Beginner’s guide to Belgium

Learn the lay of the land

Beginner’s guide to Belgium

Belgium is an incredibly diverse country with 3 official languages and multiple dialects, 3 separate regions, 10 provinces and 6 governments. Whilst this makes moving to Belgium a very exciting and unique experience, it can also feel a bit confusing.

We have outlined Belgium’s different regions and a few of its major cities to help make things a bit clearer.

Brussels region

The region of Brussels is in the middle of Belgium and is home to the country’s capital, the city of Brussels. While it’s officially a bilingual city (French/Dutch), the ‘Capital of Europe’ is multilingual in reality meaning you can easily get by using English. As the seat of the European Parliament, multiple European institutions and the NATO headquarters, it is highly multicultural and multinational, boasting the second highest international presence in the world. With this great diversity, you will never feel alone as an expat.

Flemish region

The Flemish region of Belgium, commonly known as Flanders, makes up the northern part of the country and consists of the West Flanders, Eastern Flanders, Antwerp, Flemish Brabant and Limburg provinces. Here the main language is Dutch and you can find some of Belgium’s most interesting cities.

Ghent (Eastern Flanders)

Ghent is the perfect place to enjoy city life on a smaller village like scale. Often called Belgium’s best kept secret, few tourists venture to the country’s quirkiest city meaning expats are quickly treated as locals. Its hipster vibes, numerous festivals, fun, offbeat bars and close proximity to the sea mean you can enjoy a great work/life balance and easily build a network of new Belgian friends. Bordering the Netherlands, it also has a high Dutch cultural influence and is the perfect place in Belgium to learn the Dutch language.

Bruges (West Flanders)

Living in Bruges is like living in an open-air museum. Renowned for its gorgeous gothic architecture and nicknamed the ‘Venice of the North’ due to its numerous canals and bridges, expats can immerse themselves in the city’s rich history and culture from the moment of arrival. The charming setting has long been a firm favourite with tourists but it’s cosy, safe and friendly atmosphere means expats love it too. After all, where else can you enjoy a daily work commute through a picturesque medieval town by boat?   

Antwerp city (Antwerp)

Prided for being a truly cosmopolitan city with a village feel, you will never be bored in Belgium’s coolest city. As the world’s diamond capital and one of Europe’s leading fashion cities, Antwerp is full of talented designers and quirky, unique fashion finds. From Europe’s biggest port, the continent's oldest zoo and even a beach, Antwerp certainly has a lot to offer expats of all ages.

Walloon region

The Walloon region, also known as Wallonia, is situated in the south of Belgium. Most of the population speak French, yet the small German speaking minority in the province of Liège are not forgotten, possessing their own government and parliament. Alongside Liège, the provinces of Hainaut, Walloon Brabant, Namur and Belgian Luxembourg are situated here.

Mons (Hainaut)

As a European Capital of Culture in 2015, Mons has been working hard to restore its industrial heritage. Its 2015 ‘Where technology meets culture’ slogan highlights the city’s aim to look to the future whilst maintaining its rich cultural past. This desire for industrial development makes it the perfect place for young, ambitious expats.

Be aware: Mons in Dutch is known as Bergen. Make sure you don’t get it confused with the city of Bergen in Norway.

Liège (Liège)

Liège is known for having a very open and friendly population so never fear stopping a stranger for directions, or just to have a little chat. Home to thousands of students, it has a bustling nightlife and numerous great bars and restaurants offering excellent food. Due to the high student presence, you will find more Spanish and Italian speakers than Dutch, as well as many native German speakers.

So, do you think you’re ready to move to Belgium?

This article has been published in cooperation with BNP Paribas Fortis; the bank for expats .

Further reading

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