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Good for career, bad for relationship? Study reveals highs and lows of expat life in Belgium
Belgium is one of the best countries in the world for education and career progression - but scores less favourably for expats when it comes to relationships and social integration.
These are some of the findings of a new global expat quality of life survey which ranks Belgium 30th out of the 39 countries studied, with Singapore on top. The latest HSBC Expat Explorer study was based on interviews with more than 21,000 expats worldwide.
So what does Belgium get right? And where is there room for improvement?
✓ Schools and childcare
Belgium is a great place to bring up children, according to the report, with the country's schools ranked 4th out of 39, while it is the fifth best country for childcare quality. The study praises Belgium's "many excellent public, private and international schools".
✓ Boosting your career
Getting a job in Belgium is a smart move. The country comes 8th out of 39 for job security in the study and also made the top 10 ranking for career progression. "It’s a tough job market for an expat to crack," the report says, describing the Belgian business environment as "fast-paced and demanding" and the business culture potentially "confusing". However, it adds: "New opportunities are emerging as the country’s economy continues to make a strong recovery from the global financial crisis."
✓ Good healthcare
Belgium comes a respectable 16th out of 39 for the quality of its healthcare system, described as "comprehensive" and "among the best in Europe" with a high number of doctors and hospitals per capita. The autumn issue of The Bulletin Newcomer includes our first-ever Health Guide in response to the massive demand from readers for information on Belgium’s healthcare system.
And here are three areas where expat life in Belgium is less rosy...
☹ Closeness with partner
HSBC describes Belgium as a "great place for families" - but expat life can put a strain on relationships according to the survey. Asked about their "closeness with partner", Belgian expat respondents were largely pessimistic, causing the country to be ranked 37th out of 39 in this category. On the other hand, official new figures published this week show a 5% increase in weddings in Belgium in 2014 and a 2.3% decline in divorces, so perhaps all is well after all.
☹ Difficulty making friends
Belgium scored near the lower end of the ranking for integration (30th), social life (31st) and making friends (27th) - suggesting the expat experience can be a lonely one for many of the people surveyed. One South African respondent living in Belgium advises: "Be prepared that the collective spirit of any nation other than your own is very different, so acquaint yourself with 'how the people are'."
Expats in Belgium appear to not feel particularly safe living here, according to the HSBC study. The country is ranked 30th out of the 39.
Do you agree with the findings? How could the expat experience in Belgium be improved? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
Photo: Stephane Mignon/Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons