It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve moved or how many languages you speak - relocating to a new country is always an intimidating, unknown process. You can’t anticipate the differences in culture or a thousand other subtle changes from the last home you knew.
More specifically, how do you open a bank account? Or find the ideal place to live in Brussels? The team at Housing Anywhere has put together a guide to help you find your feet in Belgium - before you even step off the plane! Whether it’s finding health insurance, estimating your cost of living or just figuring out what to do in Brussels, we’ve got you covered.
We hope you’ll learn a lot from this guide, and just as importantly, that you’ll have the time of your life exploring the Belgian capital!
Situated near-ish to the middle of the country, Brussels is probably best known as a centre for European politics. It is also a world-renowned producer of fine chocolates and beers, boasts nearly 100 museums of interest and features some of the country’s most fascinating and intricate architecture.
Brussels is also renowned for playing host to many other nationalities. In fact, over a quarter of the city’s population is made up of foreigners, not even counting those who have gained citizenship. This adds up to a pretty culturally diverse, fun and dynamic city. There is a coffee-on-a-quiet-street lifestyle which appeals to loads of travellers - it’s not a wild party city like Berlin, but it’s every bit as fascinating and interesting a place to live!
Brussels is officially a bilingual city; the road signs and documents are written in both Dutch and French. German is occasionally spoken too, but this accounts for around 1% of the population and is not an official language. Don’t worry though - as a thriving hub of international activity, there is plenty of proficiency in English too!
The language in Brussels is not Flemish, as is believed by many visitors to the country - Flemish is not a language unto itself. The Flemish community speaks Dutch, albeit sometimes using different dialects of the language.
Brussels sits right in the middle of the weather spectrum - it’s never too hot or too cold. Unfortunately, it’s also a pretty rainy country, so you’ll need a good coat during your stay! The summer months are May-September, and that’s where you’re most likely to encounter some warm sunshine and a spell of dry days - the temperature could even break 25oC. In winter, it will get close to freezing, though rarely below 1oC.
There are numerous public holidays in Brussels which you can look forward to. Some are more important and close to the people of Brussels than others, but they all mean a day off from work!
Celebration of the Spurs, July 1st - Also known as "the Day of the Flemish Community", it is a day of celebration of Flemish culture. It remembers the Battle of the Golden Spurs, and is a holiday close to the heart of many locals.
Independence Day, July 21st - There is a military parade during the day, and all of the national emergency services (like the police and fire brigade) make public appearances to discuss and explain the work they do. The Red Cross also get involved, so there’s a real message of charity and community being spread throughout the city.
King’s Feast, November 15th - While not a national holiday (though I guess you could ask a private employer nicely for a day off…) King’s Feast is one of the most enjoyable days of national celebration in the calendar. There are artistic performances, rivers of Belgian beer and lots of happy chatter as people celebrate the "unique culture" of the Kingdom of Belgium.
The famous Audrey Hepburn was actually born here! Bet you didn’t know that one…
Brussels has an astounding 130+ restaurants for every square mile in the city!
Fan of football? Belgian teams may not be competing in the final stages of the Champion’s League quite yet, but the first ever international match was played right here, in Brussels, in 1904.
There are more than 800 brands of beer for sale throughout the city, which means if you’re there for a year, you could try two new beers every single day and still have 70 left to try!
The Galeries Saint-Hubert are the oldest shopping arcades in the Europe.
The Grand Place in the middle of the city, also known as the Grote Markt, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The centuries-old buildings are visually stunning, with a deep and fascinating history.
There are 3 different types of Belgian waffle, and countless hundreds of toppings and serving styles. Get to know all 3, and you’ll scarcely want to eat anything else all year!
Brussels boasts the largest court of justice in the entire world. It covers an area of 26,000m2, making it about 25% larger again than St Peter’s in Rome!
25-30% of the city’s inhabitants are not Belgian citizens, and come from all four corners of the world. Even more are living there but with Belgian citizenship.
For all the conspiracy theorists out there, Brussels is also home to Europe’s largest Freemason temple - The Great Temple!