Expat Survey To Promote Brussels Backfires

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An expat survey aimed at promoting the Belgian capital Brussels as a great place for expats to live has backfired.

The city is home to thousands of European expats who work for the European Union and other pan-European organisations.

But far from extolling the virtues of the historic city, the expats have the same gripes as the locals raised in another survey:

  • 77.5% complained the city was dirty
  • 77.5% felt the traffic was unbearable
  • 67.2% believed the city had a high number of people living in poverty
  • 51.1% felt less safe out and about than they did in other large European cities

In fact, just under half (49%) considered living in Brussels was better than living elsewhere in Europe.

Culture and lifestyle

Despite this, many expats praised the culture and lifestyle offered by the city, and confusingly, three out of four said they liked living in Brussels despite their moans.

Many expats confessed they lived in a bubble and few who had lived in the city for a short time had any Belgian friends, although the longer expats stayed, the more they made friends with Belgians.

Only 6% of those who had lived in the city for more than 10 years said they had no Belgian friends.

Around 9,000 people took part in the survey – 56% were women and 90% were more than 30 years old. Two thirds had lived in Brussels for less than a decade.

The researchers wanted to find out how the international community perceived Brussels and what, if any changes, to recommend to the local government.

Lack of understanding

Other points revealed by the survey included:

  • Expats tend to get around the city on foot (63%) or by cycling (11%) – and the longer they stay the less likely they are to drive. This could have something to do with their complaints about traffic problems
  • 80% agreed the city’s culture paid a large part in their lives
  • 70% were keen on eating out
  • 60% felt healthcare was generally good
  • 50% liked the ‘green’ nature of the city

The report also explained that expats and Belgians fail to realise how much the siting of European organisations in the city boosted the local economy and city profile.

Only 41% expats thought Brussels was a good place to host European institutions – while three-quarters believed the Belgians failed to understand how their presence helped the city. Surprisingly, more than 80% of Belgians agreed with this sentiment.

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