Having worked out the last navigation on the ship and saved up some money, I prepared the entire package of documents for a work visa. I don’t remember how much it cost me, it was in 2017, with all the translations and certifications from notaries, etc., about 20-25 thousand rubles + tickets.
I arrived in Brussels at the end of November, the weather was disgusting.
At the airport I was met by a pen pal (who later became my boyfriend), right after that we left the luggage with his girlfriend and went for a walk around cloudy autumn Brussels. I had many impressions, but I could not fully realize that for the first time in my life I was not in Russia, as if I was in a movie. I could not breathe, I could not see enough, it seemed that it was for a couple of hours and after this time I would be returned to Russia again. This state lasted for a month.
What surprised me
I walked a lot, explored the city, looked at people and looked for differences from Russians in them, went shopping and bought “overseas food”. What immediately struck me was the huge number of homeless people at every turn in the city center, the smell of urine from every corner.
I was also surprised by their garbage collection system – they just put garbage bags in front of the house on a certain day of the week, they can lie there for half a day, and sometimes birds tear them up and carry garbage around. The locals treated me with interest, asked many questions about life in Russia and the reasons for my move.
Problems I encountered
- I had big problems with acclimatization. Despite the fact that I am a northerner, accustomed to the cold, the Belgian cold mowed me down in the first month. I immediately fell very ill, my throat became very inflamed, and this lasted for a whole month. In winter, the weather here is damp, rainy, vile and dank.
- Expensive medical care(even with local insurance, which returns up to 50% of the cost of the service, it turns out to be expensive) – in the second month of my stay, my filling broke off, I went to the dentist to restore the chip – I paid 100 EUR. A month later, this part fell off again, I decided not to walk anymore.
- Medicines are expensive and most are prescription, so I collect a first-aid kit for a year in Russia when I come on vacation.< /li>
- I had to get used to the fact that in some cafes you cannot pay by card, if the order amount is less than 10 EUR (this is unprofitable for the owner, because the transaction tax is too high).
- They also have their own Bancontact banking system, which is not always possible to pay for purchases on the Internet< /b> or a subscription, but in 4 years the situation has improved.
- I am a heat-loving person, but here heating is reluctant in winter because it is expensive, I have to dress warmly even at home.< /li>
How did my relationship with my family develop
We had a very good relationship, I coped with the children, although I was very tired. I decided that I would like to stay in this country longer, and the family did not want to lose me either, but my residence permit was valid for a year. By the end of this time, we could not figure out how to extend it, so I had to return to Russia for 9 months.
I settled for this time in St. Petersburg, got a job as a waitress in a Belgian pub and at the same time prepared a package of documents for entering a higher school in Brussels in order to get a second higher education. The process was time-consuming, nervous and expensive, but I managed and already in August 2019 I returned to Belgium.
Return to Belgium
I passed an interview with the director, and I was accepted to the Haute École Galilée in the direction of “Tourism”. This will allow me to have a European diploma and subsequently find a job in the field of tourism, which interests me.
At this school I studied English, Dutch (the second official language of the country) and Spanish. At the moment, I am doing an internship at the Jacques Brel Foundation until the end of the academic year and at the same time writing a diploma. I continue to live in the family where I originally lived, I also take the children to school in the morning, cook food for them in the evening, take them to dance classes on Saturday. On Sunday I work in the supermarket as a student, and I also work there during the holidays.
My schedule is very busy and I don't have time to rest, but I see it as an investment in the future.
A few numbers
- Housing and communal services, if you take a small house in the countryside with the possibility of partial heating with a wood stove, then it turns out on average 200 EUR per month.
- Gasoline prices have risen due to recent events – 95th costs about 1.9 EUR, diesel – about 2 EUR.
- Rent a small studio in Brussels – from 600 EUR and more (+ utilities about 100 EUR per month). The price for the purchase of a studio is about 40 sq. m starts from 150,000 EUR.
- The average salary here is about 1400 EUR including taxes.
Here is a progressive tax system – the more you earn, the more you pay.
- I earn 11 EUR per hour, but that's low pay even for a student.
- Food is expensive, especially meat and fish, buying a fairly modest basket for two people for 3 days will cost 30-35 EUR.
- For example, 2 kg of potatoes – 2-4 EUR, a bunch of bananas – 1.5 -2 EUR, 600 grams of chicken breast – 6.50 EUR, 1 kg of chilled salmon fillet – 35 EUR, beef steak – 15 EUR per 1 kg, a loaf of bread – 2-2.5 EUR, a liter of milk – 1 EUR.< /li>
- Transport – for students under 25, the annual pass this year cost 12 EUR, and for adults – 500 EUR per year. The cheapest membership to a network gym costs 25 EUR.
What is it like to live in the center of Europe?
Despite the fact that I live in Belgium, I do not travel often due to lack of time, I would like to travel more often. But the pandemic also changed my plans. For 4 years I have been to Bordeaux, Paris, Barcelona, Bruges, Namur, Ghent, Antwerp, Malaga, Prague and Mallorca. I am very pleased with the possibility of free movement around Europe, the availability of ticket prices.
I cannot say that I often hear Russian speech on the street, but occasionally I do. I don't have Russian friends here, I communicate with my friends who stayed in Russia, and that's enough for me. I know that there are various associations, circles and organizations for Russian speakers, but I have never been interested in this, I have no craving for this, I get along well with the locals.
Pros and cons of living in Belgium
- Openness, friendliness of people (this can be seen everywhere, everyone smiles at you, on strangers often greet each other on the street – for me it was a shock).
- Opportunities for students – the opportunity to work and earn enough to pay for my studies (I pay 2000 EUR per year, the bachelor's degree lasts 3 years), in an educational institution you can ask for social assistance if you suddenly have difficulties. Many discounts for students in the cultural field. A convenient learning system – even if you failed several exams during the August session, you have the right to move on to the next course, albeit with tails.
- The ability to freely travel around Europe.
- Cost of living.
- Dirty streets and a large number of homeless people.
- Cultural features (the habit of kissing – leaning your cheeks when meeting, walking on home in shoes, blowing your nose with all your might while at a lecture or meeting).
The editors thank Tatyana for the opportunity to publish her story. We will be glad to hear your stories about moving to other countries or vacations abroad, which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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