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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!