IT Contracting in Belgium - Living and Working

Contracting in Belgium:
Living & Working

Profile written by Matt Walters of Capital GES
(updated January 2016).

Languages

Belgium is split into two areas based on the language spoken: Flanders (Dutch-speaking) and Wallonia (French-speaking). Brussels itself, although surrounded by Flanders, is predominantly French-speaking, but officially bilingual.

English-speaking contractors heading to Belgium would do well to brush up on their language skills, although the EU's primary working language is English.

Accommodation

There is a strong rental culture in Belgium, making it relatively easy to find a property for the duration of your contract. Prices for accommodation will of course vary depending on size and location, but a guideline figure of EUR 1300-2000 may be quoted for a small, furnished apartment in central Brussels.

Travel

Belgium's proximity and travel links to the UK are a decisive factor in consultants' decision-making processes. The following means of transport are worth considering.

i. Air

Given its status as unofficial capital of Europe, Brussels is extremely well-connected to all major European cities. UK destinations include London City, Heathrow & Gatwick, as well as Edinburgh, Bristol and many other regional airports.

ii. Rail

The rail journey from London (St. Pancras) to Brussels is very quick, taking about 2 hours depending on the train you choose, while London to Paris takes about 2.5 hours. Eurostar tickets are valid for onward travel to any Belgian rail station. There are also regular trains to most major European cities.

iii. Road

The drive from London to Brussels is about 230 miles and, using the Eurotunnel, takes about 4.5 hours. It is easy to visit neighbouring Germany, France and Holland by car, but it is just as interesting to explore Belgium itself.

iv. Ferry

Ferries depart regularly from Hull, Ramsgate and Rosyth, arriving in Zeebrugge or Oostende.

Belgium's close contact with the European community and fast transport links to the UK make it a popular destination despite relatively high tax and social security rates. Brussels's status as the ‘capital' of the EU means that there is a wealth of contract and project-based work available.

Public holidays in the Belgium include New Year's Day, Easter, Easter Monday, Labour Day (May 1st), Ascension, Pentecost, Whit Monday, the Belgian national holiday (July 21st), Assumption (August 15th), All Saints' (November 1st), Armistice Day (November 11th), Christmas Day (December 25th). In addition to these, each language area celebrates its own separate public holiday, these are: July 11th in Flanders, September 27th in Wallonia, and November 15th in the German-speaking area.

Official Languages: Dutch (official), French (official), German in some areas.
Capital: Brussels
Timezone: GMT +1 (+2 in summer)
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Emergency Numbers: 112 (all), 101 (Police), 100 (Fire and Ambulance)
Key Airports: Brussels (BRU); Oostende (OST)
Population: 11,323,973 (July ’15 Estimate)
Elecricity: 220V/50Hz
Tax Year: 1st January – 31st December
National holiday: 21st July
International dialing prefix: +32
Internet domain suffix: .be
Cost of living: Brussels is ranked 102nd on the Mercer Worldwide cost of living Survey. London is ranked 12th (2015).