Thinking of taking a short-term job contract in Brussels? Read on…
Belgium’s capital is a highly cosmopolitan city that is full of expat workers, many from the UK. Although not one of Europe’s most beautiful or well-kept cities, it nonetheless boasts many interesting buildings, museums and palaces. However, it is one of the best places in Europe for eating out, with a huge abundance and variety of restaurants; bars and clubs are also plentiful. But one of the best things about Brussels is its location: not too far from London, Amsterdam, Paris, Cologne, Luxembourg – even the Alps.
The city is mainly francophone, although Flemish is also widely spoken. A familiarity with the local languages always helps, but many of the large corporations in Brussels now acknowledge English as the premier language, especially for documentation. Even if your French is rusty-schoolboy like mine, the locals are generally very receptive and friendly towards foreign workers and they are easy to integrate with.
Accommodation is varied but there are loads of relocation and estate agents who can assist you with finding property. Avoid the notorious areas of Schaerbeek or Molenbeek on the northern side of the city, especially if you are intending to bring a car and leave it parked on the street. Those in the know tend to stay around the Ixelles and St Gilles areas near Avenue Louise, or right in the centre of the city. Expect to pay upwards of €1,500 a month for a good apartment with secure parking facilities. If a house and garden is more your scene the Waterloo area might be worth a look, where you can expect to pay a similar amount for a large detached house with gardens. Be warned, though: as with all the major cities, commuting can be a problem. Parking can prove an issue during the day, but is not too bad later on in the evening. Belgian driving is renowned for being very erratic and takes a while to get used to, so be very careful! The metro and tram systems are generally acceptable for getting about.
Thursday is the big night out in Brussels. Many contractors tend to leave the city over the weekends, so they party on Thursdays. The Wild Geese pub-restaurant in the European Parliament area is a great establishment, but turn up early as it gets super busy. For those who want a good British pint after work, try Sean O’Casey’s pub or The Bank located around Avenue Louise. The Hairy Canary and O’Reilly’s can also be personally recommended. These pubs are great for meeting like-minded people and you’ll find fellow expats on just about every day of the week.
On top of all this, Brussels has well-stocked shopping centres, large parks, plenty of culture and an English Bookshop (Waterstones) that is as good as any in the world.
Ned’s Tip: check out this post for loads more interesting stuff to do in Belgium