Everybody who has spent time in a different country knows that expat life is not quite like anything else in the world. The confusion of the first few days and weeks, the slow, but steady process of acclimation, the little peculiarities and quirks that might strike you about your new surroundings: almost any situation you encounter can make for a great story. If you are so inclined and want to blog about it, of course!
Our InterNations recommended blog section features talented expat bloggers from around the world. Their offerings to the blogosphere have been selected for their great entries and high quality, whether they may be funny, informative, interesting, deeply personal or a combination of all of the above.
Let’s hear from our featured bloggers in Belgium:
The expat community in Belgium, especially in and around Brussels, is huge. With the EU, NATO, and the numerous international companies, residents are literally from all over the world. Belgium also hosts many international clubs. Expats are bound to find a community they can consider a “home away from home”. Personally, I have benefitted greatly from the American Women's Club of Brussels.
I was prepared for the experience of living as an expat but my life also developed in other ways in addition to just relocating to a new country. I don’t believe I would change any decisions or preparations. Every event that occurred has shaped my experience so far and at this point I see it as a very positive thing. That is not to say that deciding to become an expat doesn’t involve a lot of decisions and preparation. It certainly does. I’m fortunate to have such a supportive family and partner to have made the process go much more smoothly.
I can remember in the local supermarket asking (in Dutch) where their red beans were, and they just couldn’t understand my Dutch. I was getting increasingly infuriated until I realized that instead of asking for red beans – rode bonen – I was asking for rode benen - red legs!
One of the toughest challenges for us was the language. We (very wrongly) assumed that like in Canada, Belgian government offices would operate in both official languages anywhere in the country. We already spoke French but we moved to a Flemish neighbourhood where legally they could not offer us service in any other language. It was a wake-up call that life would be different in Belgium.
Before we moved it was all study and no play, we’re a lot better at the work/life balance nowadays. Then I started blogging and managing a work/life/blogging balance, that’s a whole other thing that I’ve yet to master. The biggest difference is not being completely broke, we both work full time so it’s nice to be able to enjoy all that’s comes with living in mainland Europe.
The areas that I thought we’d be fine on were just the ones that blind-sided us. If I was expecting something to be hard, it allowed me more time and patience to get used to it. That’s another one – give yourself time. Don’t push yourself too far. There’s enough going on that you shouldn’t put that pressure on yourself…it might not make sense before, but it will in your first month. Your world will be different and the best way to adapt to it is to be open to it and explore it.
I live within an international community. No problems finding like-minded folks. And more importantly, it’s easy to find others that aren’t like-minded. These gems tend to be the people that fascinate me most. I love how frequently I’m exposed to cultures/people that are unfamiliar. I moved here wanting to expose my girls to life outside of their comfort zone. Mission accomplished!
Life in Belgium was and is different and if I’m not mistaken will always be. This is always the case when you trade one country for the other. The differences are not shocking, but require some adaptation. Brussels is one of the cities where you do not have to adapt that much: it is not a traditional city where you are the only newcomer; it is a cosmopolitan place where everyone is from somewhere else.
I live in Brussel, close to the European Parliament. I work in Mechelen. In the heart of Flanders. For me, being an expat is about soaking up the local atmosphere.