Every Saturday I talk to someone who moved to Belgium and built a new life here. Today my guest is Edgar from the Netherlands
1. Hi Edgar, 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’m from the Netherlands, from a small city close to the German border, at about three hours driving from Brussels. I came to Belgium in spring 2010, together with my wife who is from India. We lived in Mumbai for a couple of years, and before that I used to live in Milan, Washington DC, Syracuse (NY), Paris, Atlanta (GA), Berlin, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Indeed, I know all about packing up my suitcases again and moving to another country.
When we decided to move out of India and were looking at the various options around the world, at some point Brussels came up. The Netherlands was a no-go because of immigration rules that do not allow Dutch citizens to take their non-Western spouses with them if they have not passed an expensive and time-consuming civil test. Brussels, on the other hand, was quite welcoming. Despite some local bureaucratic hurdles we had to pass, we had everything organised within just a few weeks.
2. What were your expectations before you moved to Belgium and did the reality align with those expectations?
Quite honestly I didn’t like Brussels at all before I came here for the first time to look for houses. Back in the nineties I regularly traveled over here but I only went to the downtown area and the European district. It was a pleasant surprise to get to know areas such as Chatelain, Flagey, the Bois de la Cambre and many other places. The city keeps on surprising me with unexpected “corners” and places. It’s a city that you need to explore as it is not coming to you.
3. What’s the biggest difference between life in the Netherlands and living in Belgium?
There are many differences between the Netherlands and Belgium, the cultures are very different, which shows itself in things ranging from food, relationships, politics and many other things. I find it hard to pick one out. Also, I have been away from Holland for a long time, so I tend to not to compare it so much with my home country anymore.
4. And what’s the biggest difference in mentality of the people or their lifestyle?
The Dutch are well-known for their direct way of communicating. That’s totally different with Belgians. From both sides it’s sometimes hard to deal with that.
5. What do you love most about the Belgium?
The weather ;-) No, I think it’s the diversity of this country. There is so much to do and see, so many lovely cities and places to visit.
6. What do you like least about Belgium?
Bad customer service, bureaucracy, way too high taxes and the endless rules that make it hard to do business.
7. What do you miss most about the Netherlands?
The weather again? ;-) Actually, I think that Brussels’s weather is primarily unattractive because of the greyness, which may be less so in The Netherlands. Don’t ask me why.
8. Do you think you’ll stay where you are now, or do you think you’ll migrate again some day?
Never say never, but we have no plans of moving. We have two small children and then you’re much less flexible than before. Maybe at some point we’ll go back to India or elsewhere in Asia. Although there are tons of things to do in Belgium, I must say that Belgium or Europe for that matter, cannot be compared with the dynamic environment of many Asian cities. For now we’re happy here and plan to stay a little longer.
Also, I am building up a network for Brussels’ international community, called Expat Club. I have big plans for this group so that certainly also keeps me tied to the capital of Europe.
9. Could you share some of your favorite spots in Belgium with us?
Starting close to my home, I think the Ponds of Ixelles are very nice. The Fôret de Soignes is amazing, at just 6-7 minutes driving. Some places in the Ardennes, like the Lesse river, Dinant or Bouillon.
I give regular training sessions about living in Belgium to incoming executives and I always say that you simply need to get out there and explore this country to the fullest and let yourself be surprised.
Are you a Belgian who moved abroad, or do you know someone who is? I’m always looking for new Belgian 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!