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Moving to Belgium without dutch knowledge. Bad Idea?

Posted in Belgium forum

Hello,

I'm planning to move to Belgium, with my family (2 children).
I know good English, and some basic French, but it will be easy for me to master french once I get into a francophone environment.
My wife knows some english, and good French (she has a degree, allowing her to teach french language here in Greece).
I work as a software developer.

But I am concerned about the language split vs. the jobs opportunities there.
Regarding the political situation there (the power of the party that seeks Flemish independence ), do you think this thing is serius,
or the US/UK media ,that I read, are exaggerating about it?

The logical thing for us to do would be to move to Wallonia.
My wife could find a job there, and we would send our children to a french speaking school.
but many people say unemployment in Wallonia is way too high, and there are not many jobs for english speaking in the IT sector.
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Next possibility would be to move to Brussels. Lots of jobs in IT there, lots of french schools.
but, I'm not sure if this city is a good place to raise children. Is it?
Could my wife find something to do without the need of Dutch?

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Then I look at the BE job listings, and I see lots of jobs offered in the Flanders area. Economic conditions there seem so much better than Wallonia, and the cities there (eg. Antwerp, Lueven) seem so much better for a family than Brussels.
But we, the 2 parents, do not have a clue on Dutch language.
For my children it may not be a big problem, they are very young, they will learn flemish on school.
I'm afraid i wont be good to communicate with the teachers, the neighbours, even with my coleauges (if I even manage to get a job in the first place).
Off course if we move to Flanders, I'm willing to enroll in a dutch language course, but it 'll be much harder than perfecting my french.

Then I thought, .. the main reason for considering Belgium, is the French language.
If I knew some Dutch, I could as well move to The Netherlands.

Any advice?
thank you very much.

  • Alex Pappas

    posted by  in Belgium forum 

    I am living in The Hague since 25 May. about 50 days.
    I am not the most qualified to speak about the Netherlands, or the Hague, as most of these days I was indoors, sitting in a chair,
    surfing the internet, looking for jobs, sending cv's , and occasionally taking a train to go to an interview.

    Now that I found a job, I am again online, looking for a home to rent.
    And when I find that, I will be at the store buying some furniture
    :)

    I will have a better picture of everyday life when I start working, spending all morning with Dutch colleagues, when I send my children to schools, etc.

    I did 5-6 long walks, around the centre, the beach, some neighborhouds, and the parks.
    The Hague is a lot more green, spacious, clean, and calm than Athens.
    In the summer it is also a lot more livable (max temperature is 20-25 C ), with ocasional rains.
    During the winter, propably I'll miss Greece and its very mild winter.

    But, ok, about the Hague, I can say it is not what the turism industry likes to show to the visitors (the same is true for Athens, London, Paris, etc)
    If you walk freely, on your own, away from the seaside of Scheveningen, or the centrum with the parliament, you have the chance to see alse the poor neighbourhouds , the areas around train stations.

    As I said, you can see that in every major city of the world,
    but if you go lets say in Paris, the city is huge.
    You need A LOT of walking/cycling to find the suburbs.
    While Hague is a lot smaller, easy explorable.

    I like very much the Cycling culture here. Everywhere cycling paths.
    The car drivers must be very careful beacause most of the times cycles have priority, and in case of accident almost everytime, the blame is on the car (I do not drive here, this is what a Dutch told me).

    Also, nearly everyone in the major cities, speaks good English, making your life a lot easier. Not only in stores, but also police officers, bus drivers, public servants, neighbours, etc.
    The same common english knowledge, is what makes learning Dutch a bit difficult.

  • Lorena W

    posted by  in Belgium forum 

    What a coincidence!, you are half Argentinian, its a small world! Anyway, thank you very much for the information. I will definitely dive into those web sites.
    So, How is it life going overthere?

  • Alex Pappas

    posted by  in Belgium forum 

    As you read in the first messages I am Greek,
    but also Argentinian, f

    I am no expert in Belgium. That was what I was looking in this forum.

    Also, do not count on learning Dutch, in 6mo or 1 year. (hust with a language school)
    .
    I also did a lesson per week while leaving in Greece, for 5 months, and I am still a dummy beginner .

    In 1 year, if living in BE/NL, and with very hard work, and if you hang out with Dutch speakers, and you can force them NOT to switch to English (because that is the easy way to do for them),
    maybe you reach a satisfactory level.

    There are a couple of blogs, written by Argenitinian women, living in NL,
    chech out

    http://leti-locatelli.blogspot.com/

    http://fromargentina2holland.blogspot.com/

    http://holandahispanica.blogspot.com/
    (maybe the last is from Spain)

    good luck

  • Drew Sutherland

    posted by  in Belgium forum 

    Well good luck with it, I'm sure there are lots of options to investigate, especially given your skills with language which I really envy, I guess Dutch would come pretty quickly to you too. I've only been up to Antwerpen once myself but my first impressions were that it was pretty nice.

  • Lorena W

    posted by  in Belgium forum 

    Hi Andrew, I am very good. How are you?
    Thank you so much for your response...i have been around but not much to be honest. I was raced in Argentina and understand the basics of Italian, but due to my background and the similarities with spanish It wouldnt be hard for me to catch up on with the language. You gave me a good clue...I am thinking that improving my Italian could be an asset (not hard to achieve for me in a short term).
    To be honest I have been trying to move on from the tourism industry but as the years go by is becoming more and more difficult as all my experienced is based on that....anyway...thanks again for your time!

  • Drew Sutherland

    hello

    posted by  Drew Sutherland in Belgium forum 

    How are you? It sounds like the odds are against you when you don't know Dutch... But not completely.. I work for a large online job board (StepStone) and I did a quick search with your skills. I guess you speak Italian as well as Spanish and English? If so then maybe check this out (for instance). http://www.stepstone.be/jobs--TWO-Multilingual-Customer-Serv
    ice-Agent-Mont-Saint-Guibert-Fenwal-Europe-sprl--1022878-inl
    ine.html.

    I couldn't see much else related to Tourism or within one of the Belgian Airports though. Sometimes the best thing to do is to go and live somewhere first and then you *have* to get a job (rather than try to get a job beforehand). But I don't think I should try to preach that to you - you have clearly been around the world a bit!

  • Lorena W

    posted by  in Belgium forum 

    Hi there! I have been reading your posts and I have to say thank you for sharing your experiences with the rest of the people that is in the same situation, considering the idea of moving abroad.,By the way, My name is Lorena, originally from Argentina, presently living in Australia, EU citizen from Italy. Yes!...as you can see, I am a bit of a mix of nationalities!
    I am single, 28 years old and have lots of experience in customer service roles, working for the airlines industry and some experience at airport operational roles. I have done it since I was 20 so most of my knowledge is based on that. I also got a degree in tourism. Anyway...to go straigh it the point, Iwould really appreciate if any of you could help me as I am searching for some advice from people that is actually leaving and working in Belgium (I guess Antwerp would be the area I prefer to live in as I got some friends). I would like to know my real chances of getting a job overthere. I speak Spanish and English and not a clue of dutch (I bought the Dutch for dummies which I hope it will help me sort it out, at least the basics, something to begin with).
    Of course I know that when you first move overseas you need to be prepared for the hard times to come til you can sort it out. well....thats the reason why I could really use some advice people!
    Thanks, thanks, thanks!!!!

  • Alex Pappas

    posted by  in Belgium forum 

    13 months after my original post, and the show did go on, as it always does.

    I now live in The Hague, since May.
    After hundreds of applications, and less than 10 interviews, It seems a job is very close.

    thank you all!!

  • Alex Pappas

    posted by  in Belgium forum 

    Well, we live in Athens.
    and Athens from June to August IS an OVEN :)

    and although I can be in an athenian beach, with half an hours drive, there is no chance I stay here during my holidays. (the only reason would be if I was broke).

    We've booked a room in central Greece (Pelion), for 50-60 euros a day.
    so, 2 week will cost us between 1000 to 1300 eu.
    and still, that's not very expensive. If we went to an island (Creta, Corfu, Rhodes, or Paros), with a car, it would be much more expensive.
    That is no "staying at home" :)

    if I choose Spain or Holland, for vacations, the price would not be so much higher.
    ------------------------------------------------------------
    -------

    From what I have read about Switzerland, is that :
    Job market very competitive. One of the 2 languages (FR/DE) is a must, while in BE or NL many have survived just with their english.
    Their salaries seem rocket high for a greek or belgian, but so is the cost to rent inside the big cities.
    Taxation is very low (compared to greek, belgian, french).
    Integration for newcomers seems harder than in BE/NL/LUX.
    maybe their more like France in that.
    and most important, their are not a full member of the EU (whatever this means for the right to free mobility, etc.).
    They have signed the Schenghen treaty, so a Greek or a Briton going there is always in a better position than an expat from non-EU countries
    , but not in the same "friendly" legal environment he would be if moving to FR/BE/NL.

    The swiss cantons have a great deal of autonomy from the central government, maybe each one deals differently with immigration, education, work permits, etc..
    Their immigration policies are a little "gray" for a non expert, and I dont have the patience to research it more.

  • Drew Sutherland

    posted by  in Belgium forum 

    Yes, life's better with family and friends closer-by but I don't miss other aspects of the UK.
    Neither the UK or Belgium are necessarily well-known for their cuisine - depends how you cook for yourself I supose.
    Belgian cuisine is slightly better because "Boulet et Frites" is awesome (Liege specialty I think)
    The weather in Belgium is better than the UK (colder winters but drier in general, and better summer) - but then I can't tell a
    Greek that the weather in Belgium is "good" either:-) (When I went to Greece it was 44 degrees and that is like
    an oven for me).
    And I can still do all my passtimes in Belgium the same as the UK.
    And if you asked me I would say I prefer the people in Belgium than the UK - but thats a heavy generalisation ofcourse.

    With the job, it did take a couple of months, and yes I did apply to a lot of places - but I was prepared for that and thankful for the first job offer I got.

    It's an international company (which is no surprise in Belgium) and its using a totally new programing language for me and its a lot less stressful than the Banking Sector which I was in before. I think you're much more likely to find a job in a commercial bank than an investment bank in Belgium.

    My cost of living has dropped after moving to Belgium even though the food is more expensive here (assuming £0.8 = 1Euro). We get almost 14 months pay per year depending on company/personal results which seems to be normal here, as well as meal vouchers, travel paid for.

    I think the Netherlands is also a good choice. We like crossing the border and noticing the differences - it's true, people there ride bikes around a lot, and we haven't met someone who didn't speak any English - seems a nice life-style - quite cultured and easy going.
    My wife speaks three languages fluently so she also finds Dutch easy-ish to understand since she knows English and German. I find it difficult and can't understand why I can learn a programming language in an hour and it takes me so long to pick-up a second spoken language.

    We also considered France and Switzerland. Theres a lot of opportunities in Sophia-Antipolis near Nice for IT people, and with Switzerland I think generally the standard of living is very high. It seems to be a slightly harder country to "get into" - is that what you've found? I guess it depends mostly on whether you have a job secured before you go. Also the Swiss economy is extremely strong now.
    I think Salaries in Luxembourg are higher than Brussels - don't know how they compare with The Netherlands.

    I think the difference with two weeks holiday for you is that you can stay at home right? - I mean swimming in the Med is surely better than swimming in the English Channel / Manche / North Sea?

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