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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Belgium: At the Core of the Union

The locus of the European Union, NATO and the United Nations, Belgium offers expats an array of public sector careers. This does not seem to guarantee a happy life, though.

Belgium can be seen as the heart of Europe both politically and geographically; located as it is between France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Ranking 42nd out of 64 countries in the overall ranking, it doesn't quite match the attractiveness of other Benelux nations (the Netherlands being 25th and Luxembourg 5th). The expats in Belgium seem to be particularly unhappy, as the country falls down to the 59th place in the Personal Happiness subcategory. One possible reason behind this might be the weather, rated negatively by almost two-thirds of the respondents in Belgium (65%).

Expat Statistics 2015

Expat statistics for Belgium - infographic
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Brittleness in Brussels

Expats should not count too much on getting help from the locals when it comes to settling in Belgium: less than half of the participants (48%) regard the local population's attitude towards foreigners as friendly. Further, making local friends is found to be challenging by half the respondents as opposed to the global 38%.

Therefore it's no wonder that expats in Belgium have trouble feeling at home in the local culture; while globally 61% agree that this is generally the case for them in their respective host country, only 49% of respondents in Belgium share this feeling. However, thanks to its central location and a linguistic diversity with three official languages - French, German, and Dutch - the language barriers in the country are fortunately rather low. Also, learning the local language(s) is not considered too difficult, as only a third says it's hard. Globally, learning the tongue of a host country is somewhat more problematic, according to 46% of those surveyed.

Domain of the Officials

Ranking 27th in the Working Abroad Index, Belgium does a bit, but not a lot, better than the worldwide average. With many important institutions of the European Union - such as the European Parliament and the EU Commission - as well as the NATO headquarters, located in the country, Belgium has a larger percentage of expats working for the public sector than any other country (27%).

Career prospects are close to average and are met with a favorable review by 56% of the participants. Getting sacked in Belgium is less of a threat; 23% say they are completely satisfied with their job security. Worldwide, only 16% have such confidence about their positions.

The economic conditions in the country are not excellent - only 11% rate them as very good vs. a global 25% - but not awful, either, as the state of Belgian's economy receives a negative score from a mere 13% of the expats surveyed.

Exceptional Equality

The expats' incomes in Belgium seem to be rather evenly distributed, with high incomes just as rare as low-end ones. As such, most people tend to have pretty average incomes. Indeed, well over a half of the respondents in Belgium (55%) have an annual gross household income between 25,000 and 75,000 USD, while globally only 38% end up in this middle group.

As the country ranks 32nd out of 64 countries in the Personal Finance Index, "mediocre" could be the most suitable word to describe expats' financial situation in Belgium. The Cost of Living Index tells pretty much the same story: the country's rank in the index is 35th, just below the average.

Inexpensive Education

Often stereotyped as rather reserved and private, Belgians are regarded as somewhat less than enthused about kids by local expats. While globally 36% of those surveyed regard their host country's citizens' attitude towards families with children as very good, less than half that percentage (17%) think the same about the Belgians.

Fortunately, Belgium has its advantages for children, too: the country ranks 12th in regard to the costs of childcare and education. The latter in particular is considered to be overall affordable by 62% of the respondents in Belgium. Around the globe only 41% of the expats have a positive opinion on the affordability of schooling in their respective host countries.

Further Reading