Day to Day Living in Belgium
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Day-to-day Living in Belgium
The two predominant companies providing electricity and gas are Electrabel and Sibelgaz. Water is of a high standard and is safe to drink from the tap. To become connected and subscribe to Belgian utilities, you have to present some form of identification.
Public transport in Belgium is very contemporary and reliable. The rail and bus networks span most areas of the country. Trams are also very popular. However, you may need to travel to remote, rural areas by car, as public transport is less frequent in those parts of the country.
Although high, costs of living are not dissimilar to the rest of Europe. Many people, in fact, report that Belgium it is less expensive than the UK.
It is advisable to rent property in Belgium, unless you are planning to live there for more than 5 years. Mortgages are generally fairly easy straightforward to secure, although transfer fees will be costly, adding 15 to 20 % to the house price. Be aware also that there is VAT charged at 21% if you are planning to buy a new house.
Rental prices in Belgium are expensive. Like most places, though, prices do vary from region-to-region. As an example, if you were to rent a nice two bedroom flat in the Brussels area, you are looking to pay at least 1500 Euros a month. The market is well-regulated and prices are fixed with the state.
Using an estate agent may be wise, in order to gauge professional advice and a second opinion. When a price has been determined, a sales agreement must be signed between buyer and vendor. Commonly, a non-refundable deposit of 10% of the purchase price is used to secure the agreement. The buyer must be able to pay the balance in four months, usually by taking out a mortgage, before the sale is finalised.
A notary is required to handle the transfer of the property, and will charge a fee of 1 to 4% of the purchase price. 12.5% of the purchase price must be paid to register the sale.
Although not one of the world's foremost centres for food, you're in luck: Belgian cuisine is quite similar to French, the one difference being that Belgium is rather more inclined toward Gourmand (big eating) than Gourmet (fine eating). Don't worry, though, it's a truism in Belgium that quantity does not compromise quality, like in some countries.
As a homogenous nation, it is hard to generalise the Belgian attitude to life. Belgium is an ethnic stew of French, Dutch and German. Therefore, there is no real national identity in terms of idiosyncrasies. What can be said without reservation, though, is that Belgian life is very family-orientated. Appearance is important and cleanliness is revered.
Also, Belgium, like Holland, is a very egalitarian society. The emphasis on equality for all, whether in the workplace or social circles, is very much stressed.