Life In Belgium: Jobs, Prices, Medicine, Food, Transport

Story analyst Nokia Ekaterina Evchenko. I didnt have a clear desire to immigrate. I came on an exchange program for an internship in a large company to work in a field where I wanted to develop. Six months later, I was offered to stay here to work.

After several rounds of negotiations, I agreed, the company was engaged in formal employment, and a few months before the end of the internship, I signed a contract on permanent employment. Belgium — a monarchy government. It still has a Royal family. In the countrys complex government structure, there are six governments in a country with a population of 11 million. I was under the impression that the Belgians themselves are of little interest to world politics.

But they are actively involved in their countrys politics. For example, in response to the plans of the ruling party to raise the retirement age to 67 years (from 65 years) in 2020, the region has been a wave of protests. Here is a very strong position of labour unions, communities, NGOs. Belgium is a social welfare state with very high taxes.

More than 40 percent of starting salaries is spent on social insurance, pension Fund, other payments. With experience, this rate only progresses. The reasons for the decline rate can be a mortgage, children or a disabled spouse. It roommate, because the Belgians are less prefer to marry, and the laws and benefits apply to partner to the same extent as a spouse.

Belgium is divided into two “camps”. The regions Flanders and Wallonia. Its funny, because in addition to the official papers tells us very little about their belonging to one country. The boundary between regions as if divides the country in half. In recent years the relations between the two regions deteriorate and Flanders wants to strengthen economic ties with the Netherlands.

In Flanders the population dissatisfied with the fact that Wallonia is economically dependent on the taxes of the Flemish. The conflict between the historical regions. When Wallonia was much richer and not invested in the development of Flanders, but they planted their language and practices.

They say that one of the reasons why the Brussels headquarters of the EU lies in the ability to country and city to unite different cultures, languages and economies of their regions. Is it possible to Brussels, it is difficult to say. The country has three official languages. French, Dutch, German. I live in Antwerp, is the capital of the Flemish region and the second largest city in Belgium (after Brussels).

In Flanders speak Dutch, in contrast to Wallonia, where they speak French. However, the entire population of Flanders speaks English. It is generally naturally know three languages. Dutch, French and English. Many on this are not limited to studying, for example, German and Spanish.

German is spoken by 75 thousand people in a small area in the East of the country. Before the war this part belonged to Germany, but the population managed to defend the right to their language as official language in Belgium, and even in their own government and Parliament. Antwerp had the honor to have the status of “second” city. The second largest in Belgium, the second largest port in Europe (after Amsterdam), the second in the world in the number of the occupants of nationalities (after Amsterdam). There are a lot of immigrants, they often are concentrated in certain areas.

In approximately half a million inhabitants. This makes the city quiet, sometimes too quiet. Sunday is almost impossible to find a running store or institution. But Antwerp is a famous area for shopping.

Every August and February — the season of discounts and big sales. Here unpopular shopping malls, but there is a small cozy streets with shops of the famous brands, which makes buying clothes an interesting experience. There are few channels, but there is a large commercial port. Around the docks are the houses, restaurants and bars that makes the atmosphere unique. Something similar to Moscow, only warmer in winter and mainly rain instead of snow.

Summer can be very hot. Autumn — rain. Belgians like to complain about the weather, little sun and everything is gray. But this year, Sunny days was much more than in previous years. So the climate, as elsewhere, is changing.

In the rain is often very windy. Therefore, the umbrellas did not help, and everyone seems to be accustomed to get wet. The only thing that comes to mind about the national Belgian food, beer and waffles. More than 1,000 varieties of beer, brewery and national pride. Is a glass of draft beer is inexpensive.

Two to five euros. However, often it is served in glass of 0.33 l and on average it is much stronger (8-9%). Many types have a nominal glass (to keep the taste as I was told). So beer has long been part of the Belgian culture. Fried potatoes come from Belgium.

It seems the Belgians still upset that this dish called “French fries”. It is served everywhere, and of course, I do not regret mayonnaise. More of the national cuisine — tomato soup with meatballs, beef stew or rabbit, mussels. However, in Antwerp you can find absolutely any cuisine. A huge number of specialty stores, which opened at the time immigrants.

The indigenous Belgians appreciate the variety and often visit foreign shopping or go to restaurants cuisines of other nationalities. The program, which I had come to study, allowed to obtain a national visa of category D without prescription. The visa was valid for six months (sometimes even issued for three months). On arriving within two weeks, I applied for residency and received it in two months.

The permit form is card and is also the identity card in Belgium. The map contains all the information about the best in the country, according to the map there is a calculation of taxes (faster than fill), require it when making any public services. The residence permit must renew it every year for five years before obtaining a permanent residence permit. Those who come to study, also a visa category D and on arrival apply for a residence permit. The process of obtaining a work permit for me were as follows.

The company publishes a vacancy in the domestic labor market and for two weeks waiting for response from job seekers. Any applicant can for this job to go, but the priority of the company must be EU citizens. Only if the company can confirm that none of the EU did not fit for this job (that will interview candidates and find the reason for failure, if there is one), then the company will be able to consider other candidates.

Next you need to collect the documents and submit to the appropriate authorities. In my case (as in many others) engaged my employer. For its part, I provided the necessary documents, including medical certificate of health and copy of bachelor degree diploma. In fact, after the company deemed the candidate required for this role, the whole process seems quite formal. Some professions are especially in demand, and often difficult to find the employer of the candidate from the EU.

Here are both highly skilled professions (engineer, programmer) and specific profession (nurse). They say that in Flanders most quickly review the documents for work permits. I got mine in less than three weeks. By the way, I work as a data scientist. Vdab.be — it is a public portal for employees and applicants in the region of Flanders.

In Flanders a lot of jobs because it is economically developed region, where there are plenty of startups and companies of different sizes. However, the company pays the tax for foreign employees, and not every startup can afford to legally employ. The minimum wage in Belgium is set at 1,500 euros (gross) excluding taxes.

The salary depends on company, experience, degree, and profession. In Belgium 13.96 salaries in a year. Additional wages are paid at the end of January and July respectively. Most employers in Flanders will require knowledge of both Dutch and English. Knowledge of the Dutch language can be avoided in an international company, but knowledge of Dutch would be an advantage.

I dont know the language and sometimes joke that my level of Dutch will never be on the level of English of many of the Belgians. Yes, I have not met a single Belgian who would not know English at least the level of simple dialogue. Every immigrant is recommended to take courses of social integration and basic Dutch language. To the immigrant, attach a government worker who will answer all your questions during the adaptation and will write the courses of integration and language.

Courses integration tell about the history, politics, law and the economy, discuss employment issues, cultural differences. I thought this course useful, as I learned about the many possibilities and my rights in Belgium, which I didnt know before. Two language course (levels A1 and A2) and the rate of integration is free, if you sign a contract with the state of their.

By the way, the integration course and successful completion of language courses are a prerequisite for obtaining Belgian citizenship can be obtained after five years of legal stay in the country. Public transport is expensive. One trip to Antwerp on a city bus, bought from the driver or at the kiosk — three euros. You can also buy a ticket by sending an SMS to short number for 2 euros. Card for 10 trips costs EUR 15.

For six euros you can buy a travel card for the day. Overall, rates very much. My annual pass for public transport paid by the employer, and it costs 204 Euro (for those who are less than 26 years). If you are over 26 years, the annual travel costs 306 euros. Belgian Railways is well developed.

The prices of train tickets deserve special lectures. So many nuances, how to buy a ticket at a low cost. The cost of a standard ticket varies by the distance and class (from 4 to 20 Euro one way). A class I always take the second, because it is much cheaper and the only difference is the size of the car.

The ticket from the Brussels airport or to the airport will cost more due to extra charge of five euros. If you are under 26 years old can use the youth ticket and buy a ticket to any destination in Belgium for 6.20 Euros. Still have a weekend ticket that cost is often cheaper youth. To choose the most appropriate ticket, it is possible to compare the cost on the website. Outside of Belgium to ride the trains more expensive.

I would advise you to use the bus. For example, Flixbus in two hours and 11 euros to get to Amsterdam. In Belgium love festivals. There seems to have festivals for all. The most popular among youth electronic music festival Tomorrowland is held annually in the province of Antwerp.

The most common entertainment among the local population — to drink beer in the cosy bar. And there is entertainment for every taste. A lot of clubs with electronic music. In only two large cinema. Comfortable places are usually hidden in the most secluded corners.

Often hosts themed events and parties. I usually find out about them in Facebook in the proposed events nearby. The city has many attractions. The most famous Museum called MAS (Museum aan de stroom) and attracts with its modern architecture. On the top floor of this Museum is the observation deck, which can be visited for free.

Cathedral of our lady is located near the Central square and is a tourist symbol of the city. Central railway station is one of the most beautiful stations in the world. I know immigrants from Russia and Ukraine who find this country boring. I think that Belgians dont know how to have fun. I think its not so.

Usually difficult when you have no friends who share your interests. When they appear, all falls into place. My friend from India was joking that she had been warned about the love of Belgian beer, but not warned about the love of the sport, and she was not ready for this. This is true, one finds a sports interest. It is not common to shred, and after six oclock in the evening, almost all busy with their business.

The city administration is good at sports services. On the city website you can sign up for more than 30 courses. Among them are swimming, fitness, yoga. It costs in the range of 30-50 euros for six months of weekly lessons.

You can just use the pool, for example. A visitor to 26 years old must pay two euros, and from 26 years — four euros. There are ways to make it even cheaper, for example, buy an annual subscription. But the main thing here — bike.

The Belgians watch Cycling competitions in sports bars. Many people are fond of mountain Biking. Major Telecom operators three. Proximus, BASE and Orange. There is still a relatively new virtual operator Mobile Vikings, which is not inferior to the connection quality to the main players (as it relies on network coverage BASE), but cheaper because of the lack of showrooms.

I use Mobile Vikings and cry in a month, 15 euros for the tariff with 4GB Internet. To me it is enough. They have the cheapest fare is 10 euros, and it is the cheapest among all operators. However, the SIM card of this operator do not buy in the store and can only be ordered online.

By the way, recently (namely, after the terrorist attacks in Brussels) to get the SIM card, confirm your identity, six months ago even this was not. Within the EU no roaming charges in may-June 2017 by the decision of the European Commission. Its crazy, because now you can travel the EU without worrying about roaming charges. As for public Wi-Fi, many travelers are dissatisfied with them. And the truth is, in most cafes it is not customary to have free Internet.

However, free Internet are often found in libraries, museums. Also in Antwerp, you can sometimes catch a free municipal Internet, but its stability can not hope. In addition to Brussels and Antwerp, in Belgium, worth a trip to see Brugge, Ghent, Oostende. It is in Flanders. In Wallonia, very beautiful nature with forests and hills.

There are several castles, but they are not as impressive as in France or Germany. Health insurance is one government and six private nonprofit foundations. Primary care is provided mainly by doctors in private practice. That is, it is not accepted to go to the hospital, but rather to the doctors office, or office where he works.

It was a new experience for me (and the registry). Man has the right to go to any doctor, public or private, without the directions. The insurance funds reimburse all certified doctors and prescription drugs. The cheapest supermarkets are Lidl, Aldi, Colruyt.

Expensive — Delhaize, Carrefour, Albert Heijn. On Saturday and Sunday there is a market near the theater (Exotische markt), where you can buy fruits, vegetables, nuts, snacks as well as try food from the stalls with Asian food. The cost of renting a Studio in the city centre — 400-600 Euro per month. Apartment with a hall and a bedroom will cost about 500-700 Euro.

With two bedrooms — 600-1000 Euro. In addition, water bills, electricity, Internet, cleaning of entrances (up to 200 euros per month).

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