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Moving to Belgium without dutch knowledge. Bad Idea?

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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.
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?

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 

    Very nice reply, thank you.

    from what you write, You seem to like the life in Belgium better than the UK. is it?

    and.. Didi you find a job in match with your expectations?
    better or worse paid than in the UK?
    for doing something interesting or mundane?

    You got the job after a lot of search, or easily?

    Two months after,
    the situation has not changed much, but I have put The Netherlands as my 1st preference as a destination.
    after reading many articles, blog posts, and forum topics from expats, about Belgium, Holland, France and Switzerland,
    I really put it in my head that one way or the other, I must learn an extra language (besides greek and english that I command), in order to live and work in any of the above countries.
    so, I'll just put the language criterion to the background, and deciding on other things, I really like The Netherlands most.

    I've been reading the basics of the dutch language (on my own) for the last month, and I dont find it so dificult (if you know good english).


    What has come up in these 2 months, is that the most difficult part will be to leave our country (and not to decide where we'll land after leaving).
    Here we have 3 parents. 2 steady jobs (no big bucks, but we have them, while many others struggle with unemployment), a house we own (no loans, credit cards, etc.), and some friends.
    If I was a bachelor, I would have fled months ago, even if it was to the icy Finland :)
    but my wife is not so determined, and fears she wont manage to get a jod abroad.

    Two weeks of vacations follow. I hope we get some time to discuss it further.

  • Drew Sutherland

    posted by  in Belgium forum 

    Hi Alex,

    I see your last post on this was almost two months ago so you've maybe already made the move to Belgium, but I was in a similar sort of boat too; we moved to Wallonia at the start of the year, and apart from all the logistics of the move itself, my main concerns were to do with getting a job and being able to speak Dutch or French in-order to get a job.

    My wife had a job secured already before we moved, but I was also looking for a Software Developer role, and I didn't speak French or Dutch to anything like the standard I'd need for work. You're right - there really aren't many job opportunities for us in Wallonia compared with Brussels. So when I did get a job (which asked for "English and French/Dutch") it was a job in Brussels.

    Personally, I think the job market is pretty good in Belgium. I even think the transport network is great (apart from the 1 day per month when it isn't). Luckily I don't have to drive through Brussels each day. Collegues often complain that the south is a drain on the taxes - but in my experience, the roads at least seem to be in better condition in Flanders than in the south.

    One of the great things about Belgium for jobs is that you can live in Belgium and work somewhere else (in Luxembourg or Maastricht for instance) - there are many possibilities.

    I don't think that a split would have such serious implication as the media portray - but I would still hate to see it happen. My grasp of Belgium economic history is sketchy - but I don't think the country should seperate either because of language, or economy - eg I don't think Flanders should "cut off" Wallonia just because it's industry has been in decline.

    So where did you end-up: Flanders, Wallonia.. or somewhere "in-between"?

    We were going to move to Ghent originally but ended up in Liege. Collegues are almost apologetic when I tell them I live in Liege (- they don't seem to have a good opinion of eg Liege or Charleroi). I agree it isn't the nicest looking compared with Ghent, Brugge, etc but that's about the only complaint I might have... that, and the pot-holes in the roads. The people are mostly great. I think I provide entertainment to shop owners whenever I try to speak French. I was worried people would treat me with distain if I didn't speak French properly - but it really hasn't been the case.

  • British Balesy

    posted by  in Belgium forum 

    Alex, if you're going to move to Flanders then I'd recommend you know at least some basic Dutch because if not, it's a struggle.

    Take this from someone with first hand experience who is currently in this boat!

  • posted by  in Belgium forum 

    Hello Marthe and Alex,

    I've been reading the reply of Marthe to your questions and there are some issues that i disagree with and would like to discuss via conference with both of you to avoid long mails, etc.


    (39y.) Born and reased in Ghent (Flanders) and now leading a company in Brussels.

  • posted by  in Belgium forum 


    As I moved to Luxembourg myself, I'm not sure about the recent renting prices, but I'm guessing it'll be in between 700 and 900 euros a month, depending of the area. One of the most popular and biggest websites that is used to find appartments is IMMOWEB:, so maybe you can do a bit of research there to get an idea of the prices these days.

    And the results of the elections, well, I'm not sure what to think about it. The flemish people indeed want to get more autonomy, and the new ruling flemish policital party will do it's best to gain as much autonomy as possible, but I sincerely hope it will just stay with some changes for each of the communities and that the new gouvernment will find a way to make it work out together, as one state.
    If they indeed get more autonomy, Flandres and Brussels will benefit from it, I think, but Wallonia will be quite affected, they'll need to do big changes in order to get out of their financial problems.
    If it appears once again that the gouvernment can't agree on things, I think the ruling flemish party might get it into its head to separate, which will be a very bad idea financially and culturally, so let's hope it won't get that far.
    For now, there's hope for compromises and for a gouvernment that might find a way out of the policital crisis, so let's try to stay positive, but even if Belgium would separate, in my opinion, Brussels will be the entity that will be least affected, as that's the most prospering area nowadays and as it's one of the European area's.

    Well, I couldn't really provide you with answers there, but hope to have helped out at least a bit


  • Alex Pappas

    posted by  in Belgium forum 

    thank you very much.

    have you any idea about the cost to rent?
    how much is a 2-bedroom flat in a middle class Brussels municipalitiy,
    and how much in an out of the capital town (like Huizingen ,Beersel).


    what do you think of the elections results there?
    Do you think that major changes in the constitution (regarding the level of autonomy, etc) are very propable?

    or the economic problems will prevent that?
    (I mean, a united Belgium seems more capable of dealing with the financial crisis, than 2 or 3 separate entities on their own).

  • posted by  in Belgium forum 


    if you consider living in Wallonia or Brussels, it's not necessary to know dutch, practically everyone speaks or can speak French there. Brussels is officially "bilingual" so you'll meet dutch-speaking people, but most of them speak French or English on a very good level, so communication shouldn't be a problem.
    In Wallonia dutch is only taught in schools (the basics), outside school doors, French is the spoken language.
    The knowledge of dutch could make the job search easier, though, as quite some companies ask for a (basic) knowledge of dutch, but it's not necessary, I think especially not for an expat.
    About living in Brussels, it's true that the city itself is not a good place to raise children, but you could consider the outskirts of Brussels, for exemple Huizingen or Beersel, ... . The outskirts are close to the city, so ideal if you want to find a job in the capital, but they are quite and rural, so nice to live and grow up in. It feels like being in a village far away from the big city there, even though you're so close to it.If I'm not mistaken, there's also a quite large Greek community in the outskirts of Brussels.
    I hope I could help you a bit with this answer. If you have more questions, don't hesitate to ask!


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