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Embassy contacts for Belgium

Belgian embassies

Embassy of Belgium, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 333 6900

Embassy of Belgium, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7470 3700

Embassy of Belgium, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 7267

Embassy of Belgium, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6273 2501

Embassy of Belgium, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 440 3201

Embassy of Belgium, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 631 5000

Consulate of Belgium, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 21 229 9552

Foreign embassies in Belgium

United States Embassy, Brussels: +32 2 811 4000

British Embassy, Brussels: +32 2 287 6211

Canadian Embassy, Brussels: +32 2 741 0611

Australian Embassy, Brussels: +32 2 286 0500

South African Embassy, Brussels: +32 2 285 4400

Embassy of Ireland, Brussels: +32 2 282 3400

New Zealand Embassy, Brussels: +32 2 512 1040

Cost of Living in Belgium

Though the cost of living in Belgium is far from inexpensive, it's generally not as pricey as in other prominent European destinations. Brussels ranked 39th out of 227 cities in the Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2022.

The Belgian tax and social security systems are well-developed, ensuring that incomes are distributed evenly across most industries. Nevertheless, for many non-EU nationals, living in Belgium is particularly costly in the initial transition stages due to the disparity between the Euro and weaker currencies.

Cost of accommodation in Belgium

Rent payments typically account for a large percentage of a person's monthly expenditure in Belgium. Accommodation in Belgium’s cities is largely quite costly. Expats who are willing to venture outside major urban centres will find that their rental costs are substantially lower.

Energy prices in Belgium are steep, so expats moving here should not expect utilities to be a minor cost.

Cost of entertainment and eating out in Belgium

There are numerous entertainment options in Belgium to suit every budget. Museum and gallery entrance fees are generally low. Expats can also visit most of Belgium’s many public parks and historic buildings free of charge.

High-end clubs and restaurants are available in all major urban centres, as are smaller bars and cafés. Brussels is significantly pricier than other cities in Belgium, such as Antwerp and Ghent.

Cost of transport in Belgium

The public transport system in Belgium is efficient and affordable. Its extensive network of bus, tram and metro routes makes getting around major cities a relatively hassle-free experience. There are also several bicycle hire schemes available for those who prefer to avoid public transport. Transport between major urban centres is often available at a relatively low cost.

Owning a car is not a necessity as long as one lives somewhere with easy access to public transport. This should save new arrivals some money when moving to Belgium. For the unlucky ones who can't avoid buying a car, it's likely to be a significant expense. The cost of car insurance and fuel is an added burden.

Cost of groceries in Belgium

Grocery shopping in Belgium can be relatively expensive, particularly for imported goods. For those who prefer organic food, there are various specialist stores available, though prices tend to be higher than in regular supermarkets. The quality of food in Belgium is generally high, so it's possible to find affordable and nutritious options without breaking the bank.

Expats can save money by purchasing locally sourced products at supermarkets or visiting local markets for fresh produce, tailoring their menus to seasonal fruits and vegetables. Shopping at discount stores such as Aldi and Lidl and choosing store-brand items can also help to reduce grocery bills.

Cost of education in Belgium

Education in Belgium is compulsory from the age of six to 18, and the public school system is of a high standard. Public schools are free, but there are some costs involved, such as books and other school materials.

For expats who want their children to follow an international curriculum, there is a range of international schools available, particularly in Brussels. These schools offer education in English or other languages and follow various curricula, such as the globally recognised International Baccalaureate.

To match the world-class educations they offer, international schools tend to have high tuition fees, which can be a significant expense for expat families. Expats on a tight budget may consider enrolling their children in local public schools or seeking financial support from their employers.

Cost of healthcare in Belgium

Healthcare in Belgium is renowned for its high quality, and the country has a comprehensive social security system that includes public healthcare coverage. Expats working in Belgium are required to contribute to the social security system and will therefore have access to public healthcare services. Expats will find many expat-friendly doctors and medical professionals in Belgium who are proficient in English, ensuring that language barriers do not hinder their access to quality healthcare.

There may be waiting lists for certain treatments, and not all services are completely free. Many residents opt to take out private health insurance to cover additional costs and access faster care.

Expats should consider investing in a private health insurance policy, particularly if they have specific healthcare needs or want to access private facilities. To save on healthcare costs, it's vital to compare insurance providers and select a plan that suits individual needs and budgets.

Cost of living in Belgium chart

Prices vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Brussels in May 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

EUR 1,680

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

EUR 1,460

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

EUR 960

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

EUR 800

Food and drink

Dozen eggs

EUR 4.10

Milk (1 litre)

EUR 1.15

Rice (1kg)

EUR 1.99

Loaf of white bread

EUR 2.15

Chicken breasts (1kg)

EUR 10.46

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)


Eating out

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

EUR 75

Big Mac meal

EUR 10

Coca-Cola (330ml)

EUR 2.36


EUR 3.39

Bottle of beer (local)

EUR 2.15


Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

EUR 0.21

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

EUR 32

Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)

EUR 260


Taxi rate/km


City-centre public transport fare

EUR 2.45

Gasoline (per litre)

EUR 1.83

Public Holidays in Belgium




New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Easter Sunday

9 April

31 March

Easter Monday

10 April

1 April

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Ascension Day

18 May

9 May

Whit Sunday

28 May

19 May

Whit Monday

29 May

20 May

National Day

21 July

21 July

Assumption Day

15 August

15 August

All Saints' Day

1 November

1 November

Armistice Day

11 November

11 November

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

*If a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday becomes a holiday.

Pros and Cons of Moving to Belgium

Belgium is located in the very heart of Europe. The Netherlands and Germany border it in the north and the east, and France and Luxembourg border it in the west and south. Belgium is at the crossroads of Germanic and Latin Europe, which is exemplified by its three national languages: Dutch, French and German.

As is the case with many famed countries around the world, Belgium can often be romanticised. Here's a balanced look at the pros and cons of moving to Belgium.

Languages in Belgium

+ PRO: A rich cultural experience

The accessibility of three very different languages can lead to an enriching experience. In most companies, one will hear multilingual conversations among their colleagues. Although most people speak either Dutch or French, it can generally be assumed that they will also speak English at a reasonable level.

- CON: Complex state structure

Three languages, divided over three non-converging regions (Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia) and communities, also create a complex state structure. The state is largely federalised, meaning every region/community has different rules governing areas such as housing, childcare and education. Expats living in one region and working in another will experience the complications that arise from this first-hand.

Accommodation in Belgium

+ PRO: Easy to live close to work

One of the benefits of living in a small country like Belgium is that it isn't necessary to live in the city to be close to work. If one prefers the countryside or a smaller town, living there and working in the city is usually possible. Consequently, expats can benefit from the considerable price difference between renting in the city and on its outskirts.

- CON: Property is expensive

Although one can expect to benefit from the significant price difference between locations, accommodation prices for buyers are quite high compared to other countries. Real-estate taxes on property transfers also differ between the regions.

Getting around in Belgium

+ PRO: Excellent public transport infrastructure

Belgium has excellent public transport. Almost every city can be reached by train in a short amount of time. Public transport within the cities is also fantastic and varied, consisting of subways, trams and buses. If one isn't a fan of public transport, most cities also have extensive cycling infrastructure.

+ PRO: Easy regional travel

Another benefit of Belgium's location is that London, Amsterdam and Paris can be reached by rail in less than three hours. This proximity makes Belgium a magnificent starting point for discovering Europe's finest capitals, even on one-day trips.

- CON: Occasional public transport delays

Although public transport is affordable and accessible, trains do not always arrive on time. Delays are frequent, and although they don't generally amount to more than 10 minutes, they should be considered if planning to commute daily.

Taxation in Belgium

- CON: Exorbitant tax rates

To contribute to public services and its high quality of life, Belgium has one of the highest levels of taxation in the world. The personal income tax brackets range from 25 to 50 percent. Belgium also demands high social security contributions from both employers and employees. Expats should definitely have their tax and social residency statuses examined by an expert.

Lifestyle in Belgium

+ PRO: Excellent dining

Belgium offers exceptional cuisine. On top of typical hot dishes such as waterzooi or waffles, it also offers some of the finest beers in the world. Belgians enjoy a high quality of life, and expats should be prepared to enjoy the country's diverse culinary offerings.

+ PRO: Varied entertainment options

When it comes to relaxing, Belgium has a wide range of events and attractions. It has many museums, beaches and hilly forests, making for great walking or fishing trips. Additionally, Belgium has many theatres, concerts and festivals on offer.

Cost of living in Belgium

+ PRO: Affordable essentials

The cost of everyday essentials such as groceries and public transport in Belgium is relatively affordable compared to other Western European countries. This allows expats to maintain a comfortable standard of living without breaking the bank.

+ PRO: Competitive utilities

Utility costs in Belgium, such as electricity, gas and water, are generally competitive compared to other Western European countries, allowing expats to save on monthly expenses.

- CON: High cost of dining out and leisure activities

While the essentials may be affordable, the cost of dining out, leisure activities and consumer goods can be higher than in other countries. Expats may find themselves spending more on these items, especially if they frequently indulge in Belgium's renowned culinary scene.

Education in Belgium

+ PRO: High-quality education

Belgium boasts a high-quality education system, with many well-regarded local and international schools. Expats can choose from various options to ensure their children receive a quality education tailored to their needs.

+ PRO: Access to top universities

Belgium is home to prestigious universities such as KU Leuven and Ghent University, offering expat students excellent higher education opportunities without the need to leave the country.

- CON: School availability and language barriers

The availability of spots in international schools can be limited, so it is essential to apply early. Additionally, language barriers may arise in local schools for expat children who are not fluent in French, Dutch or German, making the transition more challenging. Expats moving between regions may find navigating the differing educational structures and requirements challenging.

Healthcare in Belgium

+ PRO: Excellent healthcare system

Belgium is known for its efficient, high-quality healthcare system, which is accessible to both residents and expats. The country offers a comprehensive range of medical services, with many healthcare professionals speaking English, easing communication for expats.

- CON: Mandatory health insurance

Healthcare in Belgium is not free; health insurance is mandatory for expats, and must be obtained either through their employer or purchased privately. While this ensures access to quality care, it does add an extra expense to the cost of living for expats in Belgium.

Work Permits for Belgium

Although EU citizens don't need a work permit in Belgium, non-European expats do. The Belgian work permit is also known as a 'single permit'.

Application forms for work permits in Belgium are obtained from the relevant employment agency in the region of the country the expat intends to work.

Work permits for non-European citizens

Non-European nationals will need a work permit to be legally employed in the country. It's usually the responsibility of the Belgian employer to receive authorisation to hire a foreign worker and apply for a work permit on their behalf.

There are three main types of work permits for non-European citizens in Belgium:

Work Permit B: This short-term permit is valid for a single employer and issued for up to 12 months. Most expats moving to Belgium will require this type of work permit.

Work Permit C: This permit allows foreign nationals to work for multiple employers and is valid for up to 12 months. It is generally granted to specific categories of workers, such as seasonal workers or international students working part-time.

Work Permit D: This is a long-term permit for highly skilled workers and executives employed in Belgium for at least four consecutive years. It is also known as the European Blue Card.

Once the relevant authorities have authorised their employment, the expat employee can apply for a Schengen visa, enabling them to enter the country and stay temporarily.

Useful links

Work permits for European citizens

Citizens of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) don't usually require a work permit for Belgium. European citizens working in Belgium must have a full EU or EEA passport or identity card. These nationals are free to enter Belgium for up to three months to look for work or set up a business. Those staying for more than three months are required to register at their local Belgian town hall.

Useful links

*Work permit regulations are subject to change at short notice, and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Diversity and inclusion in Belgium

Belgium is home to a rich and exciting mix of cultures, and foreigners from all over the globe are drawn to this European hub. Read on for information about diversity and inclusion in Belgium.

Accessibility in Belgium

Belgium aims to help disabled people live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, and various laws address direct and indirect discrimination. Public funding is available to support employers with wage subsidies if they hire disabled workers with reduced productivity.

Cities like Belgium, Antwerp and Ghent work hard to ensure they are accessible to everyone. Many shops, hotels, restaurants, museums and cultural sites have been adapted to help people with reduced mobility. Buses, trams and trains are accessible to those using wheelchairs, and there are tactile paving and audible signals at pedestrian crossings. There are dropped curbs on pavements, but many of the streets in these ancient cities are surfaced with cobblestones, making journeys a little shaky. Wheelchair taxis are available.

Useful resources

LGBTQ+ in Belgium

Belgium is considered one of the most gay-friendly countries in Europe. There are laws that prevent discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, and same-sex activity has been legal since 1795. In 2003, Belgium became the second country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage. Recent polls indicate that most Belgians support same-sex marriage and adoption rights. People identifying as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth can change their legal gender by submitting a statement attesting to this – medical intervention is not required.

The last Prime Minister of Belgium, Elio Di Rupo, is openly gay and is one of the first heads of government in the world to publicly identify as such. Belgium also had the world's first openly transgender government minister.

The LGBTQ+ community is accepted and well integrated within Belgium society. In Brussels, the main gay scene is located behind the Grand Place, the central square in the city. There are also vibrant and open gay scenes in Antwerp, Ghent and other Belgium cities, and each has bars and clubs that are favoured by the local LGBTQ+ community.

Gender equality in Belgium

The Belgian Constitution explicitly affirms equality between men and women. Belgium ranks 8th in the EU on the Gender Equality Index, putting it towards the top of the group of 27 countries. It maintains tenth place in the OECD's Women in Work Index, but the low number of women in the labour market pulls down its ranking. Just 65 percent of women are in work, compared to the OECD average of 70 percent. This ratio reflects the country's strong tradition of women fulfilling predominantly domestic and childcare roles rather than professional ones.

The gap between women's and men's average hourly wage is a relatively low 5 percent, and this ratio continues to reduce year on year.

Useful resources

Women in leadership in Belgium

Although women are frequently recruited at lower levels, they are increasingly underrepresented on each rung of the management level. Nine out of ten CEOs in Belgium are male. The federal and regional governments have taken steps to redress the balance – quotas were introduced in 2018, stipulating that 33 percent of positions on corporate boards must be filled by women. All companies with 50 or more workers need to report their pay data no less than every two years.

Women are better represented within parliament. In 2021, over 40 percent of the elected representatives within federal, regional and community parliaments were women. Sophie Wilmès was Belgium's first female Prime Minister, running the country from 2019 to 2020.

Mental health awareness in Belgium

Expats can be at greater risk of mental health issues, especially depression and anxiety, exacerbated by stress and loneliness. Fortunately for expats moving to Belgium, there is an extensive range of mental health services, both private and publicly funded.

Most international companies have policies in place to provide support for employees with mental health issues. Mental illness is usually covered by the company's chosen employee healthcare schemes, although this is worth checking.

Belgium focuses on providing community-based mental health support, which is proven to be more effective than hospital treatment, and reduces the stigma attached to mental health issues. Regional governments provide psychiatric and psychological consultations through Mental Health Care Centres (MHCC).

There are a low number of psychiatrists in Belgium specialising in severe mental health conditions, and waiting lists can be long. It is, however, relatively easy to find psychologists with private practices in Belgium. The Brussels-based Community Health Service (CHS) is a non-profit organisation that offers mental health support for the international community in several languages.

It is possible to make appointments directly with a mental healthcare professional without a referral from a GP/ family doctor. Only a GP or a psychiatrist can provide prescriptions for medication.

Useful resources

The Community Health Service is a non-profit organisation established as a resource for the English-speaking expatriate population of Belgium
The Commission of Psychologists website provides a search function to find a registered psychologist

Unconscious bias training in Belgium

Unconscious bias is an implicit set of often stereotyped ideas an individual carries about groups of people different to themselves. These ideas are not purposefully adopted but rather develop subtly over time, and people tend to hold unconscious biases about groups they never or rarely come into contact with. As a result, they're typically inaccurate and based on assumptions.

Belgium is no exception, and employers are likely to employ their own nationals and nationals of other EU countries, over foreigners, even if they are otherwise qualified for the job. Unconscious bias can profoundly affect both personal and work conditions.

In the workplace, unchecked bias undermines vital aspects of the company, negatively impacting employee performance, retention and recruitment. In a bid to create a better work environment, many companies are beginning to institute unconscious bias training. There are also several online resources that can be used to improve self-awareness regarding bias.

Useful resources

Diversification in the workplace in Belgium

Belgium, and Brussels in particular, is one of the most culturally diverse places in the world. Expats living in the city will hear as many languages as in London or Paris, whether taking the metro, standing at the school gate, or doing grocery shopping. Despite the considerable diversity, most of the international community stays within their own expat bubbles, with little contact with local Belgians.

In 2021, over 1.48 million people living in Belgium were foreign nationals. Most of these are EU nationals due to the country's location and its role as home to most EU institutions. Almost one-third of foreigners in Belgium are of African origin.

Safety in Brussels

Belgium is safe by international standards, although petty crime is higher in the capital Brussels than in the smaller Flemish cities of Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent. People moving to Brussels should take the same sensible precautions that they would in New York or Berlin.

Public transport is generally safe, but there is a high risk of pickpocketing in crowded trains and stations. Taxis are considered safe, though there is a risk of being overcharged by unlicensed cabs. Some areas of Brussels should be avoided at night, including Anneessens, Anderlecht, Brussels North, Molenbeek, Saint-Josse and Schaerbeek.

Calendar initiatives in Belgium

January – Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
4 February – World Cancer Day
8 March – International Women's Day
March – TB Awareness Month
April – Stress Awareness Month
1 May – Labour Day
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
May – Gay Pride
June – Pride month
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
10 October –World Mental Health Day
14 November – World Diabetes Day
November – Men's Health Month ('Movember')
1 December – World AIDS Day

Education and Schools in Belgium

There are three different national education systems in Belgium. The education systems are managed by their respective regional governments. The French, Flemish and German regions each have their own government-run education system which corresponds with the regional language. 

Education in Belgium is mandatory for children between five and 18 years old. The school year typically runs from September to June.

If only staying in Belgium for a short-term assignment, most expats send their children to a local public school or an international school offering English as a language of instruction.

Useful links:

  • The regional Ministries of Education have separate websites for the Flanders, French and German communities.

Public schools in Belgium

Public schools in Belgium provide expat families an excellent chance to learn the regional language and culture through immersion. Belgian public schools are free for residents, and extra costs associated with school supplies and excursions are kept to a minimum in public schools.

Expats will be delighted to find that schools in Belgium do not work according to catchment zones, meaning they are free to enrol their children in an institution of their choosing. Children are required to enrol in a school within 60 days of registering at their local municipality. 

The Belgian secondary education system is highly regarded. In their second year, students select particular course options, which can be general, technical, artistic or professional in nature.

Private schools in Belgium

Another option for expats is sending their children to private schools in Belgium. Fees at private schools vary widely, but are typically higher than at public schools. The teaching philosophies vary within and between all these institutions. Many private schools are religious institutions, and most offer a curriculum that differs from the regional government curriculum, such as the Montessori and Waldorf curricula.

International schools in Belgium

The main allure of international schools in Belgium is that an expat family will most likely find others who speak their home language. This commonality makes the transition to a new country much easier for the whole family. It also allows students to continue with a familiar curriculum, assuming there is an international school that teaches it.

These schools can also administer non-Belgian exams such as the SATs and International Baccalaureate. Students are also likely to find a broader range of extra-curricular activities than what is offered in traditional Belgian public schools. However, international schools tend to have higher tuition fees compared to public and private schools. These schools often have limited spaces, and parents should apply well in advance to secure spots for their children.

Read more

Homeschooling in Belgium

Homeschooling in Belgium is another option for expats. That said, before making this commitment the expat family needs to be aware that the Belgian government has put strict guidelines and inspections in place. Families may need to submit periodic progress reports or participate in standardised testing, depending on the region and local regulations. Parents who do not comply with these standards can be sanctioned. Proper procedures must be taken to ensure compliance with local laws.

Special-needs education in Belgium

Special-needs education in Belgium focuses on inclusion and equality. The Belgian government is dedicated to ensuring that every child has access to education. In each language community, a specific department within the Ministry of Education is responsible for overseeing special-needs education.

The ministry will first attempt to immerse a child into a mainstream school. If this is not possible or suitable, children would be enrolled in a specialist school. There are various categories of specialist schools in Belgium. Some schools are focused on physical disabilities, and others will focus on learning or behavioural difficulties.

Tutors in Belgium

Whether parents want to improve their child's language skills, boost their grades in a problem subject or get assistance in preparing for a big exam, expat families can use the many high-quality tutors around Belgium. There are numerous large and small companies, as well as independent tutors, who can be hired to help.

In addition to in-person tutoring, many tutors and tutoring companies also offer online sessions, making it convenient for expat families to access educational support regardless of their location. It can be particularly helpful to ask fellow expats and the child's school for recommendations.

Useful links

A Brief History of Belgium


  • The earliest known human settlement in what is now Belgium dates back to the Neolithic period, around 5000 BCE.
  • The Gauls subsequently inhabit the region, which is conquered by Julius Caesar in the first century BCE.

Middle Ages

  • During the Middle Ages, the area is ruled by various feudal lords and is eventually united under the Dukes of Burgundy in the 15th century.
  • In the late 16th century, the Spanish Habsburgs gain control of the region, and it becomes a centre of the Counter-Reformation.

19th century

  • 1815: Following the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Congress of Vienna divides the region into the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
  • 1830: A revolt leads to the separation of Belgium from the Netherlands and the establishment of an independent, neutral state.

20th century

  • 1908: Belgium becomes a major colonial power and the Congo Free State becomes the Belgian Congo and the colony comes under direct control of the Belgian government. 
  • 1914: Belgium is captured by Germany early in World War I.
  • 1918: The war ends, and Belgium is once again independent. The country suffers a death toll of more than 120,000, including 23,700 civilians killed in war crimes.
  • 1919: Belgium begins to rebuild after immense wartime damage to industrial infrastructure, farmland and civilian homes.
  • 1939: World War II begins. Although Belgium declares neutrality, Germany invades in 1940. After 18 days, Belgium surrenders.
  • 1944: Belgium is liberated by Allied forces in September 1944, regaining its independence.
  • 1949: Belgium becomes a founding member of NATO.
  • 1950–1951: The Royal Question, a political crisis in Belgium, concerns whether King Leopold III should return to the throne after his controversial actions during World War II. Eventually, Leopold III abdicates in favour of his son, Baudouin, who becomes King Baudouin I.
  • 1957: Belgium co-founds the European Economic Community, the predecessor to the European Union.
  • 1960: Belgium grants independence to the Congo, which becomes the Democratic Republic of Congo. 
  • 1970: The first state reform takes place in Belgium, officially recognising the country's linguistic communities and leading to increased autonomy for Flanders, Wallonia and the Brussels-Capital Region.
  • 1993: The Belgian constitution is adapted to recognise three administrative regions: Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels.
  • 1995: Belgium hosts the European Union headquarters in Brussels, further solidifying the country's position as a key player in the European political landscape.

21st century

  • 2002: Belgium adopts the Euro.
  • 2007–2011: Belgium faces a prolonged political crisis, with multiple failed attempts to form a government and deepening divisions between the Flemish- and French-speaking communities.
  • 2010: In April, a major Flemish party quits Belgium's five-party coalition to protest Francophone voting rights in Flemish areas. Early parliamentary elections occur as a result, as the government tries to establish another coalition. In the meantime, Belgium has no official government, destabilising the country.
  • 2011: Following more than 500 days without a government, a new Prime Minister, Elio di Rupo, is announced in December. He heads up a new six-party coalition.
  • 2016: The Brussels bombings, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks carried out by ISIS, occur at Brussels Airport and Maalbeek Metro Station, resulting in the deaths of 32 victims and three perpetrators and leaving more than 300 people injured.
  • 2020: Belgium faces the Covid-19 pandemic, implementing widespread lockdowns and causing significant economic impact. The virus affects many citizens, resulting in more than 33,000 deaths.

Weather in Belgium

The weather in Belgium is fairly grey throughout the year. The country's climate is temperate and not uncomfortable, but precipitation is constant through various seasons. Rain becomes a normal part of life, but when mixed with the stark coldness of winter, it can prove challenging for newly arrived expats.

Maritime influences from the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean make for cooler summers and moderate winters. Temperatures range from 72°F (22°C) during warmer months to 39°F (4°C) during colder months. The country's small geographic size means that the weather in Belgium is relatively uniform throughout, with only a slight variation in the Ardennes region. The higher elevation in this area brings colder temperatures and more snowfall.

Expats living in Belgium will quickly learn to bring along something waterproof wherever they go, even if sunshine and blue skies start the day.


Keeping in Touch in Belgium

Expats living in Belgium can easily keep in touch with friends and family around the world, as well as contacts in their new home. The telecommunications system in Belgium is modern, efficient and reliable. Mobile coverage is comprehensive, with cafés and bars often offering free WiFi.

Hardware and service provision aren't hard to come by, with both fixed and mobile phones available at company stores such as Orange or Proximus. Bigger stores like Krefel and Carrefour usually stock phones, computers and other electronics.

After sorting out the most crucial parts of the relocation process, expats can learn about different service providers on Meilleur Tarif. This website is run by the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Communications (BIPT) and is available in English, French, Dutch and German. It calculates the best service according to the customer's needs and wants. Most listed companies can offer combination packages that include telephone, mobile and internet services.

Useful links

Mobile phones in Belgium

Mobile phones are referred to as GSM in Belgium. GSM stores are easily found in most towns and have websites displaying their stock and services.

Once an expat has the proper documentation, they can choose a prepaid or contract service, with most foreigners choosing the post-paid option. Prepaid plans may look cheaper initially, but going beyond the allowed minutes may prove far more costly overall. Nonetheless, both options do have their conveniences.

Internet in Belgium

Expats will find that most households are equipped with high-speed broadband. To take out a contract, most being binding for a minimum of twelve months, customers need to provide identification, proof of address and a bank account number.

Plans vary and don't have to function alongside a person's phone line. Many internet providers in Belgium offer complete triple-play services, including television, internet and telephone.

Bandwidth in Belgium is relatively fast, but some internet providers have bandwidth caps in place to limit the amount of data transferred. 

Television in Belgium

Belgium's public television is broadcast by regional entities – for Dutch-speaking regions, VRT (Vlaamse Radio- en Televisieomroeporganisatie); for French-speaking regions, RTBF (Radio Télévision Belge de la Communauté Français) and for German-speaking regions, BRF (Belgischer Rundfunk). Satellite channels are available from several operators in Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia.

Postal services in Belgium

Mail is delivered Monday through Friday in Belgium. If the recipient of a package is not home at the time of delivery, the postal carrier will put a notice in their mailbox. A legitimate form of identification is needed to collect a package.

The Belgian post office is officially called Bpost. Although not all are equipped to mail international packages, supermarkets such as Carrefour and Delhaize often have postage points where customers can buy stamps and send packages. Many gas stations and convenience stores also sell stamps.

Accommodation in Belgium

When looking for accommodation in Belgium, expats will find plenty of reasonably priced, comfortable options. Whether it be furnished or unfurnished or freestanding houses to luxury apartments, all types of housing are available in Belgium. 

Types of accommodation in Belgium

The standard of accommodation in Belgium is typical of Western Europe, with small comfortable houses being the most common. Due to the temperate climate, air conditioning is unnecessary and not a standard feature, though the vast majority of houses have heating systems. Expats should be aware that condominium complexes of the kind that might include a swimming pool or a gym are scarce, but they are a bit more plentiful in larger cities and upscale neighbourhoods.

In terms of community and parks, Belgium is a very family-friendly country. Properties tend to be on the small side in the city. Moving outside the city limits will often grant expats access to larger properties and some beautiful country views. Within the city, there is also a plethora of outdoor areas, such as parks, swimming pools, tennis clubs and children's gyms.

Furnished vs unfurnished

Most properties in Belgium come unfurnished. Expats should check with the landlord or agent about what condition the property will be in. In some cases, 'unfurnished' may simply mean that there are no soft furnishings, but it could also mean that there are no fixtures such as light fittings, carpets or basic electrical appliances, including kitchen appliances.

Short lets

For those looking for temporary or short-term accommodation in Belgium, serviced apartments and short-term rental properties are readily available, especially in the major cities. These furnished apartments come with a higher price tag but are an ideal solution for expats in the country for a short duration or those still looking for a permanent home. They often include utilities, internet and sometimes cleaning services, which may make them a cost-effective choice for short stays.

Websites like and Airbnb offer numerous options for short-term accommodation.

Finding accommodation in Belgium

It should not be difficult for expats to find and secure accommodation in Belgium. Several online resources can be used to find a home before arriving in the country, but expats should always see a property in person before signing a lease. Expats can also use the classifieds section of their local newspapers in their search.

Rental agencies in Belgium offer a hassle-free means of finding accommodation and will usually handle all the administrative processes. Expats should be aware that these specialists do charge a fee.

Useful links

  • For a wide range of rental options, check out Immoweb.
  • Explore Realo for user-friendly property search features.
  • Vlan is another popular site for property listings in Belgium.

Renting accommodation in Belgium

There are strict laws around real estate in Belgium that aim to protect tenants as well as landlords. To receive the complete protection of the law, expats are advised to follow all the proper processes, which can be reviewed on the government's official information and services website.


A typical Belgian residential lease is for nine years, known as a 'long-term lease'. A tenant can break the lease with three months' notice at any time. If the tenant breaks the lease in the first, second or third year, they will have to pay a penalty of one, two or three months' rent, respectively. Breaking the lease early after three years incurs no penalty. This lease type is often called a '3-6-9 lease' because the lease and its components can be revisited every three years.

There are also shorter-term leases available for three years rather than nine. During a three-year lease, it is impossible to break it before the term's completion. This means that tenants are responsible for paying the rent for the entire duration of the contract, regardless of the circumstances.

For a lease shorter than three years, if the tenant wishes to leave before the end of the contract, they are usually required to give three months' notice and may be subject to a penalty.

References and background checks

Before a rental agreement in Belgium can be finalised, expats will have to prove their residency status and identity, and that they earn enough to cover their costs. Expats can usually prove that they can pay the rent by providing documentation showing their savings and income. An employer may be able to help by providing proof of earnings or acting as a guarantor.


Deposits in Flanders are typically three months' rent, although newer leases in Brussels and Wallonia cannot exceed two months. The landlord or agent will hold this amount in a separate account. Usually, the deposit will be paid back once the lease has ended and hasn't been renewed by either party. The landlord or agent will do an exit inspection, and if there are any damages to the property, the repair cost will be taken from the deposit.

Termination of the lease

Upon termination of the lease, both the tenant and the landlord or agent will conduct a thorough inspection of the property. Any damages or changes to the property that are not considered normal wear and tear will need to be fixed or financially compensated for by the tenant. To avoid any disputes, it's advisable to keep the property in good condition throughout the lease and to fix any damages promptly.

Utilities in Belgium

In the context of renting in Belgium, tenants are typically responsible for their utility costs. This includes but is not limited to water, electricity, gas and waste removal expenses. The cost of utilities can differ based on the area of residence, the type of housing and individual consumption.

Electricity and gas in Belgium are often supplied by the same company, with a few key providers including Engie, Electrabel and Lampiris. Providers offer various plans and pricing options, so it's advisable to compare deals to find the most suitable one. It's also important to note that Belgium uses Type E electrical outlets, so expats may need to acquire appropriate adaptors for their devices.

Water is typically provided by local companies in each region such as Pidpa and De Watergroep. Bills are usually issued quarterly and water may be metered, meaning charges are based on consumption. In some cases, water costs might be included in the rent, so it's worth confirming this with the landlord or rental agency.

Waste removal in Belgium is organised by local municipalities. They provide separate bins for general waste, organic waste and recyclables. It's crucial to adhere to the local waste disposal guidelines to avoid potential fines. The frequency of collections varies, but it's typically weekly or fortnightly.

Furthermore, expats will need to consider expenses for internet and phone services. Various providers offer these services, with packages tailored to individual needs. For more detailed information, read up on Keeping in Touch in Belgium.

Useful links

Doing Business in Belgium

Expats doing business in Belgium will find themselves operating in a diverse, globalised and open economy.

Those wanting to work in the country will need to make considerable preparations. Its multilingual and multicultural makeup has created a business environment as varied as its population. Many foreigners find themselves having to become familiar with not just one but multiple business cultures in Belgium.

Fast facts

Business language

German, French and Flemish Dutch are the official languages of business in Belgium. The language used will vary by location.

Hours of business

Office hours are usually Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5.30pm.

Business dress

Business attire is formal and conservative. Belgians take appearances seriously and are known to be stylish.


When greeting a Belgian businessperson, a handshake is appropriate for both men and women.


Gift-giving is not generally a part of the local business culture and usually is done between close associates on a more personal level. If someone does receive a gift, it's usually opened in the presence of the giver.

Gender equality

Men and women are treated equally in business and society. 

Business culture in Belgium

The business culture in Belgium can be confusing due to the country's diversity. There are stark contrasts between its two predominant communities – the French-speaking Walloons and the Dutch-speaking Flemings. With 10 percent of the country's population being foreign-born, Belgium's business culture is further diversified.


French, Dutch and German are the three official languages in Belgium. While both communities are traditionally from specific geographic regions, they coexist throughout much of the country. Expats doing business in Belgium shouldn't assume that the cultures of these different regions are interchangeable.

It's very common for Belgians to be multilingual, especially when it comes to being able to speak French and Dutch. Depending on where they will be working in Belgium, expats may encounter language switching, while negotiations between businesspeople from different communities might also take place in English.

Expats will need to be subtle, diplomatic and very patient in their business dealings. It would be a good idea to find out which language their associates are the most comfortable speaking before they meet. Some Belgians take great pride in their community and may be offended if they're spoken to in the wrong language, so sensitivity and understanding are paramount when dealing with language barriers. When in doubt, English is usually a good neutral option.

Business structure

Fleming business culture tends to follow a model similar to an egalitarian, industrious German and Dutch style, and businesses tend to be organised horizontally. Belgian-French business culture resembles that of France, with a strict hierarchical structure and significant emphasis on job titles and rank.

A trait shared by all business cultures in Belgium is an insistence on compromise. Belgian businesspeople see meeting halfway as a willingness to work together. This expectation is mirrored in the strong union culture in Belgium, which creates many demands on businesses. This is a point that expats should be prepared for if they intend to start their own business in the country.


Business meetings in Belgium are conducted formally. Participants are expected to arrive punctually, and the meeting should be structured and efficient. It is essential to address people with their appropriate formal titles and use formal language, at least until invited to do otherwise. German and Flemish speakers are more likely to use English titles, while French speakers are more likely to use Monsieur, Madame or Mademoiselle

Dos and don'ts of business in Belgium

  • Do embrace compromise, as it reflects Belgian values

  • Don't arrive late; punctuality is crucial and highly valued

  • Do dress professionally and stylishly, as appearances matter in Belgian business culture

  • Don't bring up personal matters or discuss cultural divisions within Belgium during business conversations

Visas for Belgium

Expats and foreigners visiting Belgium may require visas for Belgium before entering the country. As Belgium is part of the Schengen visa area, travellers who don't have an EU passport or one from a list of visa-exempt countries will be required to apply for a Schengen visa before arrival.

Visas for Belgium

Those who apply for a visa for Belgium will need to gather the required documents, complete a visa application form, and submit these to the Belgian consulate or embassy in their home country before they travel. Processing time can vary, so applicants should be sure to submit their application well before their intended departure date.

In some cases, applicants may be asked to provide additional documents at the discretion of the Belgian embassy or consulate. It's common for an applicant to be asked for proof of employment and residence in their home country to indicate that they will return home after their trip.

Expats wanting to travel to Belgium for business purposes will likely have to include a letter of invitation from the Belgian business party hosting them and a letter from their local employer stating their duties in Belgium. Those attending a conference will often need proof of registration and accommodation.

Type C Schengen visas

The Type C Schengen visa allows travellers to stay in the Schengen area, which includes 26 European countries, for a maximum of 90 days within a 180-day period for tourism, family visits or business purposes. It is essential for expats to check the specific visa requirements for their country of citizenship before making any travel plans, as these requirements can change over time.

Type D long-stay visas

Type D visas are issued for stays longer than 90 days, regardless of whether the holder plans to live in Belgium for a fixed period or settle there permanently. Expats will need a long-stay visa if they're moving to Belgium to study, work, visit family for a longer period or immigrate to Belgium permanently.

For more information, visit the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

Residence permits for Belgium

Depending on their nationality, expats wanting to stay in Belgium for longer than 90 days may require a temporary or permanent residence permit.

For non-EU expats, there are several types of residence permits, each with specific requirements and validity periods. Initially, a temporary residence permit, such as an A or B card, may be granted, which allows for a limited-duration stay in Belgium for purposes, including work, study or family reunion. After meeting specific criteria and residing in Belgium for a certain period, foreigners may become eligible to apply for a more permanent residence permit, such as a C card (identity card for foreigners) or a D card (long-term resident status).

Anyone intending to stay in Belgium is required to report their presence in the country to their local commune. Having done so, they will receive a notification of arrival for short stays and a registration certificate for long stays.

For stays of less than three months, EU citizens must do this within 10 working days of arrival and non-EU citizens within three working days of arrival. For longer stays of more than three months, EU citizens must register their stay at any point in the first three months, while non-EU citizens have eight working days to do so.

Non-EU expats moving to the country for employment will likely also need a work permit for Belgium.

Useful links

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice, and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Transport and Driving in Belgium

Thanks to its small geographic size and well-established transport network, Belgium is a relatively easy country to get around. The country has an extensive train network. Belgian cities all have bus networks, some have trams, and Brussels has an established metro system too.

Public transport in Belgium


The country has a comprehensive and efficient rail network that offers the best way of getting around Belgium. Brussels and Antwerp have excellent urban rail networks, while Brussels also has a metro system, which offers the best way to navigate the city.

High-speed trains offer services between Brussels and other European cities, including Amsterdam, London and Paris. Thalys links major European cities like Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam and Cologne, and Eurostar connects to London through the Channel Tunnel. The German service InterCity Express and the French TGV also connect Belgium with other European countries.


Belgium has an established bus network for both inner- and intercity travel. However, buses are not as popular as trains for getting around Belgium.

Flixbus and Eurolines have routes in Belgium and across Europe. There are also regional operators, like De Lijn in Flanders, TEC in Wallonia and STIB-MIVB in the Brussels-Capital Region.


Several Belgian cities have tram lines, including Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent. In Brussels, the tram is integrated with the metro system, making it a convenient means of travelling around the city.

Taxis in Belgium

Taxis are plentiful in Belgian towns and cities, with numerous private companies offering services. They don't all look the same, but they can usually be identified by the taxi sign on the vehicle's roof. Metered taxis generally operate in different zones and offer variable rates. It’s best to negotiate the fare before setting off on a journey.

Ride-hailing services and applications are also available in most Belgian cities and are a convenient alternative to taxis.

Useful links

  • Uber and Bolt are two popular ride-hailing services in Belgium.

Driving in Belgium

With such an extensive public transport network, most expats living in Belgium will find that it’s not necessary to own a car. But those wishing to have a vehicle will find that driving in Belgium is straightforward. 

Roads in Belgium are typically well maintained. Toll-free motorways connect all major towns and cities. One thing that expats may take a while to get used to is the road signage, which can be confusing at times. Road signs in Belgian cities are largely bilingual, but road signs in more rural areas are usually written in either French or Flemish. This can be confusing as place names can be spelt differently in French and Flemish and signage may suddenly change from one language to the other, depending on the region.

Drivers from non-EU countries can legally drive for up to six months on their licence from home. After this, they will need a local licence. Some countries have exchange agreements with Belgium, allowing citizens to simply swap their foreign licence for a local one. Expats from countries without such agreements will have to take a theory and practical test to obtain a local licence.

Cycling in Belgium

Belgium boasts a strong cycling culture and well-developed infrastructure, making it a fantastic destination for expats who enjoy getting around on two wheels. The country's flat terrain and numerous dedicated cycle paths provide an enjoyable and safe cycling experience.

Many Belgian cities, including Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent, offer bike-sharing schemes, allowing locals and expats alike to rent bicycles for short periods at an affordable rate. These schemes are ideal for those who don't own a bike or prefer to cycle occasionally.

For those who wish to cycle long distances, Belgium's extensive network of signposted cycle routes allows for a leisurely exploration of the countryside, with options ranging from scenic coastal paths to challenging hill climbs in the Ardennes region.

Cyclists need to adhere to local traffic regulations and wear appropriate safety gear, including helmets and reflective clothing, especially when cycling after dark.

Useful links

Walking in Belgium

Walking is another popular and enjoyable way for expats to explore Belgium's cities and countryside. Most urban centres are pedestrian-friendly, with well-maintained pavements and pedestrianised zones, making it easy to navigate and enjoy the local architecture and culture.

For those looking to venture beyond the city limits, Belgium offers a wide range of walking trails, from gentle strolls in the picturesque countryside to more demanding hikes in the Ardennes region. Many of these trails are well-signposted and suitable for walkers of all abilities. Belgium's coastal areas also provide ample opportunities for refreshing seaside walks, with sandy beaches and charming coastal towns to explore.

Air travel in Belgium

Due to the country's small size, there are few domestic flights between Belgian cities. On the other hand, Belgium is quite an international hub, with regular flights to the rest of Europe and further abroad. The main airport in Belgium is Brussels Airport.

Other major airports in Belgium include Ostend-Bruges International Airport and Antwerp International Airport in Flanders, and Brussels South Charleroi Airport and Liege Airport in Wallonia, all of which offer flights to other European airports and further abroad.

Moving to Belgium

Located in the heart of the continent and housing the headquarters of the European Union and NATO in its capital, Belgium is a melting pot of influences from around the world. As a result, expats moving to Belgium will find that it is one of Europe's most diverse and fascinating countries.

Belgium is rich in both cultural history and cultural pleasures. What wine is to France, beer is to Belgium. With a reputation for gastronomy and an outstanding selection of the world's finest brews, Belgium is a diverse nation that is warm and welcoming to anyone planning to settle here.

Living in Belgium as an expat

To a large extent, the country is split between two dominant culture groups, the Flemings and the Walloons. The Flemish community is Dutch-speaking, primarily based in the north of the country in Flanders and constitutes around half of the Belgian population. The French-speaking Walloons live in the south and east of the country in Wallonia, making up around a third of the populace. There is also a smaller German-speaking population in the eastern part of the country, near the border with Germany.

All three of these languages are officially recognised, and while they may be predominant in certain areas, the Belgian capital is legally bilingual. This infiltrates every aspect of daily life in Brussels, from street signs to business dealings. This unique mix of cultures is one of the most challenging aspects to come to terms with but also one of the most interesting.

Brussels is the political powerhouse of Europe with its historic Gothic buildings and European Union office blocks. Outside the thriving capital lies picturesque countryside, the wooded gorges of the Ardennes, and an assortment of undiscovered lazy seaside towns.

Cost of living in Belgium

Living in Belgium comes with a significant cost, and the good life in Belgium incurs a high cost of living. This means that expats need to be prepared for higher expenses in various aspects of their daily lives. From housing and transport to groceries and entertainment, the prices tend to be steeper than in many other countries.

The country's robust economy and stable job market can help offset the expenses for expats who can secure well-paying employment, and expats in Belgium who can embrace the higher cost of living can expect to enjoy an excellent standard of living in return.

Expat families and children in Belgium

With one of the world's highest living standards and excellent quality of life, expats moving to Belgium with children can take full advantage of its housing, healthcare, education and infrastructure. Belgium has a high-quality public transport system and a highly developed and incredibly dense motorway network, which links it with other European routes and facilitates access to neighbouring countries.

The country's education system is also well-known for being free of charge and offering exceptional teaching standards. Still, most expats in Belgium opt for private or international schools, as these often allow children to continue learning in a familiar language and curriculum, which eases their transition. Additionally, some international schools offer globally recognised curricula, making them ideal for expat families that are always on the move. 

Climate in Belgium

The weather in Belgium is not one of the country's selling points. Though not necessarily unpleasant, light rain is fairly constant throughout the year and can be a bit inconvenient. To reduce the risk of being caught off guard, carrying a small umbrella in case of sudden showers is a good idea.

Those not fond of heat will surely enjoy the mildness of Belgian summers, with temperatures hovering around 72°F (22°C). Winters can be chilly, with temperatures ranging from just above freezing to around 39°F (4°C), and there may be snowfall.

With its rich cultural heritage, gastronomic delights and exceptional quality of life, Belgium beckons expats seeking new horizons. The country's multiculturalism presents both challenges and captivating experiences, and its central location offers easy access to other European destinations. All in all, for those ready to embrace its diverse culture and bask in its high quality of life, moving to Belgium promises expats an immensely rewarding and enriching journey.

Fast facts

Official name: Kingdom of Belgium

Population: 11.9 million

Capital city: Brussels

Other major cities: Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi, Bruge and Liège

Neighbouring countries: Belgium is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the south and France to the west.

Geography: Belgium is a small Western European country with three main geographic regions: the northwest coastal plain, the central plateau and the Ardennes. The Ardennes is a heavily forested, rocky plateau in southern Belgium. The rest of the country has a rather flat landscape, with a few natural lakes and many artificial waterways and canals.

Political system: Federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Main languages: Dutch, French, German, English

Major religions: Christianity

Currency: The Euro (EUR) is the official currency and is divided into 100 cents.

Time: GMT+1 (+2 from the end of March to the end of October)

Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are used.

International dialling code: +32

Internet domain: .be

Emergency number: 112

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road. The country has an excellent public transport system, including trains, trams and buses which connect various cities and regions in Belgium. Expats can generally get by without having to own a car.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Belgium

The banking system in Belgium is well organised and sophisticated. Expats will find that managing money in Belgium is usually a hassle-free process.

Numerous local and international banks have branches in the country, with the main banks being ING Belgium, KBC Bank, Belfius and BNP Paribas Fortis.

Money in Belgium

The country is part of the Eurozone and the currency in Belgium is the Euro. One euro is divided into 100 cents.

  • Notes: 5 EUR, 10 EUR, 20 EUR, 50 EUR, 100 EUR, 200 EUR and 500 EUR

  • Coins: 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents, 1 EUR and 2 EUR

Banking in Belgium

Banking in Belgium has evolved, with most people now completing transactions either at ATMs or via online and telephone banking. Some Belgian banks operate entirely online, where it's possible to do everything from opening an account to using the bank's investment services and more.

Belgian banks charge separately for individual services, such as debit and credit cards, internet banking facilities and regular transactions. Service and credit card charges vary depending on factors such as the customer’s spending limit and added services.

Banking hours in Belgium are normally 9am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. Some banks are also open on Saturday mornings.

Opening a bank account

Opening a current account in Belgium is usually simple, regardless of the particular bank used. Expats are required to bring documents such as proof of identification, completed application forms and proof of address.

Some Belgian banks have the functionality for customers to open bank accounts online, with some allowing foreigners to do so before arriving in Belgium. In these cases, the expat will have to inform the bank once their residency permit has been issued.

ATMs and debit cards

ATMs are widely available in Belgium. Credit and debit cards can be used. The main type of debit card used in Belgium is known as the Bancontact card. This is a chip card that has a four-digit PIN. The Bancontact card can be used to draw cash at ATMs and to pay for everyday items, including groceries and petrol.

Taxes in Belgium

Taxes in Belgium are high, with income tax being paid on a progressive scale with tax rates of 25 to 50 percent, depending on the taxpayer's income.

Expats are considered Belgian tax residents if they primarily work or live in the country and have registered at their local municipal office. As a result, an expat may be subject to Belgian tax on their worldwide income. Luckily, the country has double-taxation avoidance agreements with many countries around the world, so most expats should not be taxed twice.

Given the relative complexity of taxation in Belgium, we recommend expats consult a specialist.

Frequently Asked Questions about Belgium

Expats moving to Belgium often have questions about what life will be like in their new home. Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about living in Belgium.

Should I learn to speak another language in Belgium?

Depending on where one settles in Belgium, learning French, Dutch, or even German could be beneficial. Brussels is a bilingual city, and the majority of its citizens speak either French or Dutch. While most English-speaking expats moving to the city will find they can get by without learning another language, doing so can improve communication and integration and help gain favour with locals.

Is Belgium a good place to raise children?

Belgium is a great place to raise children. The communities are safe, and the education system is excellent. There are also plenty of international schools in Belgium, particularly in Brussels. Public medical facilities are world-class, and the quality of life in Belgium is second to none.

How safe is Belgium?

Belgium is generally safe, but like any country, it experiences incidents of crime. Petty crimes such as muggings and pickpocketing can occur, particularly in Brussels, at major railway stations and on public transport. More serious crimes are less common but still possible. The best way for expats to avoid becoming victims is to be aware of their surroundings and keep valuables out of sight.

What is the cost of living like in Belgium?

The cost of living in Belgium can vary depending on the city or region. Brussels and other major cities usually have a higher cost of living than smaller towns and rural areas. However, the cost of living in Belgium is largely considered moderate compared to other Western European countries. Expats should be aware of costs for housing, utilities, groceries, transport and healthcare when planning their budget.

How do taxes work for expats in Belgium?

Expats living and working in Belgium are generally subject to Belgian income tax. The tax system in Belgium is progressive, with high-income earners paying a larger percentage of tax. Expats should familiarise themselves with the tax system, including any tax treaties between Belgium and their home country to avoid double taxation. It is highly recommended to consult a tax professional to ensure compliance with Belgian tax regulations.

Working in Belgium

Many expats move to Belgium to work in the country's open economy, which punches far above its geographic weight. Despite having relatively high taxes, Belgium continues to attract job-seeking expats keen to enjoy the high quality of life it offers.

Job market in Belgium

Belgium has a strong manufacturing sector, but the services sector still accounts for the most significant part of its economy. The country's main exports include automobiles, metals, plastics, food products, finished diamonds and petroleum products.  

The commerce, logistics, public administration and education sectors also play a notable role in Belgium's economy. Expats with qualifications in these industries are likely to find suitable roles in the country. 

While the job market is highly competitive, many English-speaking companies in Belgium are connected with the European Union or with NATO. These institutions are highly competitive and tend to offer attractive employee benefits. 

Finding work in Belgium

Expats are most likely to be employed in the services or manufacturing sectors, especially in the capital, Brussels. Those with the best chance of finding a job in Belgium work in specialised areas with a shortage of personnel, such as engineers, technicians, mechanics, accountants, certain IT specialists and qualified teachers. 

Foreign job applicants who can either speak French or Dutch will have an added advantage over those who cannot, especially when seeking employment outside the country's capital of Brussels. In fact, it might be challenging to find a job if one doesn't speak the predominant language of the region.

Useful links

Work culture in Belgium

Belgium is in the heart of Europe and offers expats a diverse, multicultural working environment. Belgian business culture is primarily influenced by Dutch, German and French business structures and etiquette.

The business environment in Belgium is fast-paced and demanding. The local workforce is known for being skilled, productive and multilingual. Expats will do well to learn a few phrases in the local languages and keep an open mind towards any new business practices they may encounter.

Healthcare in Belgium

Expats can be reassured that the healthcare system in Belgium is one of the most reputable and reliable in Europe. Medical facilities and practitioners in Belgium adhere to high standards of care and hygiene.

Pharmacies are widely available, and emergency services are reliable. The healthcare system in Belgium is divided between hospitals that are either public or non-profit and private clinics.

Public healthcare in Belgium

The Belgian healthcare system is funded to some extent by the government, which provides funds to mutual health organisations. All employees and self-employed workers in Belgium have to contribute towards the state Belgian health insurance fund.

Anyone who qualifies for public healthcare can consult any doctor of their choosing. Fortunately for expats, most doctors will be proficient in English.

EU citizens can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access state healthcare during a short-term visit. UK citizens can use their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the EHIC for UK citizens post-Brexit.

Private healthcare in Belgium

Expats who qualify for non-resident tax status may not be required to contribute to the national social security system, in which case their employer's private healthcare plan will likely cover them.

Patients using private healthcare in Belgium typically pay the doctor for healthcare services received and later submit a claim to their insurance provider for reimbursement. The extent of coverage for these claims can vary, but often a significant portion of the costs are covered. Some dentists may not accept state insurance, making it advisable for expats to consider comprehensive dental insurance coverage.

Health insurance in Belgium

All employees and self-employed workers in Belgium are required to join the state health insurance scheme or provide proof of private medical insurance. The state insurance scheme typically covers a significant portion of medical costs, which may vary depending on the specific services and circumstances, but doesn't exceed 75 percent. It covers dependent spouses and children, usually up to 18 years of age or sometimes older if they are still in full-time education or have certain disabilities.

Many residents also have private health insurance to cover any remaining costs, particularly if they have an existing medical condition. This supplementary health insurance is frequently included in expats' employee benefits package.

Expats who don't contribute to the national social security system should check whether their employer will provide private health insurance. If not, it's essential to take out a policy independently to cover the often exorbitant costs associated with private treatment.

Pharmacies and medicines in Belgium

Pharmacies in Belgium are readily available and usually operate during regular working hours. Some pharmacies also operate 24 hours a day. A list of nearby pharmacies that are open after hours is frequently displayed in a closed pharmacy's window. 

Most over-the-counter medicines are available at Belgian pharmacies. Medical prescriptions must be paid for upon collection. Expats should keep their receipts to claim costs from their medical aid. It's also advisable for expats to be aware of the generic names of any long-term medication, as brand names can vary in different countries.

Health hazards in Belgium

While Belgium is generally regarded as a safe country for expats, having few health hazards, it is important for individuals to remain aware of potential risks and take appropriate precautions. The climate in Belgium can be damp and rainy, leading to colds and flu, especially during the winter months.

Air pollution in urban areas such as Brussels can potentially cause respiratory issues for susceptible individuals. Expats with allergies should be aware of the pollen count, as it can be high during spring and summer months, which may trigger hay fever or asthma symptoms.

Additionally, ticks, which can transmit Lyme disease, may be present in wooded and grassy areas. It is advisable to use insect repellent and wear protective clothing when spending time outdoors in such environments.

Vaccinations for expats in Belgium

Before moving to Belgium, expats should ensure they are up-to-date with routine vaccinations. Although no specific vaccinations are required for entry into the country, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional to determine any additional vaccinations that may be appropriate based on individual circumstances. Some vaccinations to consider include:

  • Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR): As these diseases are still prevalent in some parts of the world, it is essential to have up-to-date immunisations.
  • Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis (Tdap): A combined vaccine protecting against three bacterial infections.
  • Influenza: An annual flu shot is recommended, especially for those with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems.
  • Hepatitis A: Although the risk of contracting Hepatitis A in Belgium is low, the vaccine can be considered for added protection, particularly for those who plan to travel to countries with a higher risk.
  • Hepatitis B: This vaccine is recommended for those with an increased risk of exposure, such as healthcare workers or people with multiple sexual partners.

Before relocating to Belgium, expats should consult their healthcare provider or a travel health clinic to discuss their specific needs and receive tailored advice on vaccinations and other health precautions.

Emergency services in Belgium

Emergency services in Belgium are reliable, with largely rapid response times. Aside from the general European emergency number, 112, expats can also dial 100 for medical emergencies. Ambulances are not part of the national healthcare plan, but may be covered by private insurance for those who have it.

Culture Shock in Belgium

Expats may face some culture shock in Belgium, especially when they first arrive. Most notably, there are three main languages and many cultures all wrapped up in one fairly small country. Here are a few points to consider when settling into life in Belgium.

Languages in Belgium

The Flemings, who speak Dutch, occupy the northern half of Belgium, whereas the French-speaking Walloons mainly occupy the southern half. There is also a small German-speaking community, and all three are official languages. This is a result of the complex history of the region that is now Belgium, which has been invaded and occupied many times. The country as it exists today has only been around since the mid-1800s.

Most Belgians, particularly in Brussels, are adept with languages and can speak English in addition to their French, Dutch and/or German. It's still a good idea for expats to learn a local language, depending on the area they will be living in and the type of work they will do.

Cultural differences in Belgium

The cultural and linguistic differences can be striking if one travels north into the Flemish areas or south into Wallonia. The buildings and people from the two communities are generally different, so it can sometimes feel like a country divided in half. The perception is that Flemings are more industrious and serious, as well as more reserved. Walloons are perceived to be more relaxed, expressive and outwardly emotional.

Greetings in Belgium

In many respects, the customs and etiquette in Belgium are fairly typical of the broader Western European region. Belgians are largely quite reserved and usually greet people they don't know as friends with a handshake. In the French-speaking community, a kiss on the cheek is often common among people who already know each other.