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Full Version: Why and how I ended up in Belgium
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Although I graduated as an economist , my career in South Africa was first in finance. management , then in real estate.Some of the best days of my entire life , certainly : were in Transvaal , 1975 and onwards !

It was around 1990 , when for the first time : something strongly prompted me to eventually persuade my wife , that we should try life outside South Africa ; she already was a GB-passport holder , so the later red tape for my U.K visa was not much of a hassle.

We duly sold up our lovely , recently dolled-up Jo'burg Parktown North house and the cars and some of the furniture.The rest of our stuff was put into storage , as we were going travelling - to look for another place to live ; first we visited family & friends in Harare , from where we got to Frankfurt ; it was end of Feb.1991 , I remember still how cold it felt , having just arrived from the warm sunshine of Africa - apart from which , we found the place quite reassuring , noticing its functionality , polite service , not ovely-expensive etc.Good , this could always be Plan B , I thought then ( yes , I do speak Deutsch !).

Next , some days later : we flew to Toronto , where we had some family and various acquintances. Cold again , but we were able to find out a lot and liked the city a lot , it seemed a very enticing proposition , to settle there.
However , the paperwork was quite daunting , and , in case , we couldn't progress with it , from there...

So , the grey morning of 10.April 1991 saw us landing at Heathrow , getting some pound-coins and quickly squandering heavy lots of them , just by phoning around from a BT phone-booth ;

we then stayed on in London ( Hampstead NW3 first ) for a while , had our belongings brought from S.A. , my residence paperology progressed , we then got ourselves a cute home in Surrey , made some good English friends and met a few nice South Africans - but I struggled getting any reasonable employment and was not happy in "jobs" I did , always feeling insultingly-reduced to lowly , underpaid , exploited slave labour , on which brutal greedy capitalism is these days much more visible in Anglo-Saxon lands , I seem to observe;

so , in December 1995 we were back in Joeyz , and family and friends accommodated us and showed us around ; the new Year 1996 we saw in : at a jolly party in Hout Bay - yet , somehow , after years away , we suddenly didn't find it all as hugely attractive i.e. to return and live there , as we had previously thought , in the bleaker moments of our U.K. days...

so , back to Blighty we went , and low and behold :

some days later , "The Daily Telegraph" carried an ad for a people to work abroad - I apllied , got interviewed ( at The Atheneum in Piccadilly ) and was one of a dozen chosen ones , to see the newly-emerging jewels of the middle-and-Far East and make life , glitz , success and , hopefully :

some Big Bux again in those there exotic places ...
a few days after , "Emirates" Airbus brought me to Dubai and a happy period followed : interesting , well-remunerated work , excellent living conditions , travel and exploration of places : Abu Dhabi , Hong Kong etc , let's just say : the things really were looking up finally ; as my wife joined me , we bought nice new cars and stuff , moved into a 200sq.m. freezingly-Air-Conditioned villa and enjoyed some of the spoils of "good life" ; she loved the endless sunshine and all the heat and the great fruit in markets and supermarkets and Arab souks and the total absence of crime and the ever-obliging Asians , on every step! I liked shawarma-sandwiches , Lebanese and Thai grub , the clubs , the marina , the dynamism of the growing miracle-place , the work and the social intercorse it afforded us , communicating with able and can-do people from many lands.We'd go to London a few times a year , any excuse would do , for this - and we would escape those scorching-hot Gulf summers , to France , Croatia , Switzeland , Prague...the trips became the highlights of this existence , as in spite of great standard of living I was missing the european lifestyle a lot!

Then a colleague from work approached me , to join him at a new venture : a branch of the firm , to be newly-started and got off-the-ground , "in Benelux" ; we went "to look-see" , spent the summer of 1999 touring , from Vienna via Zagreb , Ljubljana , Graz and all the way up Germany , via Koelln and Aachen to Liege , then Bruxelles - there we stayed a week or so , got shown around a little and made some enquiries , received enough reassuring input , then took a few weeks holidays , through France , before getting back to Dubai ; it took a few weeks to get organised , wrap-up ongoing business , and have the villa and the car packed up , for shipping...and then we left.

In Bruxelles ever since , the positives , for sure , by far outweigh the negatives so far !; the place is crawling with expatriates , from EU-community , NATO , and every UN-acknowledged country seems to have a mission or four , around the corner ; despite Belgium being officially tri-lingual ( Dutch , French and German ) the language of business is predominantly English , as it is true for diplomacy , and also for most of switched-on Belgians , or others , in any given field of activity.

Although securing the accomodation , going about one's work , getting around and most aspects of daily life here are incomparably much easier , more affordable and less stressed than they would be in England , not all was plain sailing : both my wife and I encountered health problems , nothing unusual after the Big 50 , I'm sorry to have to accept...luckily for us , the medical care/service in Belgium , if not The World's Best , has just got to be in world's Top 3 or 5 , at incredibly affordable rates ; a very strong point , when considering one's so-quickly approaching older age and possible drastic future plans.True , a common Francophone in the street can sometimes be the rudest , knock-out deserving non-gentleman you've ever encountered !The "service" in many shops can be hopelessly unobliging , ignorant , arrogant and without a hint of a smile ! It is national pastime for little ( and big , and medium and anysize ) dogs to mess up the pavements , weeing and pooping at any given chance , as if this was their top-most duty!The driving manners of many natives : aggressive , selfish , reckless , dangerous or just plain : mannerless - can drive you mad sometimes , but : there's no point getting angry , hey?

The public transport is plentiful , good , safe and cheap ; all foreign press, CDs , books , DVDs : easily obtainable , as are most movies in original soundtrack-versions ; the cable-TV has over 40 channels , incl. 2 BBC ones and 2 German , and in Bruxelles , you don't pay for this pleasure.
The excellence of chocolates , beer , jazz , cultural life here : deservedly are legendary !

Belgian many fine (free) motorways are so brightly lit at night , they can be seen from space.Although pickpockets fleece tourists gaping at UNESCO-regosnized historic Grand Place , in most parts of Bruxelles and of most Belgian cities , violent crime is not really a serious consideration , what : with 20 murders per annum ( per 10 mil inhabitants ) , and most of which seem to result from relationships' complications , as opposed to criminal intentions.

My dentist , the medical doctors and surgeons I had the pleasure(s) of dealing with , my ( Irish! ) car-service manager and other , whose services I rely on , are all highly accomplished international experts in their fields , informed , organised , efficient and cooperative - as are a myriad of others one comes in contact with , and the police and municipal staff and public servants one gets to deal with : always and again are all very kind and helpful! The quality of life , ( incl. but not limited to : great gourmet food and booze , chic apparel , easy travel by planes , cars , 320km/h trains etc among others ) predominantly , is truly great and then there is also that undefinable thing : La Joie de Vivre ( Joy of Living ) , where people care for taking time off , assuring quality time and fun time and having it better , rather than chasing just more of the latest materialism , which sane and logical approach to times of one's life , I fear , is not anymore the case in many other , more Rat-Race-infected , places.

As I specialise in confidentially advising expatriates ( on how to optimise , protect and improve their financial position ) , from many Brits , Skandies , Germans and others , virtually daily I hear and share similar comments , on our blessed Life ( with a capital L ) in ( so hidden-secret , comfy little ) Belgium.

And I agree again with Hagar's remarks , one easily finds some local people maybe treating you horribly - and yet , still the ( many ) others welcome you : with brotherly love , untold patience and warmest assistance !!! Couldn't be more true !

Which all , as "sampled" above , should go some long-ish way in explaining why , for the foreseeable future , there are no plans to search for promised lands or pastures anew.
Magic Read, and thanks for finding the time "to put pen to paper", or should that read "fingers to the keyboard" now days? :mmm: Germany , do you live nowadays ?
Well written and interesting article, Ray.


THis was a brilliant article. Having lived in Belgium myself and having experienced working life in Brussells, and habitat in Antwerp. I also thank the superior powers for the wonderful medical service in Belgium. I agree with you that it must rate in the Top 5 in the world. I often wonder why the UK can't copy it's example. As you say it's a comfy little corner not much exposed to the rest of the world. I hope it stays that way until I get back there one day!

Unfortunately my emotional state (having lost my husband and job in 3 months of each other) led me back to the UK!