Expats working in Brussels will find themselves in a fast-paced, demanding and aggressive business environment.
Job market in Brussels
Expats tend to live in Brussels briefly to further their careers and to gain professional experience. It follows that expats working in Brussels are often job-driven, highly paid and young. For this reason, the city can be quite transient and work-orientated. Despite its size, the international community isn't tight-knit.
Foreigners make up three-quarters of the city's population, many of whom have permanent residence. As much as ten percent of the population consists of highly-skilled expats working in EU institutions or similar entities.
Finding a job in Brussels
Home to the headquarters of the EU and NATO, many expats move to Brussels to pursue positions with these institutions and related companies. There are countless local, regional and national branches of these bodies that attract Europeans as well as other expats. There are also opportunities with NGOs, consultancy and communication companies, as well as translation and recruitment organisations.
Expats should try to secure a job before moving to Belgium. Most expats from an EU or EEA country will not need to apply for a work permit. Expats who do require a work permit will benefit from applying for a job before arriving in the country, as many employers will help their employees with this process. Work permits in Brussels are usually renewed every year.
Non-EU nationals may struggle to find work in Brussels due to the bureaucratic requirements which Belgian companies are expected to meet before hiring expats from outside of Europe.
Work culture in Brussels
Expats taking a job in the city will be relieved to find that doing business in Brussels is relatively laid-back, even with the general differences between the Fleming and Belgian-French business environments. Most businesspeople in Belgium speak the local languages and English, so expats shouldn't have to overcome too much of a language barrier.
The city is small enough to get around easily and everyone loves a business lunch meeting. Belgians aren't always averse to a midday glass of wine or two, although this does differ between businesses. Employees in Brussels are entitled to more legal protection and social benefits than in many other countries, and workers can be granted as much as five to six weeks of leave each year.
Expats need to remember that Brussels has a multicultural and bilingual work environment, despite its reliance on English. The French side of business tends to be more formal and the Dutch side more informal, and these languages play a significant role in Belgian business. It would be a good idea for expats to learn one of these languages to help them transition smoothly into life in Belgium.