Tervuren, Belgium Report of what it's like to live there - 01/29/07
Personal Experiences from Tervuren, Belgium
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. Lived in Guangzhou, China.
2. How long have you lived here?
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Department of State Spouse.
4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
About 6 hours from the East coast, A million hours and a half from the West coast.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Denser closer to downtown Brussels, many nice suburbs.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You get seventy three cents on the Euro and a nice meal at a restaurant with a surly waiter will cost you at least 40-50 Euros per person. But a cheap bottle of wine at the grocery store (10 Euros) and a fresh loaf of bread (2 Euros) and the park is free. The metro to get there, however, will cost you 2 Euros there and 2 Euros back, so get a day or monthly pass.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
A good bike that looks like a cheap clunker. The good bike that we had that looked like a good bike was stolen within 1 week.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Not fast food. This is cuisine heaven.
1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
9-12 Euros per hour.
2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
3. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes. Most I suppose
4. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Yes, 2 Euros for USA Today at any news stand.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Like crossing a 17th century cobblestone street in a wheelchair?
1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?
Middle of the road, unless there is a car coming, then I move to the right.
2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Nothing is affordable here, but public transportation is plentiful. A 15 km taxi ride will cost you between 25 and 40 Euro.
3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Whatever you're comfortable in.(Not too big), most cars here are small since gas is so expensive, but crazy drivers can be intimidating and there are lots of big trucks on the highway. Also, the roads are poorly engineered, and when it rains, hydroplaning is a problem. In town however, the roads can be very narrow.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
40 Euros mo for the second worst cable Internet service with only one customer support line (.15C per minute which really doesn't matter because it's only available in Dutch)
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?
1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Few and far between. If you are a professional, you may be able to find a job in the service sector, if you're lucky.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
Good to moderate.
2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Usual big city concerns, pickpocketing, car thefts, keep your car doors locked and your car secured when possible. Keep your home alarm on. House security is an issue.
3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medieval. Give me a good clinic or dentist in the states anyday. While there is much fawning everywhere over socialized medicine, I'd rather pick my own dentist who believes in using anesthesia for a root canal and a doctor who advocates for the prophylactic use of antibiotics after major surgery. I've found here that many are still primitive in their approach - not holistic like eastern medicine, nor clinical like western medicine.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Winter days are 12 minutes long and gray.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
3 international schools, International School of Brussels (ISB) the British version, St. John's, and Brussels American School (BAS) the DoDDs school whose K-12 population is made up mostly of military and NATO kids.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
BAS is a DoDDs school, so they follow the DoD requirements.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
85% of Brussels.
2. Morale among expats:
No cohesiveness. Everybody is off doing there own thing
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Expensive for families.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not if you are a male WASP.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Eat chocolate, drink beer, smell and eat cheese, explore museums and parks, admire architechture, visit the atomium, go to more parks, hike, walk, bike, explore. And that is just downtown.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Cheese, chocolate, lace, polish pottery, cheap airfare to just about any place in Europe - Dublin, Greece, Spain, Bucharest.
9. Can you save money?
ha, ha, ha, ha...
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Sunglasses, suntan lotion, outgoing friendly nature.
3. But don't forget your:
Umbrella, cheese board, walking shoes, sense of adventure.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Heart of Darkness (Conrad).
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Heart of Darkness (Conrad).