What should you know about Belgium before you leave?

Will you be coming to Belgium shortly? Then we can help you with a number of useful details.In this way, you will be well prepared when you leave.

Source:Changing Room website

Belgium in a nutshell

  • Capital: Brussels
  • Minimum monthly wage: EUR 1,387.49 gross
  • Languages: Dutch (Flanders), French (Wallonia) and German (Eastern Cantons)
  • Currency: euro
  • EU member: yes
  • Competencies regarding Culture: lie with the Communities (Flemish, French and German Community)

How does Belgium fit together politically?

Belgium has been an independent state since 1830.You may also know that our King is called Philippe and our Queen Mathilde. Belgium is a democracy and a federal state in which various partners exercise their powers independently:

  • Flemish, French and German-speaking Communities:responsible for matters relating to language, and more generally to culture.Subsidies relating to cultural matters are therefore in the hands of the Communities.
  • Flemish, Brussels-Capital Region and Walloon Region:responsible for matters relating to the economy.
  • Federal government and parliament:responsible for matters not controlled by the Communities and the Regions.They are responsible for foreign affairs, justice, finance, social security, etc.

Cooperation between the different communities and regions within the federal structure does not always run smoothly. One example of this was the long government crisis of recent years.You should know, however, that this is above all a political matter over which the entire Belgian population is not going to lose any sleep.We are certainly not at war, as many foreigners believe.

How big is Belgium?

Belgium is a small country (30,528 km²). Every corner of Belgium can be reached within 2 hours of leaving Brussels.

How many Belgians are there, and what sort of people are they?

There are 10.5 million of us. Belgians are described as exuberant, reserved and cautious. Indeed, it is said that you only hear a true Belgian talk during mealtimes. So if you want to get to know us:treat us to dinner!

What language do they speak in Belgium?

Belgium has 3 official languages:

  • in Flanders (the north):Dutch (Flemish)
  • in Wallonia (the south):French (Walloon)
  • in the Eastern Cantons (the east):German

You should know that in general, Belgians also speak reasonably good English.

How do you travel to and within Belgium?

  • By car:the road network is well developed.You can hire a car from various companies (Avis, Hertz, etc.).Bear in mind, however, that hiring a car is not cheap.
  • By plane:the biggest airport is Brussels-Zaventem. Ryanair flies to Brussels-South Charleroi airport, located approximately 60 km south of Brussels.
  • By train:there are high-speed trains to the Netherlands, France, Germany and the UK (Thalys, TGV, Eurostar, etc.).The NMBS is the national railway company.You can take a train to all points in Belgium.You buy tickets at the station.You should know, however, that tickets cannot be bought at smaller stations.In that case, you must buy a ticket from the conductor as soon as you board the train.Website:www.nmbs.be.
  • By underground, tram or bus:trams are only found in the larger towns and cities, such as Antwerp, Brussels and Ghent. The only comprehensive underground network is in Brussels. Buses, however, are everywhere. De Lijn (Flanders), the MIVB/STIB (Brussels) and TEC (Wallonia) are responsible for buses and trams. The MIVB/STIB is also responsible for the Brussels underground network. It is recommended to buy a ticket or pass for the tram or bus at an authorised retail outlet (newsagent’s, supermarkets, etc.). This is cheaper than on the tram or bus. Websites: www.delijn.be, www.mivb.be and www.infotec.be.
  • By taxi:taxis are expensive.In Belgium you cannot haggle over the price, but you can ask what the approximate cost of a journey will be. Remember, however, that the actual price is determined by the meter. Also, Belgium is not New York. So you won’t have any success stopping a taxi on the street. You can order a taxi by calling a taxi firm or by going to a rank (e.g. at train stations).

Is it expensive to live in Belgium?

In Belgium you pay using the euro.As regards cost of living, Belgium is one of the more expensive countries compared to other European countries.A Belgian consumes an average of EUR 1,148 a month.Below are a few indications of average prices in Belgium:

Bread

EUR 1.80

Cigarettes 

EUR 4.60

Diesel 

EUR 1/litre

Glass of beer in a café

EUR 1.60

Cup of coffee in a café

EUR 2

Internet package

EUR 45

Bus ticket (1 or 2 zones)

EUR 2 (bought in advance EUR 1.20)

Underground ticket (1 ride)

EUR 1.60

Visit to the doctor

EUR 23.50

What do the Belgians like to eat and drink?

Belgians like to drink beer.As much as 100 litres per person per year!

We like to eat chocolate, what did you think? Some 16 kg per person per year! Although we love our chips (nowhere in the world will you find so many chip stalls in such a small area), Belgium is also famous for its gastronomy.Did you know that per head of population, we even have as many Michelin stars as France!

What’s the weather like in Belgium?

Sadly it rains a lot and is often cloudy. It can be sunny in the summer, but it’s never guaranteed. Make sure you bring a raincoat with you.

Where do you go out?

You will find cafés in even the tiniest hamlet, so there’s plenty of choice.

Cafés and discos are free to close when they want.Smoking is still allowed in cafés.It is no longer allowed in restaurants or cafés that also serve food.Do you want to spend the night at home in front of the TV?You can do so even if you don’t speak a word of Dutch.This is because in Flanders, films are not dubbed.

Useful websites:

Where can you stay?

It is not that difficult to find somewhere to live in Belgium.

How can you open a bank account?

To be able to open a bank account, you must have a form of proof of identity issued in Belgium, a residence permit for example. Do you only have an international passport? Then you can open an account under certain conditions.

For transfers to an account in Belgium or abroad, you will need an IBAN and BIC code (same value as the SWIFT code).

Do you want to know more about Belgium’s cultural landscape?

Then visit the Cultural Policies website

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