bad we can’t also start the week there: they only open as of Wednesday. But when Wednesday arrives, we tuck our computer in our bags and we rush there as soon as it opens for an indulgent breakfast: pancakes, banana toast and peanut butter, acai bowl or poached eggs and toast, they have it all. Everything to put us in a good mood and get us over the mid-week slump.

 

Our Tips: the fab menu from breakfast to brunch and snacks, which means that you can easily stay there all day

Our favorite drink: golden latte with coconut milk

Best time to go: Wednesday morning!

 

The Wild Lab – 44a rue Antoine Bréart, 1060 Saint Gilles

 

 

 

Cafés near Morton Place Louise & Parvis

 

Eggs and toastCafé Flora

With its enormous sunny yellow terrace, this place is hard to miss. At first glance, you might think it’s more of a bar – and we have enjoyed more than one drink there however, it is also a very good base camp to get some work done. In the morning, the atmosphere is still calm and we enjoy a buttery croissant while soaking in the first rays of sunshine. If outside is too distracting, inside we like to settle into the thick velvet benches, with a coffee at hand to catch up on our to-do list. And when it comes to happy hour – what better place to invite your friends to join you to finish up your day!

 

Our tips: best eggs and soldiers on the Parvis

Our favorite drink: homemade lemonade with yuzu

The best time to go: as of early morning, when it’s calm, until “apéritif” time to end the day in style.

 

Café Flora – 16A Parvis de Saint-Gilles, 1060 Saint-Gilles

 

 

Shopping caféPetit Mercado

 

This one is our latest gem – we have a huge crush on this place. Despite its popular weekend brunch and after work drinks, the Petit Mercado is a peaceful place at any other time of the day. We love the company of owners Mano and Pia, always there to make suggestions from the delicious croissants sourced from La Boule, the coffee from Velvet served in pretty Moroccan glasses, to the daily lunch and delicious cookies for an afternoon pick me up.

 

Our Tips: Le Petit Mercado is also a grocery store. Take this opportunity to leave with a few goodies. Our musts: the bouquets of dried flowers and the collection of canned goods straight from Portugal.

Our favorite drink: oat milk cappuccino

The best time to go: when it opens, around 10 a.m., or in the afternoon, around 3 p.m.

 

Petit Mercado – 82 rue de l’Hotel des Monnaies, 1060 Saint-Gilles

 

  • written in collaboration with Chloé of Brussels Kitchen @brusselskitchen 

 

What’s life like in Brussels right now?

Professionals moving to Brussels in the coming weeks will want to know what to expect with the reopening of the country. After a somewhat strict lockdown the deconfinement process started in May and is entering an increasingly relaxed status. Since the 15th of June, Belgium along with its European neighbors opened its borders to EU and Schengen passport holders. Life in Brussels is slowly going back to “normal”.

With the steady improvement of the pandemic numbers, the kingdom is entering Phase 4 of the relaxation of its rules, called “deconfinement” as of 1 July.

1 July: What to expect

People in Brussels today continue to wear masks when in public transport in accordance with the rules, mask wearing in the street is less frequent. The atmosphere is increasingly relaxed, but outdoor groups of more than 10 people are not allowed so some parks have seen an increase in oversight from park wardens. Safety distances in more crowded areas are enforced.

Restaurants

Restaurant terraces are full as are cafés and bars. Night life is active however all venues have to close at 1am. Night clubs remain closed. There are news reports of youth gathering to on the Place Flagey for spontaneous parties – so the confidence is back for the younger segment of the population.

 

Shopping Rules

Shops are relaxing rules and everything is open. Shopping times are no longer limited and you can shop with a friend. Safety measures are in place to ensure distancing can be respected within the shop. Masks are recommended but not obligatory inside shops.

Gyms

Wellness centers and gyms are open since the beginning of June with protocols in place for hygiene. Pools are also open which is handy as Brussels is experiencing a significant heatwave!

Entertainment

Cinemas and indoor events can host up to 200 people. Museums, galleries and music halls have gradually reopened. Outdoor festivals are allowed with a maximum attendance of 400 people. This means that most music festivals join the infamous Tomorrowland in rescheduling their festivals for 2021.

Administration

People moving to Belgium from abroad often need to register at the local town hall, called the Maison Communale/Gemeente Huis. There are also other administrative procedures for health care, registering for parking etc. New registrants can no longer walk in to take care of these services. They must make an appointment. To do this at the town hall for Morton Place residents you should follow this link: https://irisbox.irisnet.be/irisbox/appointment

 

Moving forward: long live bicycles!

The most exciting consequence of the pandemic has been the acceleration of the mobility plans in Brussels. Increasing the biking lanes and the go slow and no traffic areas is needed as traffic is congested and people are still cautious about taking public transport. Our neighborhoods in Saint Gilles and Chatelain will benefit from this plan, allowing our residents to bike easily  from home to the European Quarter on dedicated bike lanes.

 

What’s happening at Morton Place

Most of our residents have  gone back to their offices spending only a portion of their time working from home. Weekend trips have also started again. We continue to get requests from people outside of Belgium who are moving to Brussels for professional reasons. We are organising video tours and trying to make sure everyone gets to chat with one resident during the tour. There is enthusiasm and confidence in future residents’ voices and we feel confident that we will be able to host future Morton Place residents in comfort and security. We look forward to hosting new residents at Morton Place over the course of the summer!

What to Expect when moving to Brussels today

Many of our future residents are considering when to schedule their move to Brussels after weeks of lockdown or as we call it here “confinement”. We have gathered some of the information we have found the most relevant to help you understand the current situation.  The next udpate is scheduled for 3 June. We will publish again at that time to keep you aware of the rules.

 

Travelling to Brussels from Abroad

Before travelling to Brussels we recommend contacting the local representative of the Belgian government for details on what may be required, especially if you do not have a Belgian residency card. As of now and most likely until 3 June’s update, anyone arriving from abroad needs to self isolate for 14 days when arriving in the country.  Feedback from our residents who have returned to Brussels from France and Italy and who have Belgian residency cards has been positive, they had no questions asked and were handed a flyer. At the airport a representative requested they self-isolate for 14 days but that trips to buy essentials and daily exercise was allowed. This is of course anecdotal and each person may get a different reception.

 

State of the pandemic

The number of new cases is going down with an “R” rate for the week of 14-20 May of 0.89. (source Sciensano weekly update) If you want to know more about the spread of the virus and how the Brussels region has been effected we recommend  reading the Belgian Health Ministry’s Public Health website which has all of the official figures.

 

Easing of restrictions or “deconfinement”

The peak of illness was the week ending on 12 April 2020 and the government announced easing of lockdown restrictions as of 4 May 2020 when Belgium entered Phase 1 of deconfinement. As of 25 May we are in Phase 2 with the following situation:

  • Face masks are obligatory in all public transportation but not in shops
  • There are no public gatherings of more than 3 people and there is a police presence to discourage groups
  • Shops are open including retail and markets
  • Hairdressers and nail salons are open
  • Doctors (GP’s) are allowed to practice normally
  • Sports are allowed with a cap of 20 team mates
  • Weddings and funerals not to exceed 30 people
  • Schools are partially reopened

 

Phase 3 is expected as of 8 June. We are expecting news on the opening of restaurants, cafés and places of worship.

 

Life In Brussels: Cycling paths and “slow” streets

Brussels has quickly pivoted to improve cycling and walking paths in the city. The historical inner city of Brussels (500m from Morton Place) has a blanket “slow street” designation with all traffic limited to 20km an hour with a priority for walkers and cyclists. Within weeks 40km of new cycling paths have opened up with an additional 40km in the works for September. We were particularly excited to see that a large, comfortable path will be reinforced along the inner ring linking Morton Place Parvis and Louise to the European Quarter. For an updated cycling map: New Cycling Paths

 

Life at Morton Place

 

Along with the rest of Belgian households the confinement at Morton Place has also eased  and our activities are almost back to normal. We have a sanitation station at the entrance of each house for the proper disposing of masks and gloves as well as hand sanitizer for anyone walking into the house. We will be welcoming new residents  as of 8 June when we expect most rules regarding the confinement to be lifted.  Although there is some relief at this return to some freedoms, there is also nostalgia for what has been a time of real bonding and friendship among housemates. From celebrating Easter by preparing dishes representing their countries of origin, to a traditional South African braai, pizza nights playing Settlers of Catan and endless deliveries of disinfecting spray and hand soap… what’s not to miss?

 

Moving to Brussels?

We expect the rules  regarding the stay at home measures to be gradually eased as of beginning of May. This is a situation that is evolving rapidly so it is best for expats to stay informed. A vast majority of our residents move to Belgium from abroad and may not always know how to be informed about local news. Expats moving to Brussels maybe curious what the status is in Belgium with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic. In general Belgian hospitals have been coping well, without the overflow sadly witnessed in other parts of the world.

Rules of the Belgian “lockdown” otherwise known as “confinement”

Like it’s European counterparts, the Belgian government imposed a strict stay at home policy as of 18 March 2020. All non-essential workers were instructed to work from home and all offices, retail and non food or pharmaceutical spaces were closed. Residents were asked to stay home while taking one hour a day to exercise with maximum one other person from their household. Borders were closed as of 20 March 2020. We expect the current rules for confinement to be updated on 24 April 2020 with a gradual lifting of the rules anticipated as of 4 May 2020.

Staying Informed

Morton Place Coliving is actively following the guidelines of the Belgian government regarding the the confinement measures which have been put in place. If you are not in Brussels and would like ressources to keep yourself updated the following are good places to get informed.

Belgian Government

Official news and guidelines are published on the official government website of the Belgian Covid-19 Task Force.

Local News Sources

National newspapers are good sources of information and Le Soir seems to have access to most of the government leaks ahead of key announcements. In general the national papers are Le Soir (French), De Standaard (Dutch). Many articles in translation from the flemish papers appear in the  Brussels Times (English) and The Bulletin is a longstanding platform with reliable information relevant to expats.

International

Brussels has consulates from almost all major countries and their websites also feature information relevant to their nationals’ needs. There is a directory of all foreign consulates on the Belgian diplomatic website.

 

Coliving means we are a Household

Morton Place coliving houses went into lockdown, or “confinement” as of the beginning of March. We follow the rules of Belgian Ministry of Health.  In Brussels, the rules are to limit social contact to one’s household, working from home if possible, with only one outing a day for shopping or exercise. The restrictions started mid-month. We quickly had to move in new residents to their rooms so they became part of the coliving household.  We then decided to suspend any new move ins until after the lifting of the confinement, to minimize the exposure.

Safety first

Our priority is ensuring our coliving communities stay safe. We have increased supplies of the essentials such as extra hand soap, disinfectants etc. In addition to following the official rules, our residents have elected to establish their own coliving house rules. Ideas include blocking the doors open of common areas to minimise contact points, and creating a disinfection rota to spray all frequently touched surfaces more frequently. We also have a protocol and medical supplies in case anyone falls ill, luckily we have not had to use them.

Wifi + Privacy = Community Happiness

Apart from the physical wellbeing of our residents we have also considered the general wellbeing of our coliving house members. With each of our residents having a private bathroom, one major source of cross contamination is eliminated. With 6-8 people in each house working from home, our investment in a corporate grade LAN ensures smooth wifi connections for all. The Netflix account is used for housewide movie and pizza nights. Our in-house copies of “Settlers of Catan” and “Cards against Humanity” are dusted off. You might expect international residents to quickly set off for “home” in such a situation. Almost all of our residents stayed in place, even the residents from Belgium, testifying to the strong community bonds in our coliving houses as well as the comfort. Our residents celebrated Easter together, with colivers sharing the traditions of their home countries. We celebrated a birthday with champagne and ice cream delivered via Deliveroo and have had countless bbq’s in our gardens.

 

Feedback from our coliving houses

We checked in with our coliving communities on a weekly basis. Our new residents who quickly moved in on the day of the lockdown told us “it was actually a good occasion to get to know everybody, in normal times we wouldn’t all be at the house so much.” Our coliving homes have fewer residents per house then your typical house share with a lot of space for hanging out while still allowing for some privacy. Our extra tv rooms with their soft carpets and large flat screen TV’s have been converted to exercise rooms. The home offices, libraries and gaming tables are providing a good space to hang out without being stuck in the bedroom. “We are having a lot of fun while leaving each other enough space.”

Next Steps for coliving at Morton Place

This has been an intense period for all of us, but the bonds of our coliving residents have never been stronger. We are now establishing what our protocols will be for the next phase of coliving life with Covid-19 and are happy we have the trust of our residents to ensure their safety and well being. We will be aiming for a phased move in of new residents, increased housekeeping and discontinuing the use of our guest rooms until we have a better understanding of the post lock down period. Meanwhile, it appears confinement in Belgium is set to be lifted in May and we look forward to welcoming new members of our coliving community at Morton Place. If you are coming to Brussels and would like to explore coliving,  check out our availability here.

Moving to another country for business is a daunting process for anyone, and it is essential that you make the most of this. Working abroad is a wonderful way of expanding your business experience, as well as sampling another culture at the same time. The Parvis Saint Gilles neighborhood of Brussels is a great place to live during this time as it’s in the heart of the city, with a strong neighborhood identity.

With its numerous cafés, markets and restaurants it offers a lot of opportunities to socialize yet are still only a few stops on the metro to the business district and the European Quarter. It’s one of the most culturally diverse and interesting parts of Brussels, and there is so much you can experience when you move here.

The heart of the neighborhood is the Parvis, or church square which is a large pedestrianized square in front of the Saint Gilles church. There is a plethora of bars and cafés which cater to the urban population which typifies the neighborhood. There is also a weekly market on the square attracting people from all over Brussels for it’s organic produce.

Cultural opportunities

Saint Gilles is a bohemian artist’s enclave with a lot of studios tucked away in buildings which used to house the light manufacturing workshops of the past. Cultural highlights include

Galleries:

Galerie d’ivonne

Brussels Artwork

Cultural centersBrussels cultural centre

 

Food and drink

You should also be looking at where you can go to sample some of the best food and drink in Belgium, and there are plenty of options here. Sampling some of the best restaurants and eateries in the square is a major part of experiencing this wonderful place, and, your housemates are sure to help you establish a list of places to try.

If you want to combine great drinks, and a great experience for either lunch or dinner, then you should definitely check out Le Dillens.

You could also head to Cipiace, a delightful bar, and restaurant if you are looking for a quiet early evening drink or a long, talkative lunch with your friends. This is one of the best Italian eateries on the square, and this small, intimate gem, is one of the best places to eat in the Saint-Gilles.

The market also has plenty of excellent food stalls and places you can take a break, have a bite, and watch the world go by. The ideal location for some delightful food and drink options right now.

Coffee and Exploring

When you move to somewhere as exciting as the Parvis de Saint Gilles, you need to do your best to explore as much as possible. There are some great opportunities for doing this, and we have compiled a helpful guide to help you with this moving forward.

A great place to kick off your exploration is Brasserie de l’Union, named after the Saint Gilles football team “l’Union Saint Gilloise” this is an old school café at deliberately democratic prices. A small wander over to the rue Jean Volders and the rue Vanderschrick  leads you to a gorgeous collection of Art Nouveau architecture with such gems as the restaurant La Porteuse d’Eau.

People watching

One of the best ways of acclimating to your new home is to indulge in a spot of people watching, and this is so important for your move to Parvis. Now, the best way of doing some successful people watching is making sure you hole up in a delightful cafe somewhere, ordering a delicious hot drink, and watching the world go by. There are a lot of great places to do this in and around the Parvis area, and one of the main ones is to check out Brasserie Verschueren, a bohemian haunt is one of the best cafes in the city.

There are another couple of great places that you need to look out for, Cafe Maison du Peuple is one of the best contemporary hotspots in the area, complete with free Wi-Fi, and a great selection of beers as well.

Making the most of your trip to Parvis is so important because this is such a vibrant and multi-cultural area, popular with artists, musicians, and locals. You have to make sure you are focused on making the most of your move here, and that means experiencing all the delights that Saint-Gilles has to offer.

There is so much to keep in mind when you want to achieve this, and this is why doing a bit of research before you go is one of the best ways of plotting your move abroad. There is so much to experience in Parvis and the surrounding area, and you have to be sure you’re making the most of it.

 

Brussels Grand Place

Brussels is a city that offers so much to its residents. So, if you’ve decided to move to Brussels, then you’ve made a fantastic choice! Some of you might have visited this great city before, so you have a vague understanding of what lies ahead.

However, living in Brussels is different from going on a short city break there. As such, before you pack your bags and move, it’s a good idea to understand what to expect when you move to Brussels.

We’ve come up with some key things to be aware of, and they’re split into two categories; what to expect from the general life in the city, and what to expect on the admin and settling in side of things.

What to expect from general Brussels life

Thousands of people move to this amazing city every year – and it’s easy to see why. It offers a lot to get excited about, and here’s what you can expect during your stay:

A multilingual city

One of the standout features of life in Brussels is that you’re surrounded by people from all over the world. It’s a multicultural city, and this is best represented in the plethora of languages you hear. Language education is excellent in Belgium, so most locals speak English without any trouble. In fact, websites and public transport stations all tend to have things written in English for you as well. So, talking to people won’t be an issue! You will quickly learn that Belgium has three national languages, German, French, and Dutch. Dutch is spoken by the majority of the population but French tends to dominate in Brussels although officially it is a bilingual city. You will find all the street names are signposted in both French and Dutch. So don’t be surprised if your street name has two completely different spellings!

The people

Brussels welcomes around 40,000 newcomers every year. Loads of people come here because a lot of European institutions and companies have their bases in this city. So, there are plenty of jobs around – particularly in service areas like law, PR, etc. As a result, it’s a fairly busy city, but quite a youthful one too. Expect to see plenty of professionals as you walk around the city, many of whom have probably emigrated from other countries like you.

The weather

Weatherwise, you’re looking at a reasonable climate. The temperature is mild all year round, but you can get some beautiful sunny spells in the summer. The winter months aren’t unbearable either; snow can fall, but the temperatures rarely drop too far below freezing. One thing you can count on is rain – you’ll get a couple of showers in any season.

What to expect from the admin side of things

Now, when you arrive in Brussels, there are various admin tasks you need to concern yourself with. We’re talking about financial admin, registration, figuring out how to get around, and so on. Bearing that in mind, here’s what you can expect:

Banking

Thankfully, a lot of big European banks operate in Brussels. Therefore, you won’t need to open a new account – which makes life a lot easier. The best thing to do is get in touch with your bank and ask them if they operate in this city, just to be 100% sure.

But, if your bank doesn’t operate here, then you’ll need to open an account with a local bank in Brussels. The good news is that the major banks here offer an expat service that’s ideal for your particular situation. ING is a popular choice amongst expats arriving in Brussels, and you can contact them here to learn more about their expat service.

If you’d like to open your account before you even set foot on Belgian soil, then KBC is widely regarded as the leading bank to do so. Again, they have an expat service that caters to your needs, and you can open your account online with a foreign or Belgian ID card.

Registration

Everyone who lives in Brussels longer than three weeks is technically required to register their residence at their local town hall.

Brussels has 19 communes or boroughs, each of which has their own town hall or “maison communale”. This is where you should like to check the process required by the town hall for registering as a resident in their Commune.

In general, this requires making an appointment where you will be required to show up bearing id and in some cases your lease. Once you have been registered you can expect a local police office to come to your home to check your name is on the doorbell and often to check whether you are indeed living in the house. This may feel intrusive but it’s not you – it’s just the way the system works. When landlords say you can register or “domicile” with your lease that means you can register living there. If they don’t want you to register there and you want to live there full time, you might have a problem.

If you’re moving from outside the EU or EEA, then you need a temporary residence permit. When you have one of these, you’ll be registered to the foreigner’s register after a home check.

Regardless of where you’ve come from, all foreigners coming to Brussels will need to register at their local town hall or “commune”. Typically, you have two weeks to do this after settling in. There are 19 communes in Brussels, figure out which one you live in, and make an appointment with the registration service.

Public transport

The public transport network in Brussels is a brilliant way to get around. It offers swift and reliable options – including trams, buses, and the metro. We recommend you order a MoBIB card online, as this is the easiest way to pay for public transport. You top it up with as much money as you need, and it can be used to pay for all four of the public transport operators in Belgium. To check your commute time the best is to rely on www.stib.be.

Our properties in Brussels are always very close to public transport stations, so we highly recommend using them to get from A to B in this busy city.

bike share

Bike share

If you fancy taking the more eco-friendly approach, then there are two providers of bike-sharing services in Brussels. Villo and Billy Bike let you ride public bikes around the city, and there are also Lime electric scooters if you want something a bit quicker.

Car share

For those of you that need to drive, you have two carsharing providers in the city; Cambio and DriveNow. Each one lets you book the car through an app, but they differ slightly. Cambio makes you pick the car up at a station and deliver it back when you’re done. With DriveNow, you can find cars parked within the DriveNow zone, use the app to unlock them, and park them in any other location within the same zone. If you have a private car, your lease at Morton Place qualifies you for a resident’s parking permit which you can obtain from the commune.

Household shopping

You will find plenty of shops that sell all the essentials you need to settle in. There are mini supermarkets dotted around the city, and there’s a small version of Ikea called HEMA as well. This is the best place to go for household appliances and home decor – they even sell bedding. To make life easier, there’s one within walking distance of Morton Place for you to explore. It’s often the first stop for new residents to purchase extra touches for their room.

 

Hopefully, all of this information helps you understand what to expect when you move to Brussels.

It’s a diverse and exciting city with lots of professional opportunities waiting for you.

Make sure you sort out your bank account and registration as soon as you arrive, then it’s time for you to settle in!