Australian Expat Living in Belgium - Interview with Bec & Merv

Published: 9 Sep at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Belgium
Bec and Merv are an Australian couple currently enjoying the expat life in Brussels. Their he said/she said blog is a journal of their expat journey, featuring highlights of their travel and food experiences in Brussels and beyond. She's a civil servant and self-confessed francophile; he's a photographer and fast-food addict. Those who know the couple well will tell you they are opposites in many ways, so they often have very different takes on their shared experiences, which makes for some interesting stories! Bec & Merv's expat blog is called Butterscotch & Chocolate (see listing here)

Home sweet home: sunset in Saint Catherine
Home sweet home: sunset in Saint Catherine

Here's the interview with Bec & Merv...

Where are you originally from?
We both hail from Sydney, Australia.

In which country and city are you living now?
We are currently based in Brussels, Belgium.

How long have you lived in Belgium and how long are you planning to stay?
We've been calling Brussels home since the beginning of the year (though Bec had a head start and arrived a year earlier). We've found that this city reveals itself to you slowly and takes time to get to know, so we are always making new discoveries. We'd love to stay for a while longer to uncover even more of what Brussels has to offer.

Exploring the canals in Bruges
Exploring the canals in Bruges
Why did you move to Belgium and what do you do?
A work opportunity in executive support brought Bec to Brussels, but it was a love of the European lifestyle that was the real catalyst for making the move. Merv soon followed and does freelance photography work.

Did you bring family with you?
It's just us.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
We've previously lived in Ottawa and Geneva as expats, so the transition period is not something we're unfamiliar with, though that doesn't mean we're immune to culture shock. Having not one but two different official foreign languages to contend with (French and Dutch) makes things more challenging. But each challenge has been an opportunity to learn something new which is the best part of all.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Being in the centre of Europe, Brussels is home to a number of European institutions and diplomatic missions, as well as key offices of many international companies so the city has a strong expat network, and there are a number of organisations and resources to help connect us. You don't have to look too hard for opportunities to socialise with other expats, but mixing with locals requires a bit more effort and persistence.

Discovering trappist beer at Sint Sixtus Abbey
Discovering trappist beer at Sint Sixtus Abbey
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
The city really comes alive in summer, with several outdoor festivals and acitivites, the opening up of restaurant terraces, and even a city beach. But it's worth making the effort to get out in the drearier winter months too to enjoy some of the city's simple pleasures - an afternoon beer in an underground bar, a visit to one of Brussel's world-class museums, or going for a stroll through the Christmas markets.

What do you enjoy most about living in Belgium?
The endless opportunities for travel. Brussels makes the perfect base for travelling throughout the rest of Europe, and nearby destinations like Paris, Amsterdam or London are easily accesible, just an hour or two away by train. Brussels is also a lively, international city which means there's never a shortage of things to see and do, and we get to meet lots of different people with interesting backgrounds.

How does the cost of living in Belgium compare to home?
Compared to many other European cities, Brussels can be quite expensive. But we've come from Sydney where the cost of living is very high. What's great here is that travelling is much more affordable due to Brussels' close proximity to the rest of Europe.

Belgian fries!
Belgian fries!
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Belgium?
The hardest thing is the distance from home - Australia is a long way away, so we miss seeing family and friends and not being able to be there for special occassions.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Belgium, what would it be?
Don't bother counting calories! Brussels wouldn't be Brussels without its chocolate, beer and frites, and it wouldn't be an authentic Belgian experience without allowing yourself to make the most of these while you call this city home.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The most challenging thing has been the administrative side to relocating. As non-Europeans in Belgium, obtaining residency and work rights is not a straightforward process. But determination and patience are key.

Ghent by night
Ghent by night
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Just do it. Don't let uncertainty or indecision stop you from making the move.
  2. Be open to new ways of doing things. Don't expect things to be just like they are back home - where's the fun in that?
  3. Say yes. Accepting all invitations and trying new things is great for expanding your horizons and meeting new people.
  4. Explore. Go beyond the tourist trail and don't be afraid of getting lost. There are some great surprises to uncover around almost every corner of Brussels.
  5. Learn French and/or Dutch. A little goes a long way and will absolutely enhance your expat experience.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Butterscotch & Chocolate is a he said/she said blog journalling our expat and travel experiences in Brussels and beyond. From exploring new destinations and discovering local culinary delights, to dealing with immigration, visas and culture shock. We also review some of the places we visit. Since we both often have different opinions and highlights, for each entry you'll find a 'double-take', a recap from each of our perspectives.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can reach us by sending an email or leaving a comment on our blog. We'd love to hear from you!

About the author

Expat Blog ListingBec & Merv is an Australian expat living in Belgium. Blog description: A double-take on the sweet things in life: Travel. Food. Leisure.
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