Belgium at a Glance
Living in Belgium
Why are so many expats living in Belgium? The answer to that question is relatively simple. Most foreigners are based in Brussels, which is not only one of the EU “capitals”, but also hosts the NATO headquarters. Almost 13% of all 10.8 million of Belgium’s current inhabitants were not born there - about 1 in 8 people living in Belgium are foreigners! International diplomats, politicians, and civil servants working for one of the many intergovernmental organizations in Brussels make up a significant share of these foreign residents.
Belgium: A General Overview
Belgium is a highly urbanized country: An estimated 97% of all people in Belgium reside in towns or cities. With over 365 people per km², the whole country has a very high population density.
In some respects, the Belgian government has failed to adequately respond to the challenge presented by such figures, leaving Belgium’s residents to suffer from the environmental impacts. In the 2014 Environmental Performance Index, the country was ranked 36th, which puts it between Saudi Arabia and Brunei; even the USA is ranked higher (33rd).
In general though, foreigners living in Belgium don’t face any adverse circumstances. The country’s poor environmental record rarely has an immediate effect upon everyday life in Belgium. There are no extreme weather conditions: Belgium enjoys a temperate climate with mild winters and cool summers. Rain, humidity and clouds are featured rather prominently in the daily weather forecast.
Education in Belgium
Pre-schools are available to children aged between 2½ years and school age at no charge. It’s not compulsory but about 98 percent of Belgian children are enrolled in formal childcare or pre-school.
School is compulsory for all children living in Belgium between the ages of 6 and 18, regardless of their nationality. In fact, if your children are also starting a new life in Belgium, you must enroll them at a school within 60 days of your registration in Belgium. Education at state schools is free of charge for everyone, but small financial contributions might be expected to cover teaching materials or school excursions.
Although the school system is the same across the country, the educational decision-making processes rest with the different language communities. The language of instruction, the enrollment period, and other details may differ depending on whether you are currently living in the French-, Dutch-, or German-speaking region of Belgium. Overall, however, the following should apply to everyone living in Belgium.
While most teaching takes place in the morning and early afternoon (8:30 to 15:30), many state schools also provide daycare facilities for younger pupils. For a fee, Belgian schoolchildren can participate in supervised activities such as homework sessions and playgroups during the afternoon. Some schools also offer complimentary school bus services, or organized cycling groups where kids are picked up in the mornings and dropped off again after school. Free public transportation passes are available to primary school children in Belgium’s big cities.
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