Can’t believe we’ve been in Brussels for almost a month. Despite being here for a short period of time, we have learned A LOT on how the city works. So, I thought it will be fun to do a short recap of what we think of our new home so far, my take on the good, the bad and the ugly: first impression of Brussels!
The intention of this post is to see how (or if) our opinion changes with time. Overall, we do love it here. We are in the ‘honeymoon stage’ of the cultural adaption process after all. Maybe other expats living in Brussels will have a different take on this (or think I am being completely naive, haha). Regardless, let’s get started!
1| International environment
Well, this might be very obvious to some of you but Brussels is not only a good expat city on paper. It is truly prepared for foreigners. Everything is really easy to figure out from issuing your visa, renting an apartment, opening a bank account and shopping. Not only is it a bilingual city, you can hear any kind of language wherever you go (fun fact: experts say that more than 100 languages are spoken every day in Brussels!). Every time I go out I hear someone speaking Spanish, and not necessarily with an accent from Spain. M has even recognized some Serbian and Croatian. The major benefit of this is that I no longer feel like the weird one. It was so common for people to stare at us when we spoke English to each other in Slovenia. I didn’t realize how annoying it was until now, where no one minds. There are also all kinds of expat clubs to join and people are very welcoming and helpful. So far, so good!
2| Great real state options and service
Compared to other international cities, the real state offer here is very varied and affordable. Rent is obviously more expensive here than in Slovenia but you get more square meters, better location and a little bit more formality. As a matter of fact, it didn’t took us long to find a place we liked. We contacted a real state agent before moving and in less than two weeks, he had a place secured or us. Arriving with your housing already arranged is such a time saver!
3| Delicious food
Another pretty obvious one given that Brussels is the capital of beer, waffles and fries but it has to be pointed out! Not only is the Belgian cuisine so underappreciated (why the heck do we call fries ‘french fries?!’), Brussels is one of the European capitals with the most Michelin star restaurants per capita. Being the center of the European Union and other important international bodies means restaurants need to step up their game, and though it is a little bit on the price-y side to eat out in Brussels, it is well worth it. There are also a lot of gluten-free, vegan and organic options that it seems to be pretty much the norm now. Foodies, this is one city for you!
4| A lively city
We heard a lot of things on how lonely Brussels gets during the weekends or the holidays, and granted there was a little bit less traffic when we arrived around New Year’s, every where we go is filled with families and people hanging out. People also told us that the city is quite boring, but that hasn’t been a problem for us. Quite the opposite, honestly. So far, there are a million places we want to go but we are just waiting for things to get more stable money wise (cough having a baby is expensive cough). Anyway, we will have visitors coming in the next months so we will save those activities for when they are here! :)
5| The tram is not so reliable
Okay, the tram’s schedule is crazy. One moment it will tell you that the next tram will be here in 20 minutes, the next second, it tells you that it will be here in 10 and then all of a sudden it arrives out of nowhere! I had read about this before coming here but I naively thought it might’ve been a random single event, but it is weirder than they say. Anyway, once you do get on one and on time, it is a really fast option. On the other hand, the public transportation card is valid for the tram, metro and bus which is super convenient and affordable as well.
6| Not that clean :(
This makes me particularly sad given how pretty the city is. With such stunning architecture and livelihood, you would expect that they would maintain the city at least a bit tidy. But sadly, it is not the case. At first I thought it was a problem of our neighborhood, but oh boy, does it get worse the more touristy the area is. While the city is not filthy, you will find random pieces of trash (or trash bags) open in the middle of the sidewalk. This could be because trash cans are hard to come by, but will it hurt if people kept their trash in their bags until they arrive home or to their hotel? Anyway, this problem is obviously not exclusive of Brussels. Unfortunately, it is a common occurrence of other very touristy city.
All in all, the good things outweigh the not-so nice things of the city. And again, no place is without its imperfections. I’m looking forward to discovering more of what the city has to offer!
What do you think about the good, the bad and the ugly of Brussels? What were your first impressions of the city?