Top Tips and Suggestions for South Africans (and Other Expats) Living in Brussels

By: Why I am Not Skinny

It has been 5years since I migrated from the land of sunshine, "yebo", braai's and beer to the somewhat colder location offering chocolate, frites and beer.

Sensing a theme, yet?

But to put it all into context... this has been the best adventure of my life!

I found my husband (aka HIM), started my blog, travelled around Europe and most of all - made some phenomenal friends.

Therefore - let it be known - that there are some suggestions for South African's considering living in Brussels (Belgium)... and in fact, the same suggestions can be absorbed by all expats (and probably a few locals as well).


Here are a few of my TOP tips and suggestions in terms of enjoying Brussels (otherwise known as a "few of my favourite things"):

1. TRAM EXPERIENCE - this started in 2012 as part of the Visit Brussels "Brusselicious" concept... a multiple course meal served on a moving tram, including drinks... DEFINITELY a once in a lifetime experience and one not to be missed. (in fact - the best part is enjoying a glass of bubbles while the tram happily chugs past those waiting at tram stops... their bemused and enquiring looks are PRICELESS)

2. Annual Brussels Beer Festival - mark it in your calendars NOW. First weekend in September... the Grand Place is turned into a marshpit of beer tents. Ok, I exaggerate a bit - but seriously, the Grand Place is set up with Belgian Brewers tents, offering over 200 types of beer. And I have attended all 5 consecutive events and loved every single one of them. And I can remember 4 of them (mostly)

3. Visit Stonemanor British shop out in Everberg. Every English speaking expat that I know has either been there or basically lives in that shop. It isn't that the local shops don't offer everything that you require - but rather that the British shop offers things that you didn't even know that you need! PLUS they normally have a fabulous seasonal section for Easter, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, etc... (Europeans don't understand the need for Christmas Crackers and Fruit Mince Pies... so it is nice to know that you can find them here!)

4. Other than a few bottles in the local Delhaize or Carrefour - finding South African wine is not the easiest task. Keeping in mind that South Africa has some fabulous wines across masses of different farms and under multiple labels and at exceptionally reasonable prices. This is definitely something that is missed - or at least it was until I found Paradisi ... which is a SA & French wine shop just outside Ghent. This gem of a find has actually blossomed into a friendship between Brenda & myself (*agh shame* I hear you say? Yupp - it's a beautiful story featuring 2 fiesty South African chicks!)

5. It isn't in Brussels - but I really can't stress enough how close you are to the neighbouring countries. And living here without making use of the trains, planes & automobiles to get into the UK, Germany, France & Netherlands would be shocking! I often look out for the train specials and nip across the Channel to London for a day of shopping... as it is only a 2hr train ride away! And to Paris or Amsterdam? It takes even less time... I once went to meet a friend in Paris JUST FOR DINNER! Hopped on the Thalys after work, had a delicious seafood dinner at a nearby restaurant and then grabbed the last train back to Brussels. And why not, eh? (I also want to encourage everyone reading this, to head on over to Germany for the Christmas markets if you can... COMPLETELY worth the drive or train trip - just don't go on the same weekend as us, because I don't like crowds :))

6. BOOKALOKAL... How I love this concept. Whether you are a local (or Lokal) or not... you can sign up for dinners hosted by strangers. Ok, that sounds weird. But in reality - it is a pop up restaurant in someones house, normally with a bit of a theme (beer pairing dinners, murder mystery, italian, etc) and you get to meet some fantastic folk!

7. CAR FREE SUNDAY - how brilliant is this concept? No cars allowed on the streets (except for emergency vehicles, taxi's and a few special requests)... as they suddenly get filled with people! Walking, cycling, skating, skipping and sometimes even horse-riding. PLUS public transport on these days is for FREE!!

and these, my friends... are a just a few of my favourite things :)

About the author

Expat Blog ListingWhy I am Not Skinny is a South African expat living in Belgium. Blog description: sharing food experiences
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Contest Comments » There are 3 comments

Corinna Schicker wrote 5 years ago:

Agree with EVERYTHING - although I still have to do the "Tram Experience" - and thanks for the Paradisi tip (but have you been to Mig's on Ch d Charleroi): http://www.migsworldwines.be/wines.php?filtertype=country&filter=35

Barbara wrote 5 years ago:

ahh, the tram experience:-)you gotta love it! nicely written!good luck

Siobhan wrote 5 years ago:

Always interested in reading about your experiences :-) Particularly enjoy the idea of the pop up restaurants... sounds very community driven! Do a blog for us about Christmas there, intriguing to hear that they don't understand mince pies... what else is very different?

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