Each week I talk to someone who left their home country behind and moved to Belgium. This week Majella tells us about her life here.
1. Hi, Majella! Could you please introduce yourself? Tell us a bit about who you are, where you are from, where in Belgium you moved to and when/why you made that move.
I am Irish. I am a seconded secondary school teacher, working through the Irish Department of Education in the European School of Mol. I am here on a nine-year fixed contract and we intend to return to Ireland once my contract ends. In fact, due to our expectations of Belgium being so different to the reality of life here, we may well return to Ireland after five years of my contract.
I moved here with my husband in September 2012 and we live in Antwerp. I commute to Mol every day and my husband commutes to Brussels.
2. What were your expectations before you moved to Belgium? How did the reality not align with those expectations?
I expected Belgium to be more vibrant and exciting/cosmopolitan than Ireland. I looked forward to having the opportunity to be able to explore Europe by car as this is not an option when living in an island country. I also looked forward to making new friends.
Belgium is not a very exciting place to live. The people, while friendly, are not very welcoming and view us as outsiders. As such, the only Flemish friends I have made are from work. On the upside, we have traveled lots and seen lots of Europe that we had not previously visited.
3. What’s the biggest difference between life in Ireland and living in Belgium?
The biggest difference is the people and the level of warmth and helpfulness. In Ireland, we will help total strangers when we see them in difficulty. That is not the case here.
Secondly, the level of bureaucracy here is awful. Everything is so complicated, especially official things. It makes life very stressful. It is something I will not miss about Belgium.
4. What do you love most about Belgium?
I love the fact that we can get into the car and drive to so many other countries and interesting places.
5. What do you like least about Belgium?
I hate the red tape and form filling that is required for everything here. Also, staff in official positions are so unhelpful. This makes the whole thing so much worse.
6. What do you miss most about Ireland?
I miss my friends and family the most and also the warmth and genuine nature of the Irish.
8. Do you think you’ll stay where you are now, or do you think you’ll migrate again some day?
We will be returning to Ireland once my contract ends.
9. Could you share some of your favorite spots in Belgium with us?
We love Brugges and also the Grote Markt in Antwerp.
Are you an expat who moved to Belgium, or do you know someone who is? I’m always looking for new expats to talk to. Check out the X-pat Files for more information on who exactly I’m looking for and drop me a line!