You are an experienced expat. You survived five or more countries without any problems. And then one day you find yourself in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, the capital of Europe. Things work differently here. They work maybe the same here. Or they simply don’t work at all (a common complaint). Either way, also here you have to find your way around, otherwise it’s going to be a hard expat stint. So you’d better make it yourself as easy as possible and integrate as well as you can. So, without further ado, here is the list of X signs that you are integrated in Belgium:
1. Master the language(s?)
Speaking the language, preferably in several local accents and dialects, is the number one sign that you’re feeling home in your host country. But with three official languages – Dutch, French and let’s not forget German – Belgium makes it extremely difficult for expats to fully integrate when it comes to languages. Luckily Brussels’ expats are probably the ones with the highest average of foreign languages under their belt, so you shouldn’t feel too bad if you still don’t master West-Flemish.
2. Get your regular dose
Expats in Rome significantly increase their intake of ice cream, or better gelato. Surely expats in Tokyo eat way more sushi than the average expat in Stockholm. And if your boss decides to send you to Mumbai, there is a pretty big chance you just can’t get enough of samosas and curries. For us here in Belgium, there is no way but to give in to a regular dose of chocolate, fries with mayonnaise, waffles topped with XYZ, and yet a different type of beer. It’s maybe not as healthy as a Greek salad, but consumed in moderation expats in Belgium must be the luckiest foreigners in the world. Once you realized that you cannot do without, you’re one step closer to being integrated.
3. You’ve filled out your tax forms at least twice…
and still don’t want to leave Belgium. Lets just be fair about it, taxes in Belgium are just outrageously high. Company taxes are steep. Due to high income taxes and equally high employer’s contributions, the difference between the total costs to company and the net salaries are quite extraordinary. A VAT-percentage of 21% is not exactly Europe’s lowest, whereas the number of additional taxes, levies, contributions, fees and what’s more are just making life rather expensive here. If after all this, you still feel like living in Belgium, you’re probably much more integrated than you may have thought.
4. You survived a winter at least twice…
without flying to Dubai for Christmas and Tenerife for a mid-February break. Another one of the regular expat complaints. Indeed, the weather is far from optimal in Belgium. Sometimes it even seems that the grey overcast magically clears up once you cross the border at Breda, Aachen, Lille or Luxembourg. But lets just be fair, if you don’t live near the Mediterranean, being an expat anywhere else in Europe is not much better, weather-wise at least. So if you don’t feel the continuous need to fly away to exotic places, especially in winter, tap yourself on the back and realize you may have gotten more used to Belgium than you would openly admit.
5. You have tasted at least all Belgian Trappiste beers
Possibly beer is what Belgium is most famous for. And trappiste beers enjoy the highest rankings. But what a lot of people don’t know is that these beers brewed by monks do not only come from Belgium. Also 2 monasteries in The Netherlands, 1 in Austria, 1 in England, 1 in France, 1 in Spain and 1 in the United States (!!) can produce Trappist beers. Belgium has six monasteries from which this liquid flows: Westmalle, Westvleteren, Achel, Chimay, Orval and Rochefort. Westvleteren has been called out as best beer in the world several times, so there must be something about them. How many have you already tried? And which one is your favorite?
6. You’ve seen almost 100 museums in Brussels and…
you still can’t get enough of all the cultural treasures in town. Indeed, you can almost visit 1 museum every weekend day of the year and never go to the same place twice. Whether it is one of Brussels’ top museums such as the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium or the train museum in Schaerbeek, or one of the more “specialised ones” such as the Clockarium or the Sewer Museum, there is always something new to learn. At Expat Club we visited many of them already with our groups, including the Horta House & Museum, the Van Buuren House & Museum, the Meunier Museum, and many others. Often we do this with an official museum guide, so the experience becomes much more special and memorable.
You have joined at least one Expat Club event and trip
Yes, we are a bit cocky at Expat Club, because after more than seven years of bringing people together we have definitely earned a spot in the “how to integrate into Belgian society” list. With dozens of different local events and over 250 trip destinations, we can say with confidence that we have been become as Belgian as we are expatriate. So have a look at our massive calendar for the first upcoming events or trip, and we hope to welcome you 😉