South African Expat Living in Belgium - Interview with Maxine

Published: 23 Apr at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Belgium
Maxine of WhyIamNotSkinny is a South African who moved to Belgium 6years ago.
Maxine is someone who loves food ... reading about it, making it, eating it and sharing it, she started her blog just over 2years ago for the sole purpose of sharing her food experiences - something she thought that only her parents would read, but in reality has turned into a real passion for her.
She shares her life with her wonderful husband (otherwise known as HIM in her blog) and looks forward to sharing more scrumptious treats! Maxine's expat blog is called Why I am not Skinny (see listing here)

Eating croq (toasted cheese & ham sandwich) in Brussels
Eating croq (toasted cheese & ham sandwich) in Brussels

Here's the interview with Maxine...

Where are you originally from?
South Africa (having lived in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth & Cape Town)

In which country and city are you living now?
Currently residing in Brussels, Belgium

How long have you lived in Belgium and how long are you planning to stay?
6years have already been spent in Brussels... and there is no time limit on how long we expect to stay.

Why did you move to Belgium and what do you do?
I moved to Brussels after deciding to take some time off and travel... long story short... I got a job before I moved across... and what I thought would be a 1-2year European experience has turned into LIFE!

in Prague
in Prague
Did you bring family with you?
I travelled alone...

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
The transition of moving across continents was difficult in the beginning - but as in all things in life, if you keep a positive attitude and persevere, things will come together.

Funniest experience was my first attempt to present myself at the commune/police station when I arrived (to register)... and as an English speaker in a Flemish/French speaking country... there was a fair amount of lost in translation happening!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I joined a social sports club to play *Netball* when I first moved to Brussels, through this, I met some amazing people who in turn introduced me to more amazing people....

I also joined up with Internations and attended a few of their events ... with their sole purpose of getting expats to socialise.

Brussels Beer Festival (one of them)
Brussels Beer Festival (one of them)
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Food in Brussels is wonderful - from gourmet toasted sandwich food trucks (Keep on Toasting) to 5* dinner experience on a Tram while riding around the city (Tram Experience).

There are restaurants to suit any sort of taste craving... and of course pocket expense...

Food markets take on a whole new meaning here - with sipping a glass of affordable but tasty wine/champagne while picking out the best tomato/cabbage/potato... followed by socialising with friends over oysters nearby - all part of the market experience(i.e. Chatelain/Flagey markets)

Belgium boasts about their mussels, frites (chips), waffles, chocolate & beer... and with so many different options - it is difficult to get disappointed!

What do you enjoy most about living in Belgium?
the people!

How does the cost of living in Belgium compare to home?
Belgium, in fact, the whole of Europe is far more expensive than South Africa (currently, R15 = 1Euro)... but in turn, salaries are obviously higher.

with HIM
with HIM
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Belgium?
language barrier.... I am terrible at languages... so my french is unintelligible.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Belgium, what would it be?
I would definitely recommend being able to speak French if you decide to settle in Brussels specifically.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The hardest aspect is how far away South Africa is... and that there are no direct flights between Brussels & Cape Town. (In Fact, there are no direct flights from BELGIUM to SOUTH AFRICA at all!)

Therefore flights are expensive and the entire journey normally takes a minimum of 14-16hr...

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I will probably find it very difficult... especially having gotten so used to public transport and the ability to walk around to most places.

But - it would be awesome to be close to family & friends again (as face to face time works better than email)

Wine coolers in Cape Town (wedding day)
Wine coolers in Cape Town (wedding day)
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. JOIN a group
    (Join up to social groups like sports clubs with team sports or social activity groups like Internations... and go to events! Be open & willing to walk up to a stranger and strike up a conversation - as every one of these "expats" knows what it is like to be the "newbie")
  2. Accept Invitations to social gatherings
    (In the beginning, you don't know anyone... but at some point, someone will say "Hey, come to our party"/"Meet us at the pub to watch a game"/etc... Don't be tempted to rather stay home and watch tv box sets... GO... the worst that can happen is that you don't enjoy sport and you land up chatting to someone in the group. Best thing that can happen is that you just widened your circle of friends.)
    (even if you are alone, get onto a plane/train/bus/tram and explore the area that you live in or the neighbouring cities or countries. Nothing worse than saying that you spent X number of years in another country and you never actually visited anything! In the beginning - I made sure that I had at least one outing planned per month)
  4. Don't be SHY!
    (I used to be the person who would pull a funny face if you told me to go to a cafe/restaurant/movie by myself... until I moved overseas. Then I found that taking a magazine or a book with me while I popped across to the local Italian pasta restaurant was more than ok. Now I don't need to take the book with me if I don't want to - because I am a regular there (actually met my husband there)... and I can people watch, eat, drink and enjoy the experience even if I am alone)
  5. Document the experience
    (in the beginning - you think those memories will last forever... and maybe they do in your brain... but in mine - things got a little bit confused. Was my first trip to Amsterdam the time when .... or ? PLUS - I have made photo album printed coffee table books of each of the years that I have been living & experiencing Europe. It makes for a great rainy sunday afternoon reminisce... and will last until the great-grandchildren are around!)
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog shares experiences of food ... either recipes that I have tried... or restaurants that I have reviewed across different countries or sometimes just in Brussels!

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
contact details can be found on the blog

About the author

Expat Blog ListingMaxine is a South African expat living in Belgium. Blog description: sharing food experiences
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