Living the expat life in Belgium. First things first.
1. Find a home
The first tough nut you’ll need to crack is where to settle down. Despite its tiny size, Belgium has a lot to offer. A small cozy town or a big bustling city. Flanders, lively region in the north, or Wallonia, peaceful living in the south. And of course, there’s Brussels, home of sprouts, chocolate, and the European Parliament. It’s a melting pot of cultures, languages, and nationalities, so you’ll have no trouble fitting in. Although the capital’s city center has its charm, you might want to settle down in one of Brussels’ slightly more calm municipalities. Etterbeek and Ixelles/Elsene are it-neighborhoods and slightly more expensive, while Uccle/Ukkel is all about that green environment.
Antwerp is easily one of the trendiest cities of Belgium. Fashion, clubbing, history, culture, parks … this port city has it all. Look for your new digs at ‘t Zuid, ‘t Eilandje or Zurenborg if you have a larger budget to spend. Head over to Deurne, one of Antwerp’s lively suburbs, if you want an affordable family home with some outdoor space.
Option number 3? Ghent. Medieval setting? Twelve points. Don’t let its picturesque canals and cobbled streets fool you though, Ghent has metropolitan mindset and isn’t afraid to show it. Dok Noord is one example. You’ll find a lot of new or refurbished housing units in this booming neighborhood. If you want to live nearby the city center, areas like Coupure and Visserij are a solid choice. Just avoid Overpoort though, this nightlife hotspot is not the place for you if you like your nights to be quiet and uneventful.
Leaning towards the French speaking part of Belgium? Liège is your go-to city to touch down in. It’s one of Belgium’s most important economical regions and known for its folk festivals and busy nightlife. Expats living centers around a couple of streets including Boulevards Frère-Orban and Piercot, Rue du Mont St-Martin, and Rue du Jardin Botanique, as well as Les Terrasses.
If the big city life isn’t for you, you might want to look into Mechelen, Leuven, Bruges, Kortrijk, Tervuren or Louvain-la-Neuve. These cities are a bit smaller, which manifests itself in a more provincial atmosphere and lower renting prices.
Now that you’ve found a place to live, let’s find you a home. You’ve got two options. Either hire a real estate agent – just google ‘real estate agent’ and the region – or browse one of these online property platforms. Yes, it’s that simple.
Immoweb – Belgium’s most popular property website
Realo – Fast growing real estate website
Thehomelike – Furnished apartments for business travelers
Spotahome – A mid- tot long-term online booking platform for home rentals
AirBnB – No introduction needed, right?
2. Get your internet to work
Of course, to do all that searching around on the world wide web, you’ll need internet. Preferably without the hassle of having to book an appointment, wait for the cable guy to come over and install the whole shebang. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Well, that’s right up our alley. TADAAM offers cable-free internet and TV delivered to your doorstep in 24h. For a mere €40 per month, we’ll hook you up with a wireless modem and some fast and flawless internet. No cables or technicians needed. No installation costs. Just plug it in a power socket and you’re all set to find your home away from home. Nice plus? It works everywhere in Belgium. You can even take it with you to the park, a rooftop party, or a weekend getaway. And you should, because TADAAM’s internet has no limits. You can surf the web and watch TV as much as you want. Where you want it.
3. Get your phone to work
Made the move? Then you’ll want to stay in touch with your family back at home. If you’re flying in from a non-EU country, those call and roaming coasts can add up quickly. So, get your hands on a Belgian SIM card. If you liked what you read earlier, you’re in for a treat. We’ve teamed with phone provider BASE to make you an offer you can’t refuse: a BASE and TADAAM subscription starting from €50 per month with a €5 benefit. No kidding, that’s your TV, internet, and phone all covered into one a really sweet deal. Read all about it here.
4. Figure out how to get around
Oh god, where to start. If there’s one thing this country has a lot of – besides ‘frietkoten’ – is ways to get around. In larger towns and cities, you can easily take the bus, metro, tram or train. Be aware though, Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia each have their own bus and metro company. Find out more here. Like to pedal your way around? Then a Velo, Villo, Swapfiets or Billy Bike subscription is your way to go. If you’re feeling sporty, you can even bike from one city to another. There’s an expanding network of ‘fietsostrades’ – highways for bicycles – at your disposal.
5. Relax and sip a Belgian beer
Phew, glad that’s done. Now that you’ve take care of the serious stuff, it’s time for a break. In Belgium a break comes with a drink. How about your first Belgian beer on Belgian grounds? In Brussels you can eat and drink your heart out in Café Belga, an iconic café located in a beautiful art deco building that used to host the national broadcasting studios. Monk is one of Brussels’ classics. An authentic pub with a solid beer offer and simple, but good food on the menu. Up for a party? Head over to Plein Publiek, an impressive greenhouse inside the Dynastiepaleis. In Antwerp, make your way to the newly opened rooftop bar Laila or the Special Belge taproom in Pakt for some signature Belgian beers. If you’re exploring the city center, the Mechelseplein hosts plenty of bars. You can’t go wrong with Korsakov or Kapitein Zeppos. Fancy a fancy drink? Grab a seat at the bar of Dogma, Cocktails at Nine or Black Smoke. And now raised your glass and toast to your first week in Belgium. Cheers!