Work in Belgium | Everything you need to know
Belgium is a crossroad of German and Latin Europe. Small, however, so significant country on the map where there are as far as three official languages.
Excellent public transport allows you to get wherever you want in comfortable conditions in a short time. Compared with delicious cuisine and the high standard of everyday life from work to entertainment makes Belgium attractive for expats.
This well prospering country with headquarters of the European Union and NATO located in Brussels might be a dream destination for those who want to start a journey with working abroad. However, for all of this there is a price to pay. Living costs in Belgium, similarly to quality of life, are high. To know better what are the perks and cons of living and working in Belgium and how you should organize your budget to be able to live on your own, you are welcome to keep reading. We should answer most of your questions.
Belgium, or officially Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in a Western Europe with Brussels as a capital city. It has a population of 11.5 million people, an area of 30,689 km² and the currency is the euro (€). It’s temperate maritime climate consists of moderate temperatures and tender rainfalls. Winters are mild and rainy and summers are quite cool. This country located in the heart of the continent has a great influence in Europe because it has the headquarters of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), plus some big companies of insurance, banking, telecommunications, energy and more.
5 Curiosities about Belgium
- Tomorrowland, the biggest electronic dance music festival in the world takes place in Belgium. 15 stages each with unique, impressive design and it all has a place close to a town called…Boom!
- Highest point of Belgium – The Signal de Botrange has 694 meters, now you can imagine why is considered a low land.
- Around 98% of the population lives in urban areas. This makes Belgium the largest urbanized population in Europe.
- First Europe’s skyscraper was built in Antwerp in Brussels. It’s called The Boerentoren or KBC Tower and reaches 96 metres
- Staying in Antwerp, it’s called the world’s diamond capital. It attracts tourists from all around the world seeking the best quality diamonds.
Culture in Belgium
Coming to Belgium you may experience a real culture shock. What is noticeable at a first sight is that people are speaking in three languages. Two main ones – Dutch and French, and German, however, there is no certain region where people speak the last one. Since all three of the languages are officially recognised it causes a unique mix. Imagine, everything from street signs to official deals, it may be a bit challenging at the beginning. Society is split into two dominant culture groups: Dutch-speaking Flemings on the north of the country and French-speaking Walloons on the south.
One of the most important values for Belgians are cultural appreciation and hard work. They care a lot about family. Nevertheless their way of running business differs significantly. Companies run by Walloons emphasize being punctual and take aspects of hierarchy seriously. Flemish-runned companies are more collaborative equality structured. In both cases, meetings held tend to be very professional.
As a fun fact you should know that comic strips are a well-known and respected part of their modern cultural heritage. In Brussels, you can find an impressive comic strip museum. This is also the country where the Smurfs come from!
Excellent Cuisine in Belgium
Belgium’s national cuisine can be defined as fine and hearty, it is said to be one of the best in Europe. It contains strong influences from German, French and Dutch cuisine, as the nation is split linguistically. Similar breakdown applies for culinary regions, however, Belgium’s kitchen, in general, isn’t considered as spicy at all.
The biggest dish during the day for Dutch is dinner. They eat four meals, since snacking between lunch and dinner is obligatory. One of the most famous snacks are undoubtedly fries, belgian waffles or seafood baguettes.
Belgium is well-known for its excellent chocolate, however as you probably noticed that’s not only chocolate that makes their cuisine so glorified. See below for more dishes you can try in Belgium.
- Moules frites
- Tarte al d’jote
- Lapin à la Tournaisienne
Work in Belgium
Belgians value an effective work-life balance, they work to live and not the other way around, this is why they are very committed to their working hours and keep the focus on doing their duties the best way possible. They respect the timing and have that strong work culture of nine-to-five, this way they guarantee free time without interruptions for job queries. Working hours in Belgium are the traditional 8 hours per day 5 days a week. It is not so common to see people working overtime except for the middle to senior management level. Between the work benefits in Belgium there are paid annual leave of 20-24 days, healthcare and insurance, maternity and paternity leave, pension and what is interesting sickness and disability leave, which ensure 30 days of salary in these cases and it’s what they call “guaranteed salary” plus other benefits depending on your contract and business.
The work culture in Belgium is right now changing over new trends, with the introduction of flexible hours and new working practices each company is making their own policies very different from others, all of them to make a better work-life balance, reducing commuting times, stressful working hours and adding benefits according to their organization.
Work in Brussels
Brussels is a welcoming city with many job opportunities and work benefits for nationals and expats alike. With more than 30% of their population being foreigners you will experience a real cultural mix working abroad in Brussels. The interesting fact about finding a job in Brussels being a foreigner is their job-driven community of expats looking to build their careers plus high salaries for young people, since Brussels is the centre for international politics there are many job offers for foreigners because it has the European council and the European commission staff placed there, so if you want to gain experience in the job market, Brussels is the place for you.
Taxes in Belgium
Taxes for foreigners in Belgium depends on your residency situation, if you work in Belgium without qualifying as a Belgium resident then you will be taxed for the income prevenient from Belgium accounts and companies, however, if you are resident with more than 183 days, then you’ll be classified as a Belgium resident for tax purposes.
There’s tax benefits for expats, so don’t forget to visit the tax office and ask for a tax-free allowance for expats. This is made to compensate for extra expenses associated with expatriate life.
In Belgium there is no such thing as a tax identification number or a different process for tax registration, you just need to do your national registration in the city hall where your residency is located in order to get a number of 11 digits that will work for tax purposes, you can check ICI which documents you need. After this, you will receive in march of the following year a letter to make your tax declaration, where the income tax rate starts from 25% up to 50% depending on your income.
Finding accommodation in Belgium
In Belgium is not so difficult to find accommodation, and they have very particular laws on the subject, renting contracts are longer than in other countries, starting with 6 months to 3 years contracts and this combine with laws regards tenants duties like the maintenance of the apartment, also in Belgium you have the possibility to make changes in the apartment as a tenant. Finding rent in Belgium is quite flexible and it’s not a very competitive market, you may be able even to visit twice the property before making a decision, the renting costs vary around €700-750 in the city centre and €600-650 outside the city.
In Belgium there are two main options to rent, with a rental agent or with online portals, some useful websites to find rent in Belgium are:
Living costs in Belgium
Living in Belgium has plenty of advantages such as excellent healthcare or a great education. This merges with high costs of living, however, these are compensated with a fair salary. The biggest part of the money you will earn will be spent on accommodation. Most of the properties are rented unfurnished, so you have to remember to include furniture into your budget.
When it comes to entertainment, everybody will find something appropriate and affordable. Entrance fees to museums and galleries are relatively low. Are you curious how much a pint of beer may cost in a bar in this case? Take a look at the table below to find examples of everyday expenses you may have while living and working in Belgium.
|Description||Cost in Euro|
|Accomodation (1 bedroom outside of centre – in city centre)*||650 – 750|
|Mobile rate (per minute)||0.22|
|Public transport (bus ticket for one hour)||2.10|
|Taxi per one kilometer||2|
|Fitness club pass||45|
|Cappuccino in the cafe||3.20|
|Une pinte de bière||4|
*Les prix peuvent varier en fonction du quartier, du nombre de personnes vivant dans l'appartement et des équipements.
**Depends greatly on your diet and which shops you buy food and drinks from.
Expats in Belgium
The diversity in Belgium is huge, with 14% of the population being foreigners. Belgium is a very attractive place for expats around the world, so you can find plenty of groups in the social media of foreigners living there and their comments about the country, which tends to be positive with the lifestyle in Belgium. So it will be easy to find people alike and discover new cultures while living in Belgium. The quality of life in Belgium is what makes so many foreigners want to live there. With low crime rates, beautiful landscapes, welcoming people and an usual use of English it makes the process of integration for foreigners way easier. However, even if there is a dense community of expats, don’t forget to try to merge with the nationals and be open to new customs and traditions, especially Belgium food, that way you learn something new.
Languages in Belgium
There are three languages officially spoken in Belgium, German, French and Dutch. But German is not used in public administration. The majority of people in Belgium also speak fluent English, so there’s not exactly a language barrier, however, if you plan to stay in Belgium for a long period of time and get a stable job, we recommend you to learn the language, especially French, since this will open many doors for you in the job market. You can find in each city of Belgium free courses for newcomers, so don’t hesitate to look for the most convenient for you.
Belgium is one of the most sought places to live for expats, it has a particularly low cost of life compared with other European countries, great work benefits that includes foreigners, they even have special tax permissions for foreigners to make easier their migration process and the language barrier is almost none with 3 official languages and the majority of the population speaking a 4th one including English. Their people are warm and friendly and the food is just exquisite. As soon as you understand their business culture and find people alike (Which is not difficult with such a huge diversity) you will feel perfectly at home living in Belgium. If you’re ready to start your working abroad journey but are kind of overwhelmed, just contact us and we will help you with the entire process for free, to make of Belgium your next home.