It is good practice never to move in the dark and find out a little about your new location. So what can be said about Belgium?
Belgium is a small country situated at the crossroads of Western Europe. Belgium became an independent country in 1831. Leopold l ascended the throne on 21 July – and that day is still a national holiday. The flag has three vertical stripes: black, yellow and red.
With an area of 30,528 km2 and 11,035,948 inhabitants (according to the 2012 census), this gives an average density of 361.5 people per km2. As 97% of the population lives in towns, rural areas consist of pleasant, small, often attractive villages. Out of a total of 11 million inhabitants, almost 2 million live in Brussels and nearly another million in Antwerp.
The North Sea has 66.5 km of sandy coastline, bordering the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France. The northern part of the country is flat and quite industrialised, in the central part, there are pleasant hills and in the south wooded Ardennes mountains. The highest point in Botrange is 694 metres. The Meuse River crosses Belgium from west to east, with the cities Namur in the west and Liege in the east. The capital, Brussels, is located far north of this city, with Antwerp, the second-largest city near the coast.
The climate is temperate, but the weather can be very changeable. The summer months are mild and pleasantly warm, and winter brings fog and frequent snowfall. It rains all year round. The warmest month is July and the coldest month is January when the temperature drops to about 0 degrees Celsius. In the Ardennes in the south, winters are usually colder, often with heavier snowfalls. You can expect lightning storms in the summer.
Belgium was occupied by Germany during the First and Second World Wars and war-related artefacts still exist. The battle took place in the Ardennes. By the roadside, you will find a strange, rusty tank, carefully marked, war signs and monuments – and the most poignant of all war cemeteries.
Since then, Belgium has developed as a modern, high-tech European country, with NATO and the UN headquarters in Brussels.
However, there are some divisions in the country, though the motto is ‘Strength through unity’. In the north, in the Flemish part, 60% speak Flemish, which is closely related to Dutch, and in the south of Wallonia, 40% speak French. There is also a small German-speaking part. There are certain tensions between the Dutch and French-speaking areas, which now have formal recognition and autonomy. Brussels is officially bilingual, French and Dutch. It is said that 75% of the country is Catholic and 20% Protestant.
The country is governed by a federal parliament, but it also has a king and queen. There is a House of Representatives and an Upper House Senate in Parliament. The country is divided into three administrative regions – Brussels, the Flemish Region and the Walloon Region, with the last two regions being divided into 5 provinces. Besides, there are 43 smaller divisions, of which 19 are in the Brussels region. It can be a little confusing because one of the provinces of the Walloon region is called Luxembourg, just like the small country with this name, which borders Belgium.
In Belgium, as in most of Europe, you drive on the right, and the currency is the euro. Telephone calls from other countries require a prefix of 32 or 0032. The TLD on the internet is .bec, and for internet addresses such as eBay, you simply add /be.
Life in Belgium is good, with a median age of 42.8 and life expectancy at birth: men: 76.62 and women: 83.08, which is the average for Europe. Medical care is good, but there are significant differences in obtaining it.
Belgium is a great country to live in, and the right procedures will save you a lot of time and trouble. As far as your life goals are concerned, you will find the information you need, the required forms and all the details necessary for your new life at your local town hall. Help is easily available, residents are kind and the weather is acceptable.