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. More than 10% of all 10.4 million of Belgium’s current inhabitants were not born there. International diplomats, politicians or 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 355 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 2006 Environmental Performance Index, the country received the lowest score of all EU states, although it has made significant progress in the past few years.
In general though, foreigners 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
School is compulsory for all children in Belgium between the ages of 6 and 18, regardless of their nationality. In fact, if your children will be sharing your new life in Belgium, you must enroll them at a school within 60 days of your registration in Belgium. Compulsory 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 process rests 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, 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 free 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.