From London to Brussels: La Petite Rose ├á Bruxelles
Hi, I’m Charlotte Rose (La Petite Rose à Bruxelles), I’m from London and I am currently living in Brussels with my boyfriend James. I moved to Brussels in January 2016 and James moved last September. This is James’ second expatriation and my first.
1. Why did you move abroad?
The opportunity to move to Brussels arose when James moved with work. Before he accepted the job offer, we decided that I would also move. I had a few months notice on my work contract hence I joined a little later.
2. How do you make a living?
I work in law and I was able to secure a job within six weeks of living in Brussels. Before I moved to Brussels, I did some Google research and met up with a career advisor. Things were looking bleak. There were jobs but nothing that suited my background. I was so busy with finishing up at work and moving that I put my search on hold.
When I arrived in January, I spent hours each day applying for jobs and contacting local law firms. I also secured a role volunteering with a local charity so that I did not have a blank space on my CV but also to give me an opportunity to meet new people. It took a few weeks but I started to hear back from some of the jobs I applied for (please note, very few actually even bothered to respond). One of them did and invited me to join them for six months. I started my job at the beginning of March.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Everyday. Thank you to WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime, Facebook and TuGo (an app from O2).
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Brussels?
Food glorious food. Mussels, waffles, beer and much much more. There are more restaurants within a 100m radius of our apartment than I have ever known, and affordable. Come visit and taste.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Brussels?
Administration. I bet a lot of people say that. Honestly, all the expats I have met here agree. Whether you’ve got a work visa, you’re an EU citizen or a national, registering at your local commune is a nightmare and I even had help from our relocation service, who told me they’d never experienced the type of complication I faced. In any event, we all managed to do it, eventually. You have to register within 3 months of arriving but most people do it asap as you need to have put the process in motion in order to do anything for me that was getting a mobile, a bank account, a job etc. etc. Even though I managed to register by end of February, it’s July now, and I still do not have my identity card.
FYI if you will be getting paid here, the tax is pretty high.
6. What do you miss most?
The people, my people: my family and friends, oh and my dogs, of course, three standard poodles called Ruby, Duffy and Lady – they live with my parents.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
At first, we tried a few expat organisations and events (I won’t name names) but honestly, they seemed like hook-up events. The only expat event that I truly enjoyed was Scottish Dancing. I went a long and met lots of other expat from all backgrounds, many from Scotland. It was great fun. Sadly, I’ve not been able to attend as it was hosted during the early evening and I usually do not finish work until after 7pm. I am half-Scottish and in January each year we celebrate Burn’s evening, I chose the opportunity to host my first Burn’s Supper, James invited some friends from work and we invited them to bring a guest. It was a great evening and gave me an opportunity to meet some new people, many of whom became great friends.
Otherwise, I made friends through volunteering and work, and meeting friends of friends.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Nothing very peculiar but of course there are many differences.
At home, when we pour the last drop of wine into someone’s glass we say “dregs to the wicked” and in Belgium, they say whoever has the last drop is the next to get married. James and I are avoiding those drops like the plague.
Many eat Americain, in many ways it is like Steak Tartare, but its not, it’s blended raw meat. As someone who likes Steak Tartare, I thought it might be my thing but, I really do not like it and I just cannot understand it. It’s not like a pate, it’s like a mash, its strange.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
It seems there are some myths surround Mannequin Pis – the statute of a little fellow taking a pee in the City Centre. The myths surround around who he is and what he symbolises. I love this statue especially because he is regularly dress him up in costumes to celebrate certain occasions. Every time I see him he is wearing something new and there is often a fun procession of people sporting the same outfit parading through the streets.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
In general, everything is cheaper in Brussels, especially rent, which means we are lucky to live in accommodation we would never be able to afford back home. However, I am often surprised at the price of food in the supermarkets. Sometimes, I could face paying an extraordinary amount of some vegetables. The positive, this has caused me to sought out markets where I can buy fresh fruit and vegetables at very low prices. The market in our local area at Chatelain and Flagey also have stands selling delicious cheeses, cold meats, fresh meat, fresh fish and they are accompanied by pop-up bars and restaurants, so they’re great fun too.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
If you can, use a relocation service. It really does help, they usually come to any appointments you need to attend to register, help you find your flat, moving your belongings, renting a car, getting a mobile, finding basically anything you need. It’d also say, have fun. You are moving abroad, for whatever reason, it is a new adventure, a new experience. Whether it is searching for accommodation, furniture shopping or finding a job. Give yourself a break and do something fun. Breaks-up any stress or anxiety (or homesickness) you are experiencing.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog about a week after arriving in Brussels. I have always kept diaries, write sometimes, daily, weekly or monthly, which I have enjoyed looking back over and I wanted a way to document my experience in Brussels but also share it with family and friends. On the blog I share my experiences of life as an expat, our travels, our home, local restaurants and learning to cook. Before I moved to Brussels, I never cooked, I couldn’t cook but I must say, I’ve picked it up quite easily.
As my blog has started to pick up readers and a following, I’ve really enjoyed sharing it with the blogging network and connecting with other expats. Come along and join in https://lapetiteroseabruxelles.wordpress.com.
Charlotte's Blog, La Petite Rose à Bruxelles
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