Moving to Brussels

Last updated: July 19, 2019

As the capital of both Belgium and Europe its easy to see why moving to Brussels is a popular choice for job-hunting expats. On this page you can find all of the information you will need about moving to one of Europe’s most important cities.

Moving to Brussels

What to expect from the capital of Europe

When taking a look at the centre of Brussels it is easy to see why a third of inhabitants of the city have settled there from other countries. Brussels is a busy and vibrant city known for its beautiful architecture. The Grand Place, with its gothic town hall and medieval guildhalls has been voted the most beautiful square in Europe and the Galeries Saint-Hubert is the world’s oldest shopping mall. Is any built since more beautiful? Furthermore the cuisine there is enough to tempt even the healthiest of eaters to cheat on their diet with some of the best beers, waffles, chocolate and fries in the world.

The city is the capital of the European Union which shows just how important the city is in the world. Despite being up there with the importance of London or Paris the city is much smaller than you would expect, many consider that its reputation far outranks it’s size.

The actual feel of the city varies from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. In the centre you will find a typical business district that shares characteristics with many other major European cities. If you leave the centre slightly you will find that the city has a more alternative feel which ties creative spirit of the Belgium in general. There is a thriving art and music scene in the city which is almost reminiscent of Berlin.

Cost of moving

Although Brussels is technically an overseas move it is still much closer than moving between some cities in the UK. With this in mind there are three ways of moving there, road transport (via the cannel tunnel or ferry), sea transport or, for small moves, air transport. Arguably, the only practical way of moving to Brussels via road transport as it is significantly cheaper and quicker than the other methods. For a small move you can expect for your belongings to be moved in 8-10 days, for larger moves where you will need the entire truck that time is cut down to just 1-3 days.

Below you can find the estimated costs of a move from London to Brussels. For costs tailored to you then please take two minutes and click the banner below to complete our online quote form for free removals quotes.

1 bed house3 bed house5 bed house
Cost of transport£800 – £1,200£1,300 – £1,800£2,100 – £2,900

Working in the business oriented city

There are several things to know about working in Brussels which are very useful to know. One of the first things that you need to know is what kind of work is available and how can you find it. One of the things Brussels is most well known for is being headquarters of two major political institutions – the European Union and Nato. Due to this there are many jobs available based around politics and these organizations. If you would like a job in the EU a good way to start is by looking at the EuroBrussels website. Other useful websites are Jobs in Brussels and Brussels Jobs.

Our friends at bright expats have a handy YouTube video with some great tips for finding work in Brussels. Check it out below!

The six main tips to take from this video are:

  1. Networking is key in Brussels
  2. Try and think if you have any alumni that have moved there who could help you.
  3. Attend events – which ones suit you the best? The ones that are more niche and suited to you the better. Don’t forget to take your CV!
  4. Hone your LinkedIn account and use it as a valuable tool for meeting people.
  5. Check out some of the local and online job boards.
  6. Contact headhunters.

Business culture

The law in Belgium is quite strict when it comes to hours available to work. The working week is generally 38 hours and it is forbidden to work more than 40 per week or 8 hours per day.

There is an obvious French influence in the business culture of Brussels. The most obvious place you can see this on the surface is the dress code. Business dress tends to be formal, as you would expect in a French speaking city. Furthermore businesses tend to have a strict hierarchy in addition to job titles and rank being very important.

Having noted the similarities it is also important to note that there are some distinctions with France. For example the business culture in Brussels is relatively laid back, Belgians are quite easy to do business with and they even love relaxed lunch meetings. Be sure to set aside 2 hours on a Friday this!

When it comes to doing business with Belgians keep the following advice in mind:

  • Do be willing to compromise as it is a quintessentially Belgian value.
  • Don’t be late. Punctuality is important, and lateness is frowned upon.
  • Do dress well. Belgian businesspeople tend to be stylish.
  • Don’t discuss personal matters or the cultural divisions in Belgium
  • Don’t be sloppy. Avoid slouching, yawning and putting hands in pockets.

Property in Brussels

Leases in Belgium are long and favour the tenant. Unusually, the tenant is responsible for most repairs and improvements required during their tenancy. Whilst this means that the landlord isn’t responsible for fixing broken things it does mean that if you want to put up a shelf or repaint a wall you are entitled to do it without losing your deposit. Although you won’t have a major problem with the majority of landlords be prepared that some landlords take advantage of expats. Be attentive and get everything in writing to avoid any problems.

Make sure to bear in mind that the standard, assumed lease agreement in Belgium is nine years. It is also possible to ask for a short term lease of less than three years. In spite of this many expats still choose a 9 year lease as these agreements tend to be more flexible.

The cost of renting in the city centre is around €1,000 – €1,500 per month for a two bedroom apartment. If you want a more accurate idea of how much you should be paying for rent then check out the following tool from the Belgian government.

Neighbourhoods in Brussels

There are 19 different neighbourhoods of Brussels each called a commune. The commune is the first port of call for getting registered and the place to go for civil issues and local policies. Below you can find 5 of the most common communes in Brussels where we recommend expats to live:

  • City centre – The city centre is a great option for busy urbanites or students. The central location means that all of the amenities that you could need. Furthermore the area is always busy with great restaurants and nightlife around.
  • Etterbeek – Located just south of the centre this area is popular due to being slightly cheaper than other communes. This area encapsulates the city’s shopping district in addition to the Parc du Cinquantenaire.
  • Ixelles – This is the most diverse and lively place in uptown Brussels. The area is most popular with couples and expat families for all the reasons you can expect to find in a buzzing metropolis. Although the commute to international schools requires a car it isn’t so far.
  • Woluwe-Saint-Pierre – This commune is a much more open and green space which is popular with expats for its desirable location. It is ideal for access to the highway, airport and downtown, although it is expensive. Housing here is a mix of apartments, townhouses and large homes, many with private gardens.
  • Wataremael-Boitsfort – With easy access to the city, this area  gradually became a highly sought-after residential area. Half of the commune’s territory is covered by the Zoniënwoud – a beautiful forest. The housing here is slightly more rural and more like a village however there is easy access to the highway so access still isn’t an issue.

Moving to Brussels (Headquarter European Commission)

Cost of living in Belgium

Generally speaking, the cost of living in Brussels is cheaper than London but somewhat comparable to other large cities in the UK. If you would like to move to Belgium but aren’t sure where then make sure to check out our comparison tables as this may influence your decision!

City scoresCosts per city
CityQuality of lifePurchasing powerSafetyHealth careCost of livingPollution
Antwerp615768615968
Brussels636352635768
CityCappuccino price1L milk priceOne dozen eggs priceThree room apartment rent
Antwerp£ 2,26£ 0,75£ 2,03£ 879,88
Brussels£ 2,32£ 0,88£ 2,22£ 1.151,32

Transport

Public transport in Brussels is made up of a variety of transport including metros, trams, buses, trains and a water bus.

The public transportation network (metro, tram and bus) is managed by the Brussels Intermunicipal Transport Company (STIB-MIVB). The network maps, schedules, frequencies, rates or route planners are available on its website. The tram and metro is fairly comprehensive and covers almost all corners of the city. It runs until around 3 am meaning that you can even get home from a late night.

The Waterbus is a bus service on the water between Vilvoorde and Brussels, a 10-kilometer navigational route on the Senne Canal.

Although not being as bad as other major cities such as LA, London and Paris traffic is something that can be quite hectic, especially during rush hour so be prepared for this and consider public transport if it gets really bad.

Another great thing about Brussels transport network is that the city is home to two international airports. Therefore it is a great hub for accessing places all over Europe.

Must know tips for moving to Brussels

Make sure you remember these tips so theres no surprises on your move!

  • Expect a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy – It’s not surprising that the capital of Europe is loved by bureaucrats, in fact the city is known for it. Make sure you don’t misplace any important bits of paper and expect to be asked for signatures, police-checks and official stamps at every opportunity. Organization is key here.
  • High taxes – Belgium has some of the highest taxes in Europe, if you’re a high earner then bear in mind that you might have to pay over 50% of your income (including national insurance).
  • Take an umbrella – Belgium’s capital receives over 200 days of rain per year so you don’t want to be caught short.
  • For any more information about everyday life, general indormation or more detailed information about pretty much anything check out the website Expats in Brussels – they really are experts in their city!

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